Wednesday, August 04, 2010

What Does Osama Want?

Dan Carlin had another intriguing show this week, talking about various current events, as he usually does. He described a book he has in his library that lists the 100 most significant figures in world history. He says the book is from the 1980s, so it is significantly out of date, but the book lists, for each figure, the relevant statistics and data about them, followed by an argument about why they are ranked where they are. Carlin then asks whether or not Bin Laden would be on such a list, if you had to make one today. He would argue, and I would agree, that he would have to be. (Remember this is "significant" meaning "important", not at all "admirable" or "decent". Like the Time Magazine definition for "Man Of The Year"-the person who most influenced events, for good or ill.)

Carlin then describes how much of the history of the last ten years has been affected by Bin Laden, after the deaths on 9/11. These are a number of casualties that would not have impressed Napoleon, or Lincoln, or Roosevelt, or Mao or Stalin or nearly any wartime leader. (Obviously, they would have felt very differently about such deaths-Mao and Stalin caring not much at all, Lincoln caring very much about them. The point is, the number, in terms of war deaths, is historically insignificant, even for civilians. Remember that the battle of Borodino, during Napoleon's invasion of Russia, saw 70,000 deaths in ONE DAY. Gettysburg had 50,000 over three days. Antietam had 23,000. And that's without machine guns.) Yet you cannot argue Bin Laden is not now a significant figure in the history of the world, because of the changes that have resulted from 9/11.

The point of this post is, as far as we can tell, what does Bin Laden want? On a large scale, I think it's fair to say that he wants us, and the West in general, discredited and humilated-shown to be powerless to stop him and, additionally, cruel and heartless in our attacks while trying to do so, making us look hypocritical- less appealing as a beacon of freedom and hope. To talk about liberty while locking people away without trial. To show our worst side. To blacken our name, essentially.

It seems to me that he got what he wanted, and we gave it to him, because of our fear that we're going to be attacked again.

Isn't the first rule of any conflict to try to avoid giving the other side what they want?

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