Taking the Bait
Fischers queen sacrifice is remembered as one of the most inspired moves in the history of chess. He had laid a brilliant trap for his unsuspecting opponent, who took the irresistible bait.
Assuming the official story of 9/11 is more or less correct, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda may have been laying a trap for President Bush, who took the bait. And is still taking it.
Most of us assumed, as Bush did, that the 9/11 attacks were, like Pearl Harbor, the beginning of a war, in which more such attacks would follow quickly. We debated all kinds of measures to prevent another 9/11: arming airline pilots, sealing our homes with duct tape, invading Afghanistan and Iraq. We even talked about terrorists conquering the United States.
But there has been no repetition of 9/11. Why should there be? Our friend Osama planned a brilliant crime on the cheap, and got a lot of bang for his buck. The U.S. Government overreacted wildly, striking at the wrong targets from the U.S. Constitution to Baghdad. Meanwhile, the Muslim world is inflamed against us, while most of the West looks at us with misgivings.
Is Osama disappointed today? Arent this American freak-out and global uproar just what he must have foreseen, expected, and therefore intended? Isnt Bush really serving Osamas purposes even now? The crimes of 9/11 are still paying rich dividends.
For the first time, I really wish Bill Clinton were still president. As a good Southern politician, he would have asked himself a savvy question immediately after 9/11: What do these Muslim sonsabitches want me to do? Then he would have avoided the obvious gut reaction and tried to do something else. As in, dont do just what your enemy is counting on your doing.
Using the ancient Arab technique of jiu-jitsu, Osama has provoked the United States to use its own power against itself. Bush has mistaken a test of intelligence for a test of will; and he has shown a lot more of the latter than the former. He has even been outsmarted by his underlings, who steered him into the war with Iraq they wanted all along.
Does Bush really think he hurt Osama by overthrowing his enemy Saddam Hussein? Does he suppose that Osama is shaking his head sadly over the chaos in Iraq today? Has it occurred to Bush that he may be following the script Osama has written for him?
When you find yourself in a hole, they say, stop digging. But the American way is to keep digging (we call it resolve), say the hole is a tunnel, and assure everyone that you can already see the light at the end of it.
Bush predicted that the overthrow of Saddam would bring on a contagious spread of democracy in the Arab world. Well, democracy seems to be running a little behind schedule. It doesnt appear likely to arrive in Baghdad by June 30.
Someone has challenged me, since I dont care for Bushs approach, to offer my own solution for terrorism. I wish I had one. But I think of James Burnhams maxim: When theres no solution, theres no problem. Not every evil is a problem; some evils just have to be coped with.
As long as America is determined to be the global superduperpower, it can expect global resistance, from both determined enemies and reluctant allies. Is it worth the price? At what point will this country stop blustering and decide to come to terms with its enemies?
The Soviet Union began with a grand dream of abolishing private property. It tried, hard, by making all sorts of normal economic exchange (capitalism) illegal. But black markets thrived, and the rulers were soon forced to come to terms with them or face mass starvation.
Some forms of behavior simply cant be suppressed for long. Given the way the world is now organized, what we call terrorism may be one of these. Or, from another point of view, terrorism may be a solution to the problem of the state.
In Iraq, Bush has tried to decapitate the Hydra by ousting Saddam. As usual, the Hydra has only sprouted more heads. With an enemy like Bush, does Osama need friends?
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