Osama bin Laden and US Foreign Policy

22 04 2010

Osama bin Laden

In former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer’s fascinating and well-researched book Imperial Hubris: Why The West Is Losing The War On Terror, the author discusses the clash of civilizations between “the West” (led by the United States) and the Muslim world. In Scheuer’s introduction, he lists the goals of Osama bin Laden’s jihad against the West:

“These attacks are meant to advance bin Laden’s clear, focused, limited, and widely popular foreign policy goals: the end of US aid to Israel and the ultimate elimination of that state; the removal of US and Western forces from the Arabian Peninsula; the removal of US and Western military forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Muslim lands; the end of US support for the oppression of Muslims by Russia, China, and India; the end of US protection for repressive, apostate Muslim regimes in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, et cetera; and the conservation of the Muslim world’s energy resources and their sale at higher prices.”

The good news is that this reflects the ambitions of a rational actor and not of a bloodthirsty Muslim madman who will stop at nothing to see every last American dead. Rational actors make for less frightening boogymen. The bad news is that America is unlikely to make all these changes, and that we can expect more violence from bin Laden’s Al Qaeda in the future.

Whatever the case, Scheuer’s comments on Osama bin Laden’s motivations are very interesting and are  a definite departure from the over simplistic “Muslims hate our freedom” -type arguments that do little to add to our understanding of what we are against as a society. The West owes itself an open,  honest, and nuanced assessment of its adversary.  Sheuer’s book is a good start.

Expect a  full book review in the future.

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4 responses

22 04 2010
Wilson

He fails to mention that the US miltary was not in Afghanistan or Iraq prior to Osama’s declaration of war against the US. Or that his demands about Israel are a recent addition to his earlier rants, which included a desire to re-establish Muslim rule in Spain and revenge for the crusades. Rational?

22 04 2010
EA Editor

You raise some interesting points which I hope to cover in a full MEA Book Review in the future. For now, I will only say that it is important to understand what the man is advocating for (no matter how unreasonable) in order to fully assess what we are up against. It serves no one to dismiss bin Laden as a madman Takfiri/Salafist who wants the whole world under sharia law. That may be true, but listening to what he is saying is important because it is, in essence, his sales pitch for other Muslims to join the jihad against the West. In my opinion, it is useful to know the causes that these people are fighting for.

22 04 2010
Pat

The dangerous undercurrent which feeds the motivations for both sides of this standoff is fueled by religion once again. Even if bin Laden lays out rational conditions for why he has declared jihad, he is still a radical Muslim motivated by a ridiculous and offensive religion. George Bush was the mirror of this with his born again bullshit. These two goons motivated by two insane and outdated beliefs that aren’t based on anything factual escalated this dispute and until both these religions are exposed for what they are we will never see an understanding between our two cultures. That being said we have no business having over 700 military bases around the world, and we should immediately withdraw everything we have from the Middle East. We should stop going out of our way to respect the beliefs of ignorant assholes.

22 04 2010
EA Editor

I don’t think either Islam or Christianity are “offensive religions”, it’s just that some people (on both sides) use religion in negative ways. That being said, the point of the piece is to underscore the importance of understanding your enemy in order to more effectively combat him. This is the art of war, and just dismissing your opponent as a “religious wacko” serves no one.

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