Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, counterterrorism experts are debating how much damage he did to the U.S. and the world. Al Qaeda specialist Daveed Gartenstein-Ross argues in Foreign Policy that one of bin Laden's fundamental goals was driving the U.S. to bankruptcy by forcing the nation into a costly global war, and, on that score, the architect of the 9/11 terrorist attacks accomplished more than anyone cares to admit. How successful was bin Laden's strategy?
He did not break us, but he came close: America is still standing, and bin Laden isn't, says Ezra Klein at The Washington Post. But he learned decades ago in Afghanistan, where a costly 10-year war against the mujahideen contributed to the Soviet Union's collapse, that the "bankrupt-a-superpower" strategy could succeed. "It didn't quite work out this time," but, with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan each costing us trillions, "it worked a lot better than most of us, in this exultant moment, are willing to admit."
"Bin Laden’s war against the U.S. economy"
Nonsense. Blame entitlements, not bin Laden: "This is preposterous," says Nick Schulz at The American. Bin Laden didn't send us to the poor house by "goading it into expensive wars" we couldn't afford. The Pentagon's share of the federal budget is way smaller than it was in the 1950s. "To the extent the United States faces bankruptcy problems, it is not due to defense spending but to poorly constructed entitlement programs."
"Osama won? (And other preposterous arguments from around the internet)"
Bin Laden's bankruptcy boasts are often misinterpreted, anyway: "Economic warfare was implicit in bin Laden's thinking," says Kevin Drum at Mother Jones. But while bin Laden crowed about how much the 9/11 attacks cost the U.S. — in building losses and lost productivity — it's a stretch to say he expected the U.S. to respond by rushing into budget-busting wars. If anything, bin Laden thought the United States was inherently decadent and weak, and would retreat from the Middle East if faced by a sufficiently determined jihadist guerrilla movement."
"Osama bin Laden and national bankruptcy, part 2"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects
- It's official: The religious right is calling it quits
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The dangerously childish morality of liberal ObamaCare supporters
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1: 10 major differences between the book and the movie
- How science is accelerating our search for alien life
- How to be charismatic, according to science
- Inside Turkey's shadow war with ISIS
- Why insects are the future of food
Subscribe to the Week