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Posts Tagged ‘Osama bin Laden’

Perhaps it’s an unwritten message from President Obama to Al Qaeda: Like Luca Brasi, Osama bin Laden now “sleeps with the fishes”. Of course the burial at sea also has the advantage of eliminating the possibility of creating a shrine to one of the most famous of the world’s terrorists, although it is unlikely he could compete favorably for the title of greatest terrorist of all time if we also consider Adolf Hitler, Genghis Khan, Oliver Cromwell, Attila the Hun, or Josef Stalin. Perhaps he might deserve a more appropriate title, like Terrorist of the Decade. Soon to be forgotten, in two generations he will be nothing more than a footnote in history – if that.

However, there is a legacy he leaves behind that may affect the world for a long time to come: he taught us mistrust. Bin Laden’s message to the world was that he could not be trusted, nor could his followers. It didn’t matter if you knew them or not. It didn’t matter whether you were in the fight or not. It didn’t even matter if you knew what the fight was about or if you even knew there was a fight. You were in danger from bin Laden and his gang of murderers. It sounds like insanity, doesn’t it? Perhaps it was. Perhaps it is. Even so, it will have a lasting impact on how we live.

Anyone who used to fly on airplanes before 9/11 and who now flies on airplanes is well aware of bin Laden’s legacy. But it’s not only aviation that is affected. Governments around the world now take all sorts of measures to protect things that we never thought needing protecting; things like subway systems, sporting events, ocean liners, water supplies, natural gas depots, and so forth. The list could go on and on because during Osama’s attempted  reign of terror nothing was truly safe. Not that they ever were, because accidents happen all the time anyway. But Osama thought that he could force something to happen by his actions. However, Osama is gone and the political world has been little changed by the actions of Osama and his Al Qaeda followers.

Even so, his legacy is all around us – a legacy of mistrust. How long will it permeate world society? One can only wonder; however, there is another aspect of Osama’s legacy: the way he died. A U.S. Navy Seal Team surprised him in his home in the middle of the night and killed him in a heartbeat. Death from above.  This is terrorism turned upon itself. It wasn’t long after Osama was killed that another Al Qaeda leader, thought to be Osama’s successor, was killed without warning by a Predator drone, and only recently another Al Qaeda leader was killed at a police roadblock in Somalia. It would seem that the members of Al Qaeda have also received a legacy of terror from their leader. For the foreseeable future they must live with the knowledge that they might die at any moment without warning. He who lives by the sword…

It seems that all that Osama bin Laden succeeded in doing was increasing the uncertainty level in an already very uncertain world.

It is interesting to note that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan do not seem to have had much involvement with the recent losses experienced by Al Qaeda. This, of course, is to be expected. The Iraq War had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. It was an attack on Saddam Hussein by George Bush with a trumped-up charge about “weapons of mass destruction” that Iraq did not possess. Could it be that it was more likely revenge for Saddam’s earlier attempt to assassinate the first President Bush? Certainly Saddam was captured and hanged. But there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and Saddam hated Al Qaeda, so it wasn’t that. So far, the U.S. government has never given a satisfactory explanation of what the Iraq war was all about. We just know that it had nothing to do with fighting terrorism. Remember when Vice President Cheney was talking about a different kind of war that would be fought clandestinely? It would be our secret agents against Al Qaeda’s secret agents:

In 2001, Vice President Cheney appears on NBC’s Meet the Press and says, “We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful.”

I guess that wasn’t going so well and that’s why we sent the army into Iraq and Afghanistan. So far we have spent a little over 1.2 trillion dollars on these two wars (that’s $1,200,000,000,000.00 approximately). I guess that is also part of Osama’s legacy. We have spent our fortune conducting a traditional war against an untraditional enemy.  However, in the end, it was the spy vs. spy approach that killed Osama bin Laden. Nevertheless, couldn’t the cost of these two misguided wars be considered his legacy because that was the excuse the Bush administration gave for waging them? Of course these wars were not paid for by taxes (we borrowed the money from China), so now we are in debt up to our eyebrows and the national and world economies are teetering on the brink of another collapse. Could this economic catastrophe also be part of Osama’s legacy, although most certainly an unintended one?

On the other hand, who would have thought President Bush would act so irresponsibly as to conduct two wars for which he had no money? Come to think of it, since the US and world economic collapse was probably the last thing on Osama’s mind, it’s probably not right to say that it is Osama’s legacy. Let’s call it George Bush’s legacy; that would be more accurate.

So what did Osama accomplish? He made us mistrust each other more than usual. He temporarily increased the uncertainty in an already very uncertain world for everyone, including his own misguided followers.

Compared to George Bush, it’s not much of a legacy is it?

 

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The U.S. military is now saying that they don’t have enough troops in Afghanistan to win the war.  This is despite the fact that President Obama has recently made a major increase in the number of troops in Afghanistan, even as we withdraw from Iraq.  The question we need to be asking ourselves about Afghanistan is this: how will we know when we’ve won?  Do we just plan to keep on fighting the Taliban until they get tired and just give up?  Or, do we plan on fighting the Taliban until they have been completely eliminated from the Earth?  Or, do we just want to take and hold the entire country of Afghanistan and make it completely free of any Taliban activity forever?

