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Osama bin Laden: Made in China? By: Al Kaltman
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, May 17, 2005


The great British mathematician Alfred North Whitehead once wrote, "It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious." Some Chinese believe that Osama bin Laden has such a mind. Although bin Laden and his minions are plotting the current terror war against the United States, the Chinese – in their quest to create a multipolar world – may have written the book on terrorism…literally.

From the collapse of the Soviet Union and the U.S. victory in the first Gulf War, political leaders and military strategists drew two obvious conclusions. The United States could not be defeated militarily, and any nation that sought to achieve military parity with the U.S. would, like the former Soviet Union, bankrupt itself in the attempt.

To the leaders of China, France, Germany and Russia, a unipolar world with the United States as the world’s only superpower is an unappealing long-term prospect. Jacques Chirac who believes that France’s mission is to shape "the destiny of the world" has been the most vocal proponent of "a world where political, economic and cultural influence" is shared. He envisions a united Europe led by France and Germany (with Germany the junior partner) as one of the centers of power in a multipolar world. Vladimir Putin and Hu Jintao also see multipolarity as the means to eliminating U.S. dominance. However, becoming a "pole" that rivals the United States is easier said than done.

The French and German economies are hobbled by excessive regulation, and in the case of Germany the burden of reintegration with the former East Germany. The Russian economy suffers from governmental interference, bureaucratic bungling and official corruption leftover from the U.S.SR. Only China is growing economically at a faster pace than the United States. But even with its burgeoning economy, overtaking the U.S. is a very long-term proposition.

China has an added incentive for wanting to see U.S. power weakened, the possibility that a declaration of independence by Taiwan could lead to armed conflict. Jiang Zemin, in July 1999, said that he realized that at some point China would have to fight the American wolf, but for now the wolf was too strong, and so the right course for China was to continue to court American business and investment and increase exports to the U.S. China needed to "dance with the wolf" in order to build a strong economy.

In recent years a number of articles and books have been written by Chinese military analysts wrestling with the problem of how to win a war against a seemingly invincible United States. Only one of these has received attention by the mainstream American press. Chaoxian Zhan (Unrestricted War) proposed a total war approach to defeating the U.S. that was praised by China’s highest ranking officers. In their war fighting methodology, the authors (Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui) included the possible use of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. Western journalists, unable to read Chinese, drew their news reports from an English summary of the book that focused on the weapons of mass destruction and missed the most important point. Osama bin Laden had analyzed the obvious and concluded that while the United States could not be defeated by a foreign power, Americans could be induced to defeat themselves.

In Unrestricted War, Osama bin Laden is the prototype for the "new terrorist." He has acquired capital, technical expertise and access to weapons by taking advantage of the "loopholes in the free economies of the West." (Bin Laden has boasted that his followers understand Western financial systems as well as they know the backs of their hands.) The ease with which his organization has been able to raise funds coupled with his skillful use of religious organizations and the media to gain recruits to his cause has guaranteed a ready supply of men and weaponry to carry out his attacks.

According to Qiao and Wang, the new terrorists are not restrained by "international law, behavioral norms and ethical principles…Because they operate secretly, are well concealed, and cause widespread damage, their attacks …seem uncommonly cruel. All of which when it is broadcast in real time by the round the clock coverage of the modern media further strengthens the effects of their terrorist acts." Defeating the new terrorists is difficult because a nation "which follows certain rules and will only use limited force to achieve limited goals" is at a distinct disadvantage against organizations "which do not observe any rules and are unafraid to fight an unlimited war using unlimited means." Terrorist groups rely on the fact that even though they are fighting a technologically and numerically superior enemy, the nature of their attacks provides insufficient justification for the enemy to make full use of its superiority. The new terrorists are like rats with very sharp teeth and excellent survival skills. Like rats, they strike quickly and then duck back into their holes. However, whereas rat-infested habitats can be destroyed, terrorists conceal themselves among civilian populations and any massive military retaliation is certain to result in the loss of innocent lives. When you kill innocent civilians you are condemned by the media, human rights groups and the nations most closely allied to you.

