Osama Bin Laden’s Intended War On the U.S. Economy

U.S. National Debt
Note pre-9/11 (in red) and post-9/11 (in yellow) Debt.

This viewpoint from Ezra Klein in the Washington Post is one not discussed enough by the media and its pundits in our nearly decade-long “War on Terror” (except on a few occasions). Writes Klein in WashPo:

Did Osama bin Laden win? No. Did he succeed? Well, America is still standing, and he isn’t.

So why, when I called Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a counterterrorism expert who specializes in al-Qaeda, did he tell me that “bin Laden has been enormously successful”? There’s no caliphate. There’s no sweeping sharia law. Didn’t we win this one in a clean knockout?

Apparently not. Bin Laden, according to Gartenstein-Ross, had a strategy that we never bothered to understand, and thus that we never bothered to defend against. What he really wanted to do — and, more to the point, what he thought he could do — was bankrupt the United States of America. After all, he’d done the bankrupt-a-superpower thing before. And though it didn’t quite work out this time, it worked a lot better than most of us, in this exultant moment, are willing to admit.

Bin Laden’s transition from scion of a wealthy family to terrorist mastermind came in the 1980s, when the Soviet Union was trying to conquer Afghanistan. Bin Laden was part of the resistance, and the resistance was successful — not only in repelling the Soviet invasion, but in contributing to the communist super-state’s collapse a few years later. “We, alongside the mujaheddin, bled Russia for 10 years, until it went bankrupt,” he later explained.

Read More from Ezra Klein in the Washington Post

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  • emperorreagan

    They’ve been open about strategy. They’ve been open about their demands.

    It’s funny, because in the end it looks like they very well might win even though the face of the movement is dead. The US is broke and it might truly going to break the country because a bunch of myopic politicians are going to keep dumping cash into the military black hole rather than pull back and examine how to re-envision a post-empirical USA.

    What role did the US invasion of Iraq, by an administration that seemed content to ignore and discount a strategy being plotted against them play in the building of unrest in the middle east? Israel is more isolated with the change in Egypt’s government. How stable is the puppet state in Saudi Arabia? If those two dominoes fall and the US can’t plot a new course that doesn’t involve bankrupting itself on overextending military power during its decline, then they probably did win.

    Probably an overly pessimistic response to the overly celebratory reaction to the news of Osama’s death in the US, but the path where the US could ultimately be the loser is there.

  • emperorreagan

    They’ve been open about strategy. They’ve been open about their demands.

    It’s funny, because in the end it looks like they very well might win even though the face of the movement is dead. The US is broke and it might truly going to break the country because a bunch of myopic politicians are going to keep dumping cash into the military black hole rather than pull back and examine how to re-envision a post-empirical USA.

    What role did the US invasion of Iraq, by an administration that seemed content to ignore and discount a strategy being plotted against them play in the building of unrest in the middle east? Israel is more isolated with the change in Egypt’s government. How stable is the puppet state in Saudi Arabia? If those two dominoes fall and the US can’t plot a new course that doesn’t involve bankrupting itself on overextending military power during its decline, then they probably did win.

    Probably an overly pessimistic response to the overly celebratory reaction to the news of Osama’s death in the US, but the path where the US could ultimately be the loser is there.

  • DeepCough

    “If the campaign is protracted, then it will not be worth the strain.” ~Sun Tzu

  • DeepCough

    “If the campaign is protracted, then it will not be worth the strain.” ~Sun Tzu

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    That very theory is precisely why some few people along the fringe believe that bin Laden was a secret ally of the US all along…and that the redirection of our capital, the destruction of our civil rights, and our descent into economic slavery was the original…and continuing…goal. Even if we assume that all things bin Laden were ‘above the board’…in the end, the attacks were used to justify actions that have benefited a tiny few…and inflicted untold harm on millions and millions of people both in the US and abroad. If bin Laden’s name should be cursed for only one reason…that reason would that he willingly and knowingly acted as the catalyst that eased the US into this transition from free and democratic state that he ostensibly despised…to a fiscally and morally bankrupted bureaucratic authoritarian nightmare that is slouching toward economic feudalism. For that solitary act…may he be damned to a hellish afterlife if such a thing exists.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    That very theory is precisely why some few people along the fringe believe that bin Laden was a secret ally of the US all along…and that the redirection of our capital, the destruction of our civil rights, and our descent into economic slavery was the original…and continuing…goal. Even if we assume that all things bin Laden were ‘above the board’…in the end, the attacks were used to justify actions that have benefited a tiny few…and inflicted untold harm on millions and millions of people both in the US and abroad. If bin Laden’s name should be cursed for only one reason…that reason would that he willingly and knowingly acted as the catalyst that eased the US into this transition from free and democratic state that he ostensibly despised…to a fiscally and morally bankrupted bureaucratic authoritarian nightmare that is slouching toward economic feudalism. For that solitary act…may he be damned to a hellish afterlife if such a thing exists.

