Andrew Sullivan Asks: Did Osama Win on 9/11? – The Daily Beast
Yes, I know many were not fooled. I tip my hat to them. I am ashamed my own panic overwhelmed my own judgment. But that is an explanation, not an excuse: I cannot imagine any other circumstance in which I would simply trust the government, period. But, as fear dominated my being, trust I did—as did a majority of Americans who supported the war that handed bin Laden exactly what he wanted.
What he wanted, it seems obvious now, was central relevance to the power shifts in the Middle East, and U.S. troops in lands they could never understand and never fully win over. History has proved him right on that. Even the finest soldiers in the world, with the finest leadership in the world, were not capable of miracles. And so Iraq is now a pseudo-democracy whose current regional stance is alignment with Iran and Syria, America’s direst enemies in the region. And the war in Afghanistan will, at best, have decimated the ranks of Al -Qaeda and killed bin Laden (after nearly 10 years of trying, thanks to Obama, not Bush). But the threat from radical Islamism in Pakistan remains real, and the Taliban can wait till our last troops leave. And that was always true.
The fiscal costs of our actions are one reason we find ourselves today in a lost, jobless, debt-driven decade. About $2.6 trillion was spent in a decade of war—approaching some of the most ambitious spending cuts now being proposed. The human cost—in lives, limbs, and loves—is incalculable. And not just for us. Millions of Iraqis lived through the closest human equivalent to hell for years as the incompetent occupation tore Iraq apart. That trauma, wrought in children as well as adults, will not end, and will reverberate for decades, rendering the country even more vulnerable to sectarian blandishments or a new dictatorship if civil war breaks out again.
Part of any military’s strength is its deterrent effect. That was blown apart in Iraq as the U.S. struggled to control a country it could never fully commit to. The CIA, meanwhile, was revealed before the world first as incompetent and then as capable of evil. The approval of sickening torture techniques by the president and vice president destroyed American moral standing in the world, eviscerated our soft power, and became the prime recruitment tool for the Islamist thugs. Neoconservatives alone can call this “victory.”
So did bin Laden succeed? Not at all. On most fronts, he spectacularly failed—down to the amazing end to his pathetic, deranged life. He didn’t banish American influence or occupation in the Middle East; he temporarily intensified it. His dream of a caliphate is more remote than ever. But in this, it wasn’t the U.S. who defeated him; it was his own brutality and nihilism. From the streets of Tehran to Cairo, it appears that the young Muslim generation does not want to withdraw from the modern world into a cultural and intellectual blind alley forever. They are too busy on Twitter. That’s why after 9/11, Al Qaeda saw its popularity in the Arab world plummet, resuscitated only by American floundering in a newly anarchic Iraq.
The American people, moreover, eventually responded by electing Barack Hussein Obama as their president, committed to stepping back from what bin Laden had always longed for, a civilizational war, while quietly trying new methods like drone warfare to target jihadists from a distance with ever-increasing accuracy. The political model Al Qaeda celebrates—of stultifying premodern, brain-dead oppression—has no serious global appeal compared with Western or Asian models of capitalism. Instead, Turkey’s and Indonesia’s evolutions have shown a different way forward for Islamist democratic politics. It’s time we fessed up: the madmen of 9/11 were not the Soviets; they were not the Nazis. If we had seen them in that calm perspective a decade ago, we would be living in a very different America today.
Bin Laden and his henchmen failed, in other words. But our own fear won. Fear stopped us, overwhelmed us, as our ra-tion-al-ity deserted us. Yes, it was understandable, given what we endured that September morning. But we need to admit that our response was close to fatal. A bankrupted America that tortured innocents and disregarded its own Constitution is barely recognizable as America.
The war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq are simply different things and shouldn’t be lumped together.
The first was a logical, justified and (all in all) successful response to 9/11.
The cost in Afghanistan wasn’t excessive and the radical Islamist threat in Pakistan has been contained and blunted.
Iraq is a whole different story.