Playing Into bin Laden’s Hands

Last week President Bush (remember him?) took his message somewhere that people might listen without creating a media spectacle, the Israeli Knesset, where he made his now infamous, implicit criticism of Barack Obama (“President Bush Addresses Members of the Knesset,” The Knesset, Jerusalem, Israel, 15 May 2008):

Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

Yes, yes, appeasement has been discredited, except in all those other instances where its opposite, belligerence or intransigence has been discredited too (“The Contradictory Lessons of the Twentieth Century, smarties, 28 August 2004). The fact is that there is no diplomatic panacea — firm resolve always works — and what is required is that ever so subtle virtue, judgment, exactly what this administration has been lacking.

This all reminds me of the passage from Ron Suskind’s The One Percent Doctrine in which he describes the assessment of the CIA as to the meaning of Osama bin Laden’s 29 October 2004 statement , made just days before the 2004 presidential election:

Inside of the CIA, of course, the analysis moved on a different track. They had spent years, as had a similar bin Laden unit at FBI, parsing each expressed word of the al Qaeda leader and his deputy, Zawahiri. What they’d learned over nearly a decade is that bin Laden speaks only for strategic reasons — and those reasons are debated with often startling depth inside the organization’s leadership. …

Today’s conclusion: bin Laden’s message was clearly designed to assist the President’s reelection.

At the five o’clock meeting, once various reports on latest threats were delivered, John McLaughten opened the issue with the consensus view: “Bin Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the President.” (p. 335-336)

The fact is that the policies of President Bush and his administration have been an irreplaceable gift to al Qaeda. As Osama bin Laden himself said in the afore mentioned statement,

[It is] easy for us to provoke and bait this administration. All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note …

Osama bin Laden essentially told the world that he loves George Bush for playing right into al Qaeda’s hands.

Barack Obama and the left more generally have responded to the President’s implicit criticism, but it’s been entirely meta. It’s beyond the bounds of fair politics, the President shouldn’t make such criticisms while abroad, etc. The left should deal squarely with this issue. Appeasement — were it even true — would be one thing, but George Bush is America’s gift to Osama bin Laden. Senator Obama is not bin Laden’s candidate: George W. Bush is. For seven years now the West has danced to bin Laden’s tune. On 20 January 2009 that ends.