By Tyler Wolfe
Though his campaign is lagging behind that of front-runner Barack Obama, John McCain did manage to score a small victory last week, winning the endorsement of the much sought after terrorist demographic. The Washington Post reported last Wednesday that a commentary on the al-Qaeda linked al-Hesbah website claimed, “al-Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election.” No doubt, this endorsement will sting Obama, whose “palling around with terrorists” seemingly failed to convince the al-Qaeda organization of his merit.
It is impossible to know whether the McCain endorsement has any direct link to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, but the password protected al-Hesbah website is known to be an authentic mouthpiece for the organization. The posting suggests that a McCain White House would be more likely to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and even goes as far as suggesting that a terrorist attack in the United States on the eve of the election might positively affect the outcome in the Republican’s favour.
You might be wondering why the terrorists would want a more aggressive White House. After eight years of the notion that “America is hated because of its freedom and democracy” being shoved down people’s throats, there is little wonder it’s widely believed. This concept, however, is fatally flawed. While there are certainly aspects of Western culture bin Laden and company find repelling, it’s not the reason they are waging “war” against the West. If this really was the reasoning behind the Sept. 11 attacks, surely bin Laden could have found a better target than the United States. You’d think he would have targeted Amsterdam, for example, where one is free to engage in legal prostitution while sampling the local grass.
No, not even al-Qaeda is foolish enough to wage war against an ideology. The attack, to be sure, had a strategic political objective. After American troops were stationed on Saudi Arabian soil during the 1990 Gulf War, bin Laden and other likeminded Islamists (read: fundamental Islamic extremists) believed that the time had come to overthrow the secular Arab governments. Replacing them with Islamist theocracies, they would limit the encroaching negative Western influence and certainly not allow an American military presence in the region.
In order to get a large number of people to spontaneously rise against their government, they needed them to be subjugated and desperate. Bin Laden needed a mass of newly radicalized Islamists to join his ranks. By attacking the United States, al-Qaeda was provoking a giant. That the giant would respond– and respond disproportionately– was the point. What better way to rally the people than with images of Americans killing Muslims? Then, when the people had seen enough, bin Laden believed they would rise and tackle the secular and often American-allied Arab governments, giving the Islamists power in the Arab world.
At least this was the theory. The initial American response in Afghanistan, however, failed to provoke the civilian outcry al-Qaeda had hoped for. The world was behind the United States and the Taliban and al-Qaeda were forced to flee. Then came the debacle that is Iraq. Bin Laden could not have predicted this massive blunder, but it was exactly what he had been waiting for. World opinion of the American government crumbled and there were massive anti-Bush demonstrations. And yet, no Arab government has fallen. Bin Laden’s vision of millions of Islamists joining his ranks and bringing down their governments is not going to happen, but al-Qaeda has no choice but to stubbornly hold on to this strategy. They are incapable of creating an Islamist Arab World otherwise.
For the Islamists, however, there is a silver lining. The wars are draining the resources of the United States at a critical economic time and a McCain White House would continue the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Along the way more radicals would be created to fill al-Qaeda’s ranks, but it won’t be enough. Much like its choice for president, al-Qaeda’s strategy is all but defeated.