Sunday, February 17, 2008

Reading Bin Laden's Mind: a creative writing exercise (from Washington Post)


The Outlook section, on p. B3 of The Washington Post today, has a spoofy piece by Michael Scheuer, from the "Department of Creative Writing," -- "READING BIN LADEN'S MIND: The State of the Jihad, As He Might See It," link here.
Bin Laden's goals are indeed "radical Islamist" and not "moralistic" for the sake of self-righteousness. His goals are to drive the United States from Arab lands, eliminate the state of Israel, and settle rifts with the Shiites.

The piece is very curious. Americans made radical Islam "cocky" by a gratuitous invasion of Iraq in 2003 and occupation since. But Islam has become as concerned with its own struggles between Sunnis and Shiites as with Americans and Zionists. The "danger" is that Americans could actually withdraw, and Islam could still self-destruct with its own internal struggle, leading to Civil War in Iraq (already in progress).

Is this bin Laden's thinking, or that of a western analyst? (Ask Peter Bergen, author of a major book on bin Laden shortly after 9/11: Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden). Nevertheless, the "creative writing" piece goes on to recommend major distractions aimed at the U.S.: another homeland attack outdoing 9/11, and destruction of oil-producing facilities in Saudi Arabia, with its evil "American puppet" monarchy.

It seems amazing that Saudi oil security has been as successful as it has. (But rent and see the Participant film "Syriana" and you'll see the vulnerability.) When oil prices slipped in the mid 1980s with increasing Middle Eastern production (partly because of Reagan administration policies at the time) the economy in the West, first jolted by a bit of disruptive real estate deflation in some areas and a wave of hostile corporate mergers, eventually took off with its new productivity and efficiency. But life in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries seemed to deteriorate, as young Muslim men had troubles finding wives because of economic issues and even polygamy (a point often noted by social conservatives). The picture became mixed by Afghanistan (the initial eviction of the Soviets), the Iran-Iraq war, and then the Persian Gulf War. Still, the trend is clear: Islamic society has fallen into despair because of its own internal policies, hidden by self-righteous religiosity.

An article on p A1 (World Section online) of the Sunday Feb. 17 New York Times by Michael Slackman, "Stifled, Egypt’s Young Turn to Islamic Fervor," describes how young men in a more moderate state are troubled by the system, and the article discusses the importance, difficulty, and extreme expense of getting married, here. Marriage is often the only way wealth is transferred in Egyptian society today.

Also, tonight, Peter Bergen reported on CNN that Al Qaeda's "popularity" is now way down in Pakistani mountainous tribal areas, a hard finding to interpret.

1 comment:

monster paperbag said...

hmm, intriguing, indeed..