Prior to 9/11 the U.S. response to each terrorist attack had been predictable. When the Khobar Towers were bombed in 1996, President Clinton said, "The cowards who committed this murderous act must not go unpunished." He responded to the attacks on our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, by calling terrorist acts "abhorrent and inhuman" and promising to "use all means at our disposal to bring those responsible to justice." After the U.S.S Cole was attacked in 2000, he warned the terrorists, "You will not find a safe harbor. We will find you, and justice will prevail."

Only after the embassy bombings did he authorize military action, a missile strike against terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and a suspected chemical weapons plant in Sudan. The argument has been made that surgical strikes that limit collateral damage are less likely to result in a negative reaction by the American people. Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper, U.S.MC, and Major General Robert Scales, U.S.A, believe that one of the lessons of the first Gulf War is that when our nation’s leaders think that the American people are unprepared to deal with the carnage of war, "psychological revulsion" becomes a powerful weapon in the enemy’s arsenal especially when that weapon is unwittingly wielded by our own media.

By the time bin Laden laid the plans for his 9/11 surprise, he could feel fairly certain of two things: The U.S. would continue to view terrorists as criminals rather than as enemy combatants engaged in a war against the United States, and even when military power was brought to bear by launching missiles at suspected terrorist hideouts, the mission would be undertaken in the name of law enforcement, not as an act of war.

The Bush administration’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in response to 9/11 caught bin Laden by surprise, and invalidated his hypothesis about the willingness of the U.S. to use military power to destroy terrorist bases and training camps, and to change the regimes of nations that harbored and supported terrorist organizations. However, bin Laden has reason to believe that our military response will be undermined from the inside.

Many of the people educating America’s children today came of age during the protests against the Vietnam War, and by and large believe that all war is wrong. The Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI), established in 1892, is the oldest professional association of its type in the United States. Its executive director considers the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq "profoundly sad and most unfortunate." ACEI takes the position that "a vital way to prevent war and bring about peace is to raise a generation of children who reject killing as uncivilized and as a barbaric, unproductive way to deal with human conflicts." While ACEI’s bold statement stands in sharp contrast to that of the other associations of American educators, which implicitly sanction antiwar teachings under the mantle of academic freedom of expression, the most widely held view is that "peace education" is the "natural role" for America’s teachers at every level from pre-kindergarten through graduate school.

And peace education seems to be working. The Army and the Marine Corps are failing to meet their recruiting goals. The head of the Army Recruiting Command, referring to enlistment projections as "not a bright picture," calls it "the toughest recruiting climate ever faced by the all-volunteer army." The Army is so desperate to sign up new recruits that it has begun offering 15-month active-duty enlistments. However, such a short enlistment will almost certainly mean reduced training time and lowered unit cohesiveness, which will inevitably result in greater numbers of U.S. casualties.

During the Korean War, Joseph Stalin told Zhou Enlai that the United States had "lost the capability to wage a large-scale war." Mao Zedong also believed that Americans "cannot stand wars." In his declaration of war against the United States, bin Laden cited Reagan’s withdrawal of the Marines from Beirut in 1983 after 241 were killed in a suicide bombing, and Clinton’s withdrawal from Somalia "when tens of your soldiers were killed in minor battles and one American pilot was dragged through the streets of Mogadishu" as examples of American "impotence and weakness." Qiao and Wang believe that "CNN’s broadcast of an American soldier’s exposed corpse on the streets of Mogadishu" was all that was needed to "shake American determination."

The Koran teaches that "Allah is with those who patiently persevere." Osama bin Laden believes that if he can just keep killing Americans, the nightly news images of dead and wounded, the rising casualty count and the faces of young soldiers killed in action will take their toll on the American people. The 2004 election was so close that he has every reason to hope that next time the U.S. will elect a president who will end large-scale military operations and return to the practice followed by the Clinton administration of responding to terrorist acts by trying to bring the individuals responsible to justice. When that happens, Osama bin Laden is convinced that we will be forced to withdraw from the Middle East as Clinton did from Somalia, "carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat, and your dead with you."


Al Kaltman served in the U.S. Air Force as a Chinese linguist. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from George Washington University, and is the author of Cigars, Whiskey and Winning: Leadership Lesson from General Ulysses S. Grant and The Genius of Robert E. Lee.


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