A Story That Doesn’t Make Sense
Of course one should temper incredulity when addressing the opinions of a college professor who’s written a book on a related topic, but so wrongheaded does Jonathan Stevenson’s assessment of Osama post-Obama seem that it’s difficult to conclude otherwise than that he has an investment of some kind in the wrong argument:
ONE OF SEN. John McCain’s favorite themes was that Sen. Barack Obama was soft on terrorists, which implied that Osama bin Laden would be tickled if Obama were elected. But the world’s terrorist-in-chief has been conspicuously mum on America’s choice. The most al-Qaida has been able to muster is a puerile audiotaped statement by Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s voluble deputy — disseminated over two weeks after the election — that Obama is a “house Negro” destined to fail in Iraq and Afghanistan. This weak response almost certainly reflects their profound disappointment in Obama’s victory.
It isn’t necessary to nitpick the distinction of terrorist zealots’ “puerile” rhetoric from, I suppose, their mature statements in order to question Stevenson’s apparent belief that al Qaida’s relative silence of late is more a result of a marketing conundrum than the ever-looming possibility of capture and death. Furthermore, the fact that Stevenson makes no distinctions between President Bush’s foreign policy before and after the “surge” strategy suggests that he may be straining to fit President-Elect Obama into the patterns of his own book, as described in a handful of synopses. It’s not inconceivable that Barack Obama is poised to look a very wise military leader by virtue of advances made before he took office (advances that he, himself, opposed), and it’s even less difficult to imagine the ranks of the commentariate taking steps to be similarly positioned.
… The U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq that Bush engineered has intensified many Muslims’ worries about America’s global intentions and made them more susceptible to bin Laden’s arguments. Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri have been able to cast the Iraq war as confirmation of Washington’s wish to dominate the Arab and larger Muslim world politically, economically and militarily; its intention to loot Islam of its natural resources, in particular oil; and its support for Israel’s repression of Palestinian Muslims.
The Iraq war has stoked jihadist recruitment and fundraising and energized the jihadist movement — especially in Europe, the platform for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The war has also drained vital military resources from Afghanistan, and executive attention from the security of the U.S. homeland. …
A man so steeped in this area of inquiry shouldn’t have found it difficult at all to hand out a taste or two of numerical evidence of al Qaida’s supposed recruitment and fundraising boost, and if his argument were sound, he could profitably have spared a word addressing the role that al Qaida’s pursuit of violence in Iraq played in pushing the citizens of that nation toward democratic progress. Having addressed those points, perhaps Stevenson would have had cause to question the value of words spent decrying executive distractions from the domestic security of a nation that hasn’t experienced anything resembling terrorism in years.
But Jonathan Stevenson displays nothing so much as a state of thrall to Obama’s charms:
Obama represents an affirmative and historic hope for a reinvented America that is once again confident, exemplary and admired. Bin Laden now beholds not an Obama presidency that will reprise the weakened, beleaguered America of Jimmy Carter’s tenure or perpetuate the embattled America weakened by its own recklessness that a McCain presidency would have augured, but one that revives adroit alliance management and earnest multilateralism, leavens Muslim perceptions of the United States, restores international respect for the United States, and reinvigorates solidarity in the global counterterrorism campaign. Obama’s victory has been overwhelmingly applauded in Europe and the Middle East, and should shrink al-Qaida’s funding and recruiting base and accelerate the downward trend in its popularity among Muslims.
A man who would make such declarations without so much as a whisper of the potential perils of his daydream if gone awry is a man whose capacity for cold analysis ought to be a matter of doubt. Stevenson goes on to cite the lack of a pre-election press release from Osama bin Laden (whom I still believe to be a corpse) as evidence that the terrorist king was too cowed by Americans’ unity behind the “preternatural coolness and vision” of The One.
What the likes of Stevenson will say when their laughable construction of current reality proves itself to be a fairytale is anybody’s guess. We can predict confidently, though, that the well-being of our nation will be preserved in inverse proportion to the attention paid to well-credentialed nonsense.