    • emperorreagan

      I’m willing to assume that bin Laden was above the board solely because the people making the push for the transition away from a free and democratic US seem to lack the subtlety required to implement such a thing. I think they’re more the “you three hold him down while I kick him” sort, rather than the imaginative sort.

      • JoiquimCouteau

        Or maybe that’s just what they want you to think.

        • emperorreagan

          They ordered a capture or kill operation with the caveat that “capture” would be considered failure and then they didn’t get the story they were going to present to the press straight. How do you keep a decade-long conspiracy going if you can’t even get a basic story straight.

  • emperorreagan

    I’m willing to assume that bin Laden was above the board solely because the people making the push for the transition away from a free and democratic US seem to lack the subtlety required to implement such a thing. I think they’re more the “you three hold him down while I kick him” sort, rather than the imaginative sort.

  • Jackedu317

    has everyone NOT seen the video footage of Brzezinski talking to Afghan rebels in the ’80’s, and he’s been behind all presidents in my lifetime. the U.S. gave them drugs, guns, and money to fight the Russians, knowing full well it would come back to us this way. everything that happens politically is planned years in advance. NOTHING happens by accident. oh, and Al Qaede is a term the CIA coined. it means, “the database”. it’s nothing more than a list of names of the people THEY trained. so, who are we really fighting?…

  • Jackedu317

    has everyone NOT seen the video footage of Brzezinski talking to Afghan rebels in the ’80’s, and he’s been behind all presidents in my lifetime. the U.S. gave them drugs, guns, and money to fight the Russians, knowing full well it would come back to us this way. everything that happens politically is planned years in advance. NOTHING happens by accident. oh, and Al Qaede is a term the CIA coined. it means, “the database”. it’s nothing more than a list of names of the people THEY trained. so, who are we really fighting?…

    • quartz99

      I think you give them too much credit. We used to do the same with Saddam Hussein. That didn’t stop us from deciding he was the enemy either. I think it’s fairer to say that our govt does whatever is the most expedient now, future be damned. Never attribute to planning and malice what can easily be explained by stupidity, short-sightedness and sheer incompetence.

  • kevingt

    The US debt has very little to do with bin Laden – you’re giving him way too much credit. We have spent more on the war in Iraq, which had nothing to do with bin Laden, than we did on the war in Afghanistan. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 account for more debt than the Afghanistan War, Iraq War, and Libyan intervention combined. You can’t show a chart of US debt over time and then find one thing that happened at some inflection point and say that was the cause – you need more of a causal relationship. I bought my house in 2001 and US debt skyrocketed in 2001. The two have nothing to do with each other, they just happened at the same time. Look into what is the biggest cause of our debt and you will see it was the Reagan tax cuts back in the 80s and the Bush tax cuts in 2001 & 2003.

    • emperorreagan

      The total combined cost of the wars is projected at ~$5 trillion by Stiglitz. The estimated cost of the tax cuts is about $2.5 trillion at present (and will naturally keep going up the longer they stay in effect). Bush, and now Obama, have opted for not just unfunded war, but unfunded war while cutting taxes.

      Both Reagan & Bush are guilty of horribly mismanaging the US economy, overspending on the military (which is argued by some to serve more as a wealth-transfer device for the rich through useless high tech projects) and cutting taxes. Ultimately, those are decisions by US leaders that have wrecked havoc on the US economy and can’t be blamed on either the USSR or Osama bin Laden, except that they have made convenient excuses for one plank of an incoherent economic and political philosophy.

