Monday, September 06, 2004

More on Starfish

Capturing bin Laden won't end Al Qaeda's threat, experts say / He's now a symbol, not a solo strategist, in evolving network

So that must be why Bush didn't mention Osama once in his speech last week.

[Ed.'s Caution - Un-American Sentiments Ahead:]

"Bin Laden is now an inspiration for a social movement that is run from the bottom up, not from the top down, like the old al Qaeda," said Marc Sageman, a former CIA operative who ran groups of mujahedeen guerrillas in Afghanistan against the Soviets. "It has changed the game completely. In a way, we have defeated al Qaeda, but that doesn't mean we won. The global jihad is alive and well, and it has been strengthened by our own policies."
My bet is that an ever-savvy White House will embrace the first half of this article's message: It's no longer about Osama. We've moved past that - we're attacking a global network, not one man. They'll also, however, skim past the scary reality of what that means: what we've bred, how many starfish bits regenerating, growing, evolving, adapting . . . .

"The Taliban have been removed from power and the al Qaeda leadership is dispersed," the report said. "But if the leadership is less able to direct, plan and execute attacks, they have many supporters who are eager to do so. These terrorists form groups that do not wait for orders from above but launch attacks when they are ready, against targets of their own choosing. Using minimal resources and exploiting worldwide publicity, they have managed to create an international sense of crisis."

It added that the Internet had become bin Laden's most effective terrorist tool.

"Sophisticated use of the media ensures that al Qaeda is able to preserve a clear ideological core, and that Osama bin Laden retains his position as an inspirational leader, hovering somewhere between myth and reality," it said. . . .

Zogby said bin Laden's popularity across Arab society is more a symptom of what is perceived to be U.S. arrogance than bin Laden's genius."We turned ambivalence into hatred," Zogby said. "The issue is less the attractiveness of bin Laden than hatred for the United States. That's the kind of feeling he captures, whether he's dead or
alive."
Arrogance. U.S. arrogance. How can any American sleep better at night believing that our country is the only collection of people willing to give everything to a war - literally or metaphorically? In fact, the problem probably comes from the other side's willingness to give everything literally while we are happy to metaphorically give (though literally send other people's children, right, Mr. President?). Sometimes I worry that my readers will think I sound a bit crazed. But maybe the better worry is that my readers don't feel crazed themselves: don't get a little wild-eyed at the possible consequences of our actions to date.

It's okay to be afraid. And it's okay to fight. But we really need to expand our focus and our understanding and we'd better do it soon.

And we really need to replace George W. Bush - because I don't think "fly-paper" as a rationalization for collateral damage is morally just. And I don't think we're much safer. I want us to be safer. But, to get mushy, I want the whole world to be safer. And if we, America, are the ordained keepers of our brothers, we should make sure we're minding the whole family tree and not pruning off branches we might miss someday. Or freeing for evolution segments that will evolve into strangling vines . . . .

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