21 May 2007

Is George Bush fulfilling Osama's dream?

According to Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower, a history of the events leading up to 9/11, Osama bin Laden's master plan was to do a Soviet Union on the U.S. He would provoke the Americans into invading Afghanistan where they would be humiliated by the mujahedeen. The collapse of the United States would quickly follow. That, after all, was what happened to the Soviets.

But he spectacularly miscalculated. He drew the Americans into Afghanistan all right, but instead of being humiliated, they nearly destroyed al Qaeda. And if they had pressed on, they probably would have. But of course they didn't. Inexplicably, they eased off and threw their efforts into Iraq instead.

The result, of course, has been the fulfillment of bin Laden's plan. So far, at least. The Americans are being humiliated while Islamic extremists grow in numbers and expertise. But will the final phase of his plan come about -- the collapse of the United States? The war has bitterly divided Americans, but collapse? Of course not. Nonetheless, things could get very much worse.

Bush and his neocon advisers have not only precipitated bloody chaos in Iraq, they are destabilizing the region. Forty to fifty thousand refugees are fleeing Iraq every month, mainly to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, and these countries simply cannot sustain such a migration. Just feeding them and providing shelter is a huge burden. The refugees often face tough restrictions that prevent them from finding work or gaining access to health care and other public services. As they become increasingly angry and bitter, they will increasingly threaten the stability of their host nations.

No, the US. will not collapse, but Iraq has and much of the rest of the Middle East could follow. The stage is being set, by the United States no less, for a triumphant surge of militant Islam in the Middle East. Osama must be smiling in his cave.

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