Thursday, March 28, 2024

Bin Laden v. the United States


Bin Laden v. the United States

Peter Schultz


                  Bin Laden, in his war with the United States, should be awarded a TKO, a technical knockout victory insofar as he changed the United States in significant and not beneficial ways. And one reason he could do this was because the United States deemed itself to be the exceptional nation, that is, an exceptionally good nation that deserved to control the world. After 9/11, the United States became a fearful, militaristic, and surveilling nation to an unprecedented degree. Bin Laden, it would seem, understood that the claim to be an exceptional nation left the United States vulnerable to manipulation to a great degree.


                  Because it took itself to be an exceptionally good nation, the United States could not fathom why it had been attacked. In other words, it couldn’t and didn’t understand the attacks. As a result, its response wasn’t well thought out, as Bush’s GWOT proved not to be. Although or perhaps because it saw itself as exceptionally good, America’s response to the 9/11 attacks was ill-conceived. Instead of going after the perpetrators of the attacks, Bush et. al. declared, and Americans embraced, a global war on a phenomenon known as “terrorism.” This was – and is – a fool’s errand. And it guaranteed that the United States would become a garrison state where the military or the military-corporate-surveillance complex took over American politics. All in the name of proving America’s exceptional goodness, it would waste its wealth as it was drawn into conflicts throughout the globe. It would even be led to create what may be called a “global Murder Inc.,” which would prove to be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, including children.


Similarly, because it thought of itself as exceptional, Americans couldn’t understand the attacks themselves, thinking of them as apocalyptic, e.g., speaking of New York City as “ground zero,” as if the attack there was like the US atomic attacks on Japan. But the New York attacks, while deadly, weren’t close to being apocalyptic, as 3000 deaths hardly constitute an apocalypse. And the fact was that al Qaeda didn’t even use WMDs; it used airplanes, civilian airplanes.


But as the response to the Boston marathon bombing illustrated, bin Laden had successfully undermined America’s sense of security to the point that any attack was seen as potentially apocalyptic. “Boston Strong?” Not so much as the city and its people locked down as if two individuals wielding a pressure cooker bomb constituted an existential threat. Cowering in a city-wide lockdown is hardly indicative of strength. The reaction to that bombing was more like the reaction to “Blackhawk down” than not. “Boston down” seems more accurate than “Boston strong.”


Bin Laden, via the 9/11 attacks as interpreted by America’s elites and embraced by its people, had successfully remade the United States. The exceptionally good proved to be the exceptionally vulnerable on the road to being exceptionally self-destructive. For example, presidents were reduced to being commanders in chief. So reduced, the office was subordinated to the military-corporate-surveilling complex like the one Eisenhower warned about.


That complex and its presidents even had a cartoonish character, e.g., when Bush, decked out in a flight suit, landed on an aircraft carrier positioned so it seemed at sea to announce, “Mission Accomplished,” when nothing of the sort had happened. Or when President Obama fired General McCrystal for an article published in, of all places, Rolling Stone. And the 2020 presidential election had its own cartoonish sheen, when two geriatric candidates vied either to “save democracy” or to “drain the swamp,” take your pick. Bin Laden’s success had helped turn America’s politics into comedy, so it wasn’t surprising that presidents were routinely mocked on Saturday Night Live or late-night talk shows. And now the comedic 2020 election is going to be replayed in 2024. As an old expression has it: “You can’t make up stuff like this.”


America’s alleged exceptionalism, its alleged exceptional goodness, didn’t protect it against bin Laden and his small band of followers. As Machiavelli pointed out, humans who don’t learn to be able not to be good will invariably fail. Patriotism or goodness isn’t enough. Intelligence, a sense of humor, and a sense of the irony of political life are indispensable for succeeding politically, because these characteristics teach that the task is navigating the political world, not ruling it.

No comments:

Post a Comment