Some years back, I took a strong interest in History. Part of it fit my personal interest in following trends and patterns; people are very habitual, even in groups, and what they do, they are likely to repeat. I also enjoyed the lessons of significant actions, many times from initial points which did not seem as vital as they later proved. But I also found it intriguing, how many times people chose to ignore History, replacing it with specious flotsam they preferred to watch, or else simply guessing at their steps and courses. This proves particularly true in Politics, where so many make their fortune through manipulation and deceit.
But that deceit often is played against oneself, and that very often when we come across the foreign culture. I am presently reading a history of crime syndicates in China, and when I reached the section regarding the Boxer Rebellion, I was struck by the inability of East and West to understand the other side’s reason and motive. I see the same self-blinding attitude in the First and Second World Wars, in the Rise and Fall of Communism (and before them the great Trusts of Europe and America), and in the arrogance of the over-weening Federal government here in America, and the oppressive appetite of the United Nations, more for fraud and self-advancement, than ever for peace and raising the level of human welfare.
This past week, Osama bin Laden made a blatant and clumsy effort to influence the Presidential elections. Most Americans immediately understood his motive and, whatever their preference, have made sure to keep the Mad Mullah’s intentions and preferences out of their decisioning. It is important, however, to consider just why bin Laden thinks this tape he has released might work for him, anyway.
Many people understand that Osama bin Laden is very intelligent. He is college-educated, speaks a number of languages, and is trained to think mathematically, having an engineering background. Ironically, the man started his life preparing to build and establish things, rather than his later career of killing and destroying. But many people fail to understand that Osama bin Laden not only has no experience with Western Culture, he went out of his way to eschew it. This may be well for his perverted version of Islam, but it is rank foolishness if you want to know your opponent. Unfortunately, Osama became a force in Terrorism just as Bill Clinton was taking office. In Clinton’s defense, any American President would have been unlikely to recognize the full effect of Terrorism’s new evolution, but by 1995, Clinton was clearly aware that Al Qaeda existed as a new sort of Terrorist threat, an independent multi-national organization, dedicated to aims hostile to U.S. interests and security. Worse, Clinton’s habit to window-dressing his actions to look good, no matter how futile in reality, seemed to Osama to mirror the actions taken by the Saudi and Pakistani governments; face-saving measures and nothing more. This made Al Qaeda bolder and more aggressive. On September 11, 2001, we discovered the level of his new braggadocio.
Fortunately for us, the nation had a new leader. If George W. Bush has his flaws (which he does), at the least he understands a few things about National Security, and he has the right temperament for such as crisis as 9/11. Even though Democrats chastised him for being unwilling to scare a roomful of school children (apparently believing that a mad dash without knowing what to do, was somehow preferable to letting the Secret Service and his staff coordinate his next actions), President Bush quickly isolated the areas of attack, grounding air traffic first in the stricken area, then nationwide to prevent further potential attacks (and we know from the capture and interrogation of Khalid Mohammed, that exactly such follow-up attcks were foiled by Bush’s quick thinking). He took all the immediate actions against Al Qaeda which were possible (such as seizing bank accounts and ordering a coordination of available intelligence on the group in connection with the known facts) , and planned a serious campaign for taking out major Terrorist groups and their support. Whatever your opinion of the War on Terror, from Osama bin Laden’s perspective, it has been a nightmare, as his financial and logistic base have been wiped out. How many people, I wonder, have understood that a videotape is the best Osama can do, having lost most of the means to strike at the United States as he would prefer to do? How many people understand the significance, that the man who boasted loudly that he wished to die as a martyr in the war against America, now suggests he would like to negotiate with the U.S.?
There are several critical lessons for Americans to understand about Osama bin Laden. One of them, is that Osama represents no country, and only a perversion of Islam. He has been able to poison places like Pakistan and Afghanistan in the past, and many of the terrorists still warring in Iraq are loyal to Osama or men just like him. But the average Arab has no love for this murderer, and anyone with a sense of Islam as The Prophet taught it, knows that Osama is as much the infidel, as Saddam was, or as any false prophet. Some of the Muslim nations have voiced against the United States and appeared to support Osama, but that was only for their own advantage. Notice that Osama does not dare step in Saudi Arabia, where a death sentence awaits Osama, nor even Syria or Iran. When Osama dies, they will simply move on to the next convenient tool. If he should somehow survive, Osama is of no value to the nations of the Middle East, except that so long as he appears to be popular with many people, those governments will play devotion to please their crowds.
The next lesson is that the Middle East is in transition. Most people do not realize that the nations of the Middle East, for the most part, only came into being as we now know them after the Second World War, and even then they enjoyed little independence or freedom. Only now are many Middle Eastern people discovering they may choose their own way, faithful to The Prophet yet secure in their own worth as individuals. Only now are many Arabs discovering they may, perhaps, choose their own path, perhaps even establishing a future for themselves and their families by their own work and planning.
The third lesson is America. We have hardly been a perfect nation, but as happened after World War 2, the Arab World is now beginning to realize that we are a nation of our word. We not only make bold promises, this time we shall keep those promises, to the benefit of all. A democratic republic in Iraq, coupled with the new government in Afghanistan, can change many things in the region. Some of the groups acting against us, do so out of fear. After all, men who have enjoyed power through sexist, racist, or class suppression have great reason to fear the education, equal opportunity, and civil protection of all people, but in the end, the advancement of these basic rights will be precious to future generations.
Osama hates us, but he also fears us. Because we are his doom and the end of many like him, if we stay the course and do not give up. That is just one more reason, why it is so important that President Bush must be re-elected. We are at a crossroads, and the whole world is bettered or cheated by our choice.