David R. Henderson  

How Osama Won

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I just finished reading the best piece by Ezra Klein that I've ever read by him. Klein argues that Osama bin Laden achieved many of his goals. One of bin Laden's main goals, claims Klein, was to bankrupt the U.S. economy. And with George W. Bush's excessive spending on "homeland security" and huge increases in spending on war, and Barack Obama's keeping those programs in place and adding to them with a major escalation in Afghanistan, all apparently in response to 9/11, bin Laden may have had the last laugh. Read the article for yourself and see what you think.

I don't know if one of bin Laden's goals was to reduce our freedom, but Bush's and Obama's policies have done that too. Klein is a little anemic in decrying the stripping of our Fourth Amendment rights as the price of flying: All he mentions is the time wasted in airports, being forced to take off our shoes, and being forced to relinquish large shampoo bottles. But I'm guessing that Osama got some delight about that too--maybe as much delight as some of the most perverted TSA agents.

Klein does get one major fact wrong. He claims that Osama was "so deeply afraid of death that he tried to use his wife as a shield when the special forces came for him." It appears now that statement by top White House terrorism liar spokesman John Brennan is not known to be true.

Of course, I'm assuming that Osama was the kingpin behind the 9/11 attacks. I think that's true, but I don't know it to be true. Neither, apparently, does the FBI.

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CATEGORIES: Regulation

COMMENTS (9 to date)
RobertB writes:

Bin Laden's role in the 9/11 attacks isn't on the Most Wanted List because he was never indicted for that crime, not because the FBI is aware of some kind of 9/11 conspiracy.

MikeP writes:

There's another take on this, with a lot more attention to Fourth Amendment abrogations, from Radley Balko in his penultimate Reason post...

Yes, bin Laden the man is dead. But he achieved all he set out to achieve, and a hell of a lot more. He forever changed who we are as a country, and for the worse. Mostly because we let him. That isn’t something a special ops team can fix.
Tracy W writes:

I do recall thinking that Osama Bin Laden won a bunch of his stated goals. The USA has, after all, ended sanctions against Iraq, and withdrawn its troops from Saudi Arabia.

Arnold Kling writes:

In addition to Ezra Klein, many other young intellectual snobs--left and right--are expressing similar views, along with disdain for the ordinary Americans who are feeling pride and satisfaction.

I take the point about our loss of freedom and the creation the Homeland Security monster. However, we have mostly ourselves to blame for that. The government will use any disaster, natural or man-made, as an excuse for the accretion of power. Perhaps, TSA and other manifestations have made some people aware of government over-reach, so that perhaps the backlash will be felt at some point.

Back to the occasion of killing Bin Laden, I side with the ordinary Americans on this one, and not with the intellectuals. In the real world, you have to play tit-for-tat, and this shows that America does that.

Regardless of how Ezra Klein spins it, I doubt that a young Muslim is going to think that Bin Laden has found a route to victory over the west. On the contrary, I speculate that the result of killing Bin Laden is that a young, ambitious Muslim is now a bit less inclined to want to affiliate with violent jihad, and a bit more inclined to want to affiliate with western culture.

tim writes:

@arnold kling

Please define what an "ordinary American" is? I so look forward to your enlightening definition.

As someone who would define himself as an "ordinary American" - in the "real" world playing "tit-for-tat" is counter productive and is more likely to cause a young, ambitious extremist (the religion is irrelevant) to want to perform violent acts.

fundamentalist writes:

The US has been trying to destroy itself at least since the people elected FDR. OBL made a very tiny contribution to process.

Klein credits OBL with too much intelligence. He was no where near as intelligent as the author claims. OBL played almost no role in removing the USSR from Afghanistan in the 1980′s, but he took credit for it. And he actually believed that the Soviet withdrawal caused the USSR to fall apart.

As for the US, he actually thought that the WTC controlled all business in the US and by destroying the building the economy of the US would collapse and cause the US to fall apart as the USSR did.

OBL was pretty close to an idiot. All he had was his daddy’s money, which his dad got by taking bribes on construction contracts in Saudi Arabia, and the ability to ignite the passions of silly young men.

Basil Seal writes:

Klein gets it wrong. Bush era spending on DHS, Afghanistan, and Iraq make only a minor contribution to our current flirtation with bankruptcy. In fact, It's actually deficit spending in the form of bailouts, stimulus, and the structural debts of of social security, medicare, and medicaid that are the cause of our impending bankruptcy.

But it's nice to now that Klein will acknowledge the problem to score partisan points even while misdiagnosing the cause. I expect it will prove fairly easy to shutdown our various wars (at least compared to entitlement reform) but the savings from doing so will hardly get us out of the spot we are in. Klein remains an immature, juiceboxer but I assume you are being ironic when you say this is his best work.

rpl writes:
Please define what an "ordinary American" is? I so look forward to your enlightening definition.
Oh, please. Arnold clearly meant that as shorthand for all the people the "intellectual snobs" are criticizing, as distinct from the intellectuals themselves. Did you really not get that?

I suppose you're going to respond that he should have emblazoned his generalizations with a bunch of caveats that there are exceptions to every rule, some ordinary people are joining in the hand-wringing, some intellectuals have..., blah, blah, blah. But, really, what's the point? We know all that, so it's just useless verbiage. Can't we just take it as given? Of course, that would mean we would have to engage with the substance of what other people are saying, instead of just tossing out mindless sarcasm, so I guess the question answers itself.

in the "real" world playing "tit-for-tat" is counter productive and is more likely to cause a young, ambitious extremist (the religion is irrelevant) to want to perform violent acts.
Maybe. Or maybe it will cause him to realize that there is no percentage in pursuing his goals through violence, and he will seek another way. You're packing a lot of assumptions into that one sentence. I'm not sure it can carry the weight.
Chris T writes:

I take cheer in that his death may allow us to begin reversing the damage we have inflicted on ourselves.

The War on Terror was a state of mind rather than an actual war. That state of mind effectively died with Osama.

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