The “America-first” approach is Osama’s major sop to Muslim dictatorships. The Egyptians, Saudis, Qatari, and others tolerate numerous charities and fronts channeling money and support to Osama as long as Osama uses this money to employ local terrorists elsewhere. Egyptian security services, for example, extracted declarations from jailed members of EIJ and IG renouncing domestic terrorism. Wealthy Muslims support Osama’s anti-American jihad, but many of them won’t risk sponsoring domestic insurgencies. America’s friends—Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and Egypt—provide substantial logistical support to organizations affiliated with Osama. It is therefore completely implausible that Osama staged the Riyadh bombings. He explicitly denied any connection with the bombing at Al Muhaya, which killed only Muslims; why would Islamic terrorists attack such a target? The bombings upset Osama’s complex relations with Arab states and signaled to them his unreliability. After the bombings in Riyadh, Osama could not be trusted to sublimate the energies of local terrorists into attacks on foreign targets.

Consider also the attack on the Limburg oil tanker in Yemen; attacks on major oil assets are a big no-no, certain to alienate Muslim sponsors and drive the Westerners mad. A loyal dog has suddenly gone mad and should be killed. But besides a few incidents—essentially, goodwill gestures toward America—the Saudi and Yemeni governments have tolerated Osama’s affiliates, so attacks in those countries make little sense. The absence of a pan-Arab hunt for Osama shows that Muslim dictators didn’t buy the US version of Osama’s involvement in the Riyadh bombings and Limburg attack. America is wrong to drive a wedge between Osama and his state sponsors. While a lack of state sponsorship will impede Osama’s work a bit, more importantly it will also remove the necessity for moderation. Osama likely has some nuclear waste by now to make radiological bombs; it is implausible that the shipments intercepted by security services represent all of Osama’s purchases. Osama’s Muslim state sponsors discourage him from crossing the line of CBRN weapons.

Osama can only be a hero against liberal America with its vast soft underbelly of worldwide interests. He is powerless against Muslim regimes which, unlike Israel or America, engage in massive extrajudicial operations and collective punishment. For example, Egypt’s hardest blow against Islamic guerrillas was not the torture in its jails, but the inconspicuous measure of arresting hundreds of Islamic someones wherever a terrorist act is committed in Egypt. The groups which perpetrated the attacks had to take care of dozens, sometimes hundreds of families whose men were jailed because of their attacks. That simple, relatively humane measure made terrorist activity in Egypt prohibitively expensive for established groups. Small irresponsible groups were quickly caught and tortured. Osama is right to target enemy civilians—that’s the only effective mode of war. He can afford to target American civilians only because of the absurd American restraint. Had the US retaliated in full force against Sudan, Afghanistan, and other allies of Al Qaeda, Osama’s support base would have evaporated in the blink of eye. A CBN attack on America may provoke just such a reaction: American civility evaporating in a major war. America’s aggression against Iraq draws volunteers to Bin Laden now, but with the use of sufficient cruelty against the supportive towns, the stream of volunteers would end quickly.

Osama is dangerous to America because, like any giant, it is vulnerable to mirco-level threats. Sort of a mouse killing an elephant. A strategically proper response to Bin Laden would be to offer rewards totaling say, fifty million dollars for Osama and his associates. If mercenaries won’t come up with Osama’s head, then spend a bit more on CIA operations. Instead, America overreacts with expensive campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq, and less conspicuous operations. A number of adversaries like Osama can bleed America, perhaps not to death, but to a very uncomfortable state. The losses of small entities are limited by their very size, but empires bleed for a long time. A global empire has to strengthen worldwide in response to an asymmetrical threat; the US spent billions on improving the security of its embassies after the cheap attacks in Kenya and Tanzania. The only proper way for large nation-states to cope with asymmetrical threats is to abandon the guarantee of micro-level security. Nation-states were built around the promise of total security to their citizens; asymmetric warfare signals a return to the historical norm of no micro-level security. In other words, America needs to almost ignore statistically minor losses—even such losses as ocurred in the WTC attack. The absence of massive reaction would make terrorism politically futile.

Osama bin Laden and America