Great stuff from Nick:
What happened is that most Americans are utterly incapable of conceptualizing the United States as a nation on the defensive and losing the war on terror. Yes, people will acknowledge that terror is a tactic, and then cannot be warred upon any more effectively than, say, deep frying. Yes, people can point to the quagmire of Iraq. The US can be “betrayed” by internal enemies (Bush, “liberals”, whatever). But the US cannot lose. The other side can’t be fighting smarter or fighting better. On this, the mainstream of the right and left are agreed.
And they are wrong.
The same confidence in America’s ability to “kick ass” that is giving Bush half the vote tomorrow — and confidence is otherwise a rare commodity among the legions of Life’s Little Losers who thump their chests and declare that only “Bush has the balls” to fight the saracens — informs the widespread liberal belief that Bush could win the war on terror and bring in bin Laden, but that he perversely refuses to do so for whatever reason. This further leads to the delusional belief that the war in Iraq will reset if Kerry gets elected, and that the US will get a “second chance” to “fix” Iraq by bombing it into the modern age with the help of French weaponry. We can’t lose!
The fact is, though, that Osama bin Laden has had the initiative for years; he is leading the pace of events, he is calling the shots, and he has a far superior strategic understanding of what is going on on the ground in Central Asia and the Middle East. So he’s winning. As anyone who paid attention to how, say, the American Revolution played out knows, strategic understanding trumps technological advantage, body count, or even number of tactical victories when it comes to wars fought from across the sea. Nor is this news; Stratfor noted in late 2001 that the most likely motivation for the 9/11 attack was not to attack the symbols of American militarism or a “decadent” culture — it was to lure forces into his backyard, which he would then wear down via attrition. And this is exactly what has happened, and what continues to happen. Ultimately, Iraq doesn’t even matter; the same shit would have happened in Afghanistan.
Ah, and Afghanistan, there’s a funny little country. And here’s a funny little thought experiment. Imagine that you are Osama bin Laden. You get fingered on 9/12/01 as a) the mastermind of the previous day’s attack and as b) Public Enemy #1. Further, the US ignores the Taliban’s televised plea not to be turned into Uzbekistan’s glass parking lot and announces it will attack Afghanistan, with the support of its new pal, Pakistan.
Again, you’re Osama bin Laden. You also have plenty of pals in Pakistan. So, do you stay in Afghanistan, the country the US said it would bomb, or do you wander over into Pakistan, which the US said it would not bomb? Clearly, the latter.
But of course, having a poor strategic understanding of what is going on, right and left in the US joined together to insist, contra common sense, that Osama must have been dug into Afghanistan. Kerry insists that Osama was “cornered” in Tora Bora, a claim he bases on intelligence of the same caliber of that which showed that Iraq was a hotbed of WMD production.