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.
Writes Stevenson:

… 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.

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brassband
brassband
12 years ago

“What the likes of Stevenson will say when their laughable construction of current reality proves itself to be a fairytale is anybody’s guess.”

I can make a fairly educated guess, though.
They will blame President Bush for having so damaged “world opinion” about our country that not even Pres. Obama could work the kind of miracle necessary to recover.
And a compliant press will lap it up.
It remains to be seen, however, whether the public will buy it.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

Anyone expecting a “kumbaya” welcome to President Elect Obama from terrorists is smoking the wrong sh*t.They will come at him hard.At least he’s keeping Gates and appointing former USMC Commandant Jones as NSA.Two good moves.There-I said it.He needs to make some more good ones if things “pick up”.

Phil
Phil
12 years ago

Brassband
I would blame Bush for damaging world opinion at a time when there were the possibilities of a new alignment of nations fighting against stateless terrorism. The Neo-XCons wanted nothing to do with fighting Al-Queda with the help of others and as a police action. They instead wanted to use U.S. military power to change the oil producing region to their liking.
The U.S. failed to capture Bin Laden at Tora Bora. Bush must be held responsible for this. Justin may be correct that Bin Laden is no longer alive but that matters little. There are others in command that are responsible for the deaths here and abroad. Bin Laden is still an important symbol for some Muslims as one who struck back at the enemy. If the election of Obama sows some doubt with this group I don’t see that works against our interests at all. Much more would be needed to be done and the possibility of funding overseas projects in the current financial environment seems unlikely.
I don’t think that the U.S. Naval College is a hotbed of liberal opinion. Most of the comment from the professors from that institution were supportive of the Iraq war and at least at the beginning supportive of the Neo-Con ideology. Mr. Stevenson may break ranks there but I don’t think thats cause for dismissing his analysis. Justin accuses Mr. Stevenson of “straining to fit President-Elect Obama into the patterns of his own book.” I quess we all can find examples of not wanting to accept evidence that runs counter to our stated ideology. I applaud Joe Bernstein for not doing that as his comments here make clear.

msteven
msteven
12 years ago

Phil, Your comments exceed both Justin’s and even Professor Stevenson’s in partisan hyperbole and downright ‘wrongheaded-ness’ as Justin put it. A few examples: “ … 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.” —– This is really an unreasonable and incoherent argument. It’s sort of like saying that when the police break-up a violent gang or a drug ring, it increases the anger of criminals against the police. Yes, I guess it would. The only way that argument works is to also assume that there was no reason at all to eliminate Saddam and that Bin Laden’s hatred of American and its allies is justified. That instead of the debating the war based on costs vs. benefits, it is based on asserting that there were no benefits. “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”. — Two words – complete nonsense. What do these people think? That it was difficult for jihadists to recruit and fundraise before 9/11? I’ll acknowledge that ‘fighting back’ did increase the anger of jihadists. That is not the point. The point, which people like Phil and Prof. Stevenson won’t directly answer is – do they think that not fighting back would have ended the hatred? Do you think the jihadists would have stopped wanting to kill us if we had not gone into Iraq? They instead wanted to use U.S. military power to change the oil producing region to their liking. —— More nonsense. That is just as credible as Bush invading Iraq to avenge the threat against his father or that he simply enjoys the thought… Read more »

Monique
Editor
12 years ago

Awesome analysis, Msteven.

Phil
Phil
12 years ago

msteven You wrote: The point, which people like Phil and Prof. Stevenson won’t directly answer is – do they think that not fighting back would have ended the hatred? Do you think the jihadists would have stopped wanting to kill us if we had not gone into Iraq? Why ask a question that you’re convinced I will not answer? No and No. Is that direct enough? Again: “The U.S. failed to capture Bin Laden at Tora Bora. Bush must be held responsible for this.” —– No, it was not. Was it Jimmy Carter’s responsibility for the failed attempt to rescue the hostages? JFK’s fault for Bay of Pigs? Yes and Yes. And this: They instead wanted to use U.S. military power to change the oil producing region to their liking. —— More nonsense. That is just as credible as Bush invading Iraq to avenge the threat against his father or that he simply enjoys the thought of sending people to their deaths. It makes for great hyperbole but it is intellectually incoherent. Paul Wolfewitz admitted that the real and more serious goal of the Iraq invasion was to set up U.S. bases ansd create a permenant U.S. presense in the Middle East. He was not bothered by the weapons of mass destruction argument falling apart explaining that it was useful because it helped galvanize public opinion. When I referred to the Neo-Cons in my earlier comments I was referring to men like Wolfewitz. Wolfewitz had been a student and disciple of Leo Strauss at the University of Chicago. Strauss’s thinking was apparently very influential with the group of defense dept and Bush administration advisors. Strauss believed that liberal democracies did well for its citizens in terms of political freedoms but had a hard time protecting themselves from a hostile world.… Read more »

msteven
msteven
12 years ago

Thank you Monique. Why ask a question that you’re convinced I will not answer? No and No. Is that direct enough? —- Yes. Therefore based on that, what is your point that the war has stoked jihadist recruitment and fundraising and energized the jihadist movement? Was it Jimmy Carter’s responsibility for the failed attempt to rescue the hostages? JFK’s fault for Bay of Pigs? Yes and Yes. —– I should rephrase. There is a significant difference between responsibility and fault. I can see where one could argue that the President is responsible for all foreign and domestic events affecting Americans occurring while in power. I believe it is a flawed and simplistic argument but it is debatable. What is really not debatable is to assign fault to a person for something they have no control over. Do you assign fault to the Governor for the results of all police investigations in the State? If not, why is that any different? He was in favor of using the “noble lie” to advance an unpopular position towards war much like the mushroom clouds we heard from the Bush foreign policy advisors during the months before the invasion. —– This is my favorite line to rebut, the argument that ‘Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction to gain support for the war’. Think about it – how does that work? Did he tell the CIA to make up evidence? How about the numerous other countries that supported the war? Do you think they all relied solely on US Intelligence to make their decision? Don’t you think that if there was any evidence that Bush intentionally lied to support the war that it would be a major international event? Other than Dennis Kucinich, why is no one pursuing what would be an extremely serious… Read more »

Phil
Phil
12 years ago

msteven
At least you have found something that we may agree on. Maybe the second could be that Monique is jumping around on the sidelines with pom poms.

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