The reason I ask is that the situation sounds a little familiar – sort of a deja vu sort of feeling.  Now where have I felt like this before.  Hmmm, let me think…  Oh, that’s right.  Vietnam.  (Didn’t they used to spell it Viet Nam?)  Anyway, as I recall, we were fighting worldwide communist domination then, and we had to stop them there because of the Domino Theory.  As it turned out, we didn’t really have a clear idea of how we were going to win that war – and we were playing by a set of rules  that didn’t allow us to invade North Vietnam (despite the fact that North Vietnam was invading South Vietnam via the Viet Cong).  Well, to make a long story short – we lost.  Actually, I think President Nixon more or less declared victory, handed the war over to South Veitnam, and we headed for the helicopters.

They say that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  Albert Einstein similarly said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  Now, I understand that the Taliban gave aid and comfort to Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda buddies.  As I recall, it was 9/11 that got us into this whole thing.  The problem we have in the U.S. is that we sort of continually take our eye off the ball.  Granted that the Taliban  were friends with Osama, does it really make sense for us to expend so much energy trying to establish a democratic government in Afghanistan? Do we really believe that democracy is some sort of cure-all medication for all the ills of the world?

We are in the process of fighting a guerilla war against a group of tribesmen with our uniformed servicemen while we have an undefined final goal.  Past experience has shown that we are not very good at that kind of war.  Maybe we need to take a different approach.  Here’s what I would suggest:

1. Let’s remember the original goal: find the perpetrators of 9/11 and deal out justice to them.

2. Create an approach to accomplish item #1.  This approach may not be conventional warfare.  Think out of the box.  If you want to catch a small group of people who are hiding out in the hills, maybe it would be better to give up the conventional methods.  Maybe it takes a guerilla to catch a guerilla.

3. Learn a lesson from Vietnam: you can’t prop up a government forever that the local people don’t want.  The local people will ultimately always have the government they want.  For some time it was the Taliban who ruled Afghanistan – this wouldn’t be the case unless the people permitted it.  If they really want the Taliban to govern them, let the Taliban came back. Just let the Taliban know that in the future that they, and the people of Afghanistan, will face truly massive destruction if they sponsor any more attacks against us.  Sort of a “Don’t Tread On Me” message.

4. Use our vast resources to find Osama bin Laden.  If we find him we have won.  If we don’t, we didn’t.

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The leader of the Taliban in Pakistan has been killed by a missile fired from a U.S. drone. Probably the most significant success story of the Predator drone program since it began years ago, this significant capability is now likely to grow – in ways intended and also in ways not intended.  The Predator is not the only remote controlled aircraft the U.S. operates; however, it seems to get the most publicity.  Originally intended as a spy platform, the needs of war spurred its use as a weapons platform.  Able to be piloted from remote locations in the U.S., and able to carry a certain amount of missiles and who knows what else, the Predator has suddenly joined the ranks of America’s most lethal and most feared weapon systems.

You know what this means.  This is the beginning of a new type of warfare, warfare by remote-controlled robotic systems, some of which fly, but certainly others could be built for water use – floating or submerged – and others could be built for use on land.  It’s really just a matter of imagination and mission requirements.  In years to come, the Predator will look as old-fashioned and frail as the Wright brothers plane that flew at Kitty Hawk.  It’s easy to imagine upgrades for the Predator. How about a high speed jet version?  How about a stealth version?  How about a heavier version capable of carrying bombs – lot’s of them?  How about fleets of these aircraft operating in the dark skies over enemy lands – all controlled by operators trained more in video games that in piloting skills?  Why not go further and simply have them controlled by computer programs and GPS systems – wouldn’t they be more accurate than human pilots anyway?

Perhaps though, our friends at the Air Force and the CIA have misnamed their little plane. While “Predator” is a fearful name and does call to mind birds of prey like the hawk or the eagle, I wonder if a better name would have been “Pandora”?  How long will it take other countries to begin development of their own remotely controlled aircraft that have similar capabilities?  In fact, isn’t it more than likely, given the success of the Predators, that several countries are well on their way to developing such capabilities? Of course – we are not the only ones with creative minds.

Are we about to enter an age of pilotless, stealthy, attack vehicles?  Yes, we are, because it doesn’t take a great mind to envision the next step, and it is really the obvious thing to do.  Imagine aircraft capable of flying very fast, maybe supersonic,  and very low that have the latest stealth technology.  Imagine them capable of carrying very powerful weapons – maybe even nuclear weapons.  Isn’t that the next logical step?  Imagine having a fleet of such aircraft where you don’t have to worry about pilot safety and you can take whatever chances are needed because the pilots (assuming they are human – but even if they are not, come to think of it) are safely tucked away under a mountain somewhere in the American west.  Doesn’t it make you feel safer? Sure, unless you think our potential adversaries have them too. Then what we do? Ah! The game starts all over again then, doesn’t it? A defense contractor’s delight! Unending contracts, billions, maybe trillions spent on a whole new class of weapons!  A game changer!

Meanwhile, somewhere in the hills between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Osama bin Laden or his successor (in case Osama has already been taken out by a missile fired by a Predator) is sitting quietly in his cave and thinking, “I have to get me one of those”.

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