“Yet the Islamist radicals have always been completely open about their goals. They want to take power in the Muslim countries (phase one of the project), and then unite the entire Muslim world in a final struggle to overthrow the power of the West (phase two). They are still stuck in phase one, with little to show for it despite 30 years of trying, so in the early 1990s Osama bin Laden and his colleagues switched from head-on assaults on the regimes in Muslim countries to direct attacks on Western targets. Yet their first-phase goal remains seizing power in the Muslim world, not some fantasy about “bringing the West to its knees.”
Terrorists generally rant about their goals but stay silent about their strategies, so now we have to do a little work for ourselves. If the real goal is still revolutions that bring Islamist radicals to power, then how does attacking the West help? Well, the U.S. in particular may be goaded into retaliating by bombing or even invading various Muslim countries — and in doing so, may drive enough aggrieved Muslims into the arms of the Islamist radicals that their long-stalled revolutions against local regimes finally get off the ground.
Most analysts outside the United States long ago concluded that that was the principal motive for the 9-11 attack. They would add that by giving the Bush administration a reason to attack Afghanistan, and at least a flimsy pretext for invading Iraq, al-Qaida’s attacks have paid off handsomely. U.S. troops are now the unwelcome military rulers of more than 50 million Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq, and people there and elsewhere are turning to the Islamist radicals as the only force in the Muslim world that is willing and able to defy American power.
It is astonishing how little this is understood in the United States. I know of no American analyst who has even made the obvious point that al-Qaida wants Bush to win next November’s presidential election and continue his interventionist policies in the Middle East for another four years, and will act to save Bush from defeat if necessary.
It probably would not do so unless Bush’s number were slipping badly, for any terrorist attack on U.S. soil carries the risk of stimulating resentment against the current administration for failing to prevent it.
Certainly another attack on the scale of 9-11 would risk producing that result, even if al-Qaida had the resources for it. But a simple truck bomb in some U.S. city center a few months before the election, killing just a couple of dozen Americans, could drive voters back into Bush’s arms and turn a tight election around. Al-Qaida is clever enough for that.”
Bush and Al-Qaida’s interests coincide. An attack before the election.