07 October 2005

Is Uncle Osama Crazy?

Osama bin Laden must be crazy.

His idea, reviving the Caliphate, is a good one. Not "good" in the sense that I would like to see it come to fruition, but as far as platforms for going after the main chance go, it's up there with Communism.

But, and here I have the benefit of hindsight, the strategy was wrong.

He had the base - Afghanistan (apparently this is what al-Qaeda means). He had the men. He had the money. He was all set to go.

But in trying to set off simultaneous uprisings across the Muslim belt (i.e. from Morocco to Mindanao - have you ever noticed this? It truly adds weight to Jared Diamond's thesis in Guns, Germs & Steel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guns_Germs_and_Steel)) by spectacularly blowing up things in the Western world, he made the classic blunder of breaking the 4th rule of war.

The 4 rules of war, for those who need reminding, are:

1. Don't march on Moscow.
2. Don't go fighting with your land army on the mainland of Asia.
3. Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.


4. Don't upset the Yanks.

I formulated the 4th one myself, although General William Tecumseh Sherman (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_William_Tecumseh_Sherman) should probably get the credit.

Now his base has been smashed and a new government set up in Afghanistan. He's on the run and hiding in Pakistan. The Pakistanis probably even know where he is, it's just that Pakistan itself is a powder keg (with nuclear weapons) and nabbing him or knocking him off could just be that spark...

Bin Laden woke up the Yanks by shitting in their nest. They retaliated by pulling his apart. They did what they ought to have done when they intervened in the Russian Civil War towards the end of WWI (bet you didn't know about that, did you?). In the Russian Civil War the US and other European powers intervened half-heartedly - a massive mistake. They should have done it either not at all or with everything they had. This time they went in to win, and they won.

What should he have done?

The clue is in the reason he is alive today (assuming his dialysis machine is still in working order and his is alive). Pakistan, and America are too afraid to knock him off, especially in Pakistan. Why? Because bin Laden has many sympathisers there, including Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan's spooks, patrons of the Taliban.

Pakistan is a disaster waiting to happen. (Frankly, splitting from India was a mistake, also because millions died in the accompanying religious violence. They should reunite into a multi-religious democracy.) Pakistan is full of religious nuts, it's on the edge of a political tectonic fault, the ISI is out of control (or perhaps rather in control), its democracy has been 'suspended' by a military coup led by current 'President' Pervez Musharraf (one of my heroes, incidentally, the very model of a modern moderate liberal technocratic benevolent dictator and an admirer of Kemal Ataturk).

So it might come as no surprise that, according to Stratfor (www.stratfor.com), Musharraf told Time that he hopes bin Laden will eventually be captured "somewhere outside Pakistan [b]y some other people".'

How much easier would it have been for bin Laden to quietly take over Pakistan without reaching the necessary threshold of alarm in the West required to get the political will together for a war? Or, if Pakistan's Bombs are too controversial, there are plenty of other small targets. What about Central Asia? Too many Russians? The what about a minor Arab emirate? Ethnic uprisings in Iran? A state in the Sahara? The southern Philippines? There were many possible next steps. Why not quietly put together a patchwork of states until one day everyone wakes up and you've arrived?

Those of us who belong to the 4.5 billion non-Muslims or the 900 million moderate Muslims in the world have reason to be grateful they took the course they did. But the issue hasn't gone away yet. Communism dominated the political landscape of the last third of the 19th century and almost the entire 20th century. This issue could be with us for the rest of our lives.


Blogger Randy Bentwick said...

Great post dude. I love the four rules.
I also did not know about the Russian Civil War. Why don't you do a post on that?


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