      • kevingt

        Many economist disagree with the projections by Stiglitz so he is not the final authority of the cost of the wars. The CBO say the Iraq War will cost between $1.4 and $2.2 trillion (Stiglitz says $3 trillion). And Stiglitz projections are for the TOTAL cost of the war – which includes projections
        into the future.

        We’re talking about the current level of debt – and the current cost of the three wars through 2010 is only $1.4 trillion. However, the cost of the Bush tax cuts through 2010 is $2.5 trillion. And this number will climb every year (just as the Stiglitz projection does) as we have have to pay the interest on the debt that we accumulated because of the tax cuts.

        The Bush tax cuts have cost the US economy almost twice what bin Laden started (and the Iraq War wasn’t even a bin Laden issue – that was just a lame excuse). Bush has hurt the American economy much more than bin Laden even dreamed of.

  • kevingt

    The US debt has very little to do with bin Laden – you’re giving him way too much credit. We have spent more on the war in Iraq, which had nothing to do with bin Laden, than we did on the war in Afghanistan. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 account for more debt than the Afghanistan War, Iraq War, and Libyan intervention combined. You can’t show a chart of US debt over time and then find one thing that happened at some inflection point and say that was the cause – you need more of a causal relationship. I bought my house in 2001 and US debt skyrocketed in 2001. The two have nothing to do with each other, they just happened at the same time. Look into what is the biggest cause of our debt and you will see it was the Reagan tax cuts back in the 80s and the Bush tax cuts in 2001 & 2003.

  • kevingt

    The US debt has very little to do with bin Laden – you’re giving him way too much credit. We have spent more on the war in Iraq, which had nothing to do with bin Laden, than we did on the war in Afghanistan. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 account for more debt than the Afghanistan War, Iraq War, and Libyan intervention combined. You can’t show a chart of US debt over time and then find one thing that happened at some inflection point and say that was the cause – you need more of a causal relationship. I bought my house in 2001 and US debt skyrocketed in 2001. The two have nothing to do with each other, they just happened at the same time. Look into what is the biggest cause of our debt and you will see it was the Reagan tax cuts back in the 80s and the Bush tax cuts in 2001 & 2003.

  • Anonymous

    Or maybe that’s just what they want you to think.

  • emperorreagan

    They ordered a capture or kill operation with the caveat that “capture” would be considered failure and then they didn’t get the story they were going to present to the press straight. How do you keep a decade-long conspiracy going if you can’t even get a basic story straight.

  • Anonymous

    I think you give them too much credit. We used to do the same with Saddam Hussein. That didn’t stop us from deciding he was the enemy either. I think it’s fairer to say that our govt does whatever is the most expedient now, future be damned. Never attribute to planning and malice what can easily be explained by stupidity, short-sightedness and sheer incompetence.

  • emperorreagan

    The total combined cost of the wars is projected at ~$5 trillion by Stiglitz. The estimated cost of the tax cuts is about $2.5 trillion at present (and will naturally keep going up the longer they stay in effect). Bush, and now Obama, have opted for not just unfunded war, but unfunded war while cutting taxes.

    Both Reagan & Bush are guilty of horribly mismanaging the US economy, overspending on the military (which is argued by some to serve more as a wealth-transfer device through useless high tech projects) and cutting taxes. Ultimately, those are decisions by US leaders that have wrecked havoc on the US economy and can’t be blamed on either the USSR or Osama bin Laden, except that they have made convenient excuses for one plank of an incoherent economic and political philosophy.

  • kevingt

    Many economist disagree with the projections by Stiglitz so he is not the final authority of the cost of the wars. The CBO say the Iraq War will cost between $1.4 and $2.2 trillion (Stiglitz says $3 trillion). And Stiglitz projections are for the TOTAL cost of the war – which includes projections
    into the future.

    We’re talking about the current level of debt – and the current cost of the three wars through 2010 is only $1.4 trillion. However, the cost of the Bush tax cuts through 2010 is $2.5 trillion. And this number will climb every year (just as the Stiglitz projection does) as we have have to pay the interest on the debt that we accumulated because of the tax cuts.

    The Bush tax cuts have cost the US economy almost twice what bin Laden started (and the Iraq War wasn’t even a bin Laden issue – that was just a lame excuse). Bush has hurt the American economy much more than bin Laden even dreamed of.

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