Jewish World Review Nov. 2, 2004 / 18 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765

Jack Kelly

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Osama bin Laden is correct to believe that his fate is in the hands of the American electorate | Osama bin Laden wasn't wearing a Kerry for president button when he made his most recent videotape, but he might as well have been.

Instead of attacking the United States, as he has in the past, the terror chieftain focused on President Bush.

"He embraced anti-Bush conspiracy theories developed by American evinced, for example, in Michael Moore's film 'Fahrenheit 911,'" said Barry Rubin in the Jerusalem Post. "Bin Laden criticizes the Patriot Act, which is designed to fight terrorism. He claims that the 2000 election was rigged and suggests that the success of the Sept. 11th attack was due to incompetence."

On parts of the tape al Jazeera chose not to show us, bin Laden bemoans democracy in Afghanistan and the lack of violence there.

The invaluable Wretchard (Belmont Club) and Amir Taheri, writing in the New York Post, see bin Laden's attempt to meddle in the election as an oblique admission of failure.

"He has stopped talking about the restoration of the Global Caliphate," Wretchard noted. "There is no more anticipation that Islam will sweep the world. There is no more boasting that Americans run at the slightest wounds...He is basically saying that if you leave us alone, we will leave you alone."

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No direct link has been established between the terror attacks in Madrid, Bali and elsewhere and bin Laden, Taheri noted. While Muslim terror remains a huge problem, al Qaida's role in orchestrating it is greatly exaggerated, Taheri said.

"In offering a deal to the Americans, bin Laden has few cards to play," Taheri said. "He is holed up somewhere with his movements severely restricted...Theoretically, bin Laden and his closest aides could continue in hiding for years, producing a couple of videos every now and then. But it is clear they are no longer major league players in international terrorism."

When al Qaida attacked on Sept. 11th, it hoped to draw the United States in a protracted war in Afghanistan, one which would cause uprisings against secular and pro-Western rulers in the Muslim world.

It hasn't worked out that way. as Richard Miniter and George Friedman explain in their superb books.

In "Shadow War," Miniter describes the successes, largely ignored by the news media, that the Bush administration has had in rolling up the al Qaida network worldwide.

The most critical diplomatic successes the Bush administration has had have been in getting Muslim intelligence services that were indifferent to, or supportive of al Qaida to crack down, Friedman explains in his must read book, "America's Secret War."

The Taliban regime in Afghanistan was largely a creation of Saudi money and Pakistan's InterService Intelligence agency (ISI), explains Friedman, founder of Stratfor, a private intelligence company.

Friedman describes how the Bush administration was able to leverage Pakistani fears of nuclear war with India (after Islamist attacks on the Indian parliament) to get Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to, in effect, switch sides, and crack down on Islamists in the ISI, and to roll up the nuclear proliferation network of Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan.

The key to gaining Saudi cooperation, Friedman said, was the invasion of Iraq, which, Friedman argues, was undertaken chiefly to influence the behavior of the Saudi royal family.

The Saudi royals have no particular fondness for al Qaida (or al Qaida for them), but were inclined to turn a blind eye to the terrorists as long as al Qaida left them alone. But because al Qaida is largely a Saudi phenomenon, the U.S. couldn't harm it much without Saudi cooperation in cutting off terrorist financing and denying terrorists sanctuary.

Before the Iraq war, America was regarded in the Arab world with hatred and contempt, owing to our anemic response to Islamic terror attacks prior to 9/11. Now, the U.S. is regarded in the Arab world with hatred and fear, which, as Friedman notes, is more useful diplomatically.

By swiftly ousting Saddam over their objections, we persuaded the Saudis that we were a more dangerous potential enemy than al Qaida, and that we were much less dependent than they imagined we were on Saudi support and goodwill.

The effect on Saudi behavior has been halcyon. The Saudis are now cooperating seriously on cutting off al Qaida's funds, and have cracked down on terrorists within the kingdom.

A premature withdrawal from Iraq will undo the good that Miniter and Friedman describe. Osama bin Laden is correct to believe that his fate is in the hands of the American electorate. Only we can defeat us.

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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