Tag Archives: 9/11

Review of “The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11” by Lawrence Wright

I was chatting with Catholicgauze a few weeks ago. In that chat I mentioned I wanted to read the perfect book — something about a subject I had been following and cared about, but that would put all the pieces I already knew into a broader contexts. Without saying anything, Catholicgauze quietly purchased The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 and sent me a copy. I am glad. It is a perfect book.

Before I go into my reflection, here are some thoughts I shared in a thread on Coming Anarchy

I strongly recommend The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. I was turned off by the name, as it seems like more of a popular book than a history. Really, to capture the seriousness of the work, it should have a boring title, such as Al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, and the Islamic Group: Violent
Political Islam in the Wake of Sayyid Qutb (1966-2001).

Fortunately, Catholicgauze talked me into it, and I’m glad he did. From the trivial (bin Laden was an an acapella group that put out a cassette), to the insightful (two of bin Laden’s wives have Ph.D.s, he was the only of his brothers not to leave KSA for university), from the network-oriented (Zawahiri’s uncle was Qutb’s defense attorney) to the operational (Zawahiri had a spy within American special forces, who attempted to gain their trust by passing on secret (and true!) information about bin Laden; bin Laden’s previous organize, the Special Bureau, operated openly in the United States), The Looming Tower is a must read.

The book is written like a novel — while incredibly informative and surprisingly balanced, it is written by the author of The Siege — a movie that is sometimes blamed for discouraging the Clinton Administration from taking steps that would have averted 9/11.

The Looming Tower ends with a real-life cliffhanger — al Qaeda has been chased out of Afghanistan, the retreat into Pakistan was a bloody disaster, and Zawahiri is seen riding south on horseback.

The sequel is yet to be written.

The Coming Popularity of al Qaeda

I have argued before that because of the Left’s fascination with “other voices,” al Qaeda will become a hip movement on college campuses (in the sense that Che is now or the Viet Cong once was) . This will happen in a generation after 9/11.

We’re already seeing signs of this. Among those 18 to 29 (who were about 11 to 21 at 9/11/01), twice as many people believe the U.S. government Let It Happen On Purpose — that is, the US government used al Qaeda as a patsy to achieve its own goals.

Gene Expression: Who carried out 9/11? Views Differ….
Question: “There are three main schools of thought regarding the 9/11 attacks. The first theory is the official story, and maintains that 19 Arab fundamentalists executed a surprise attack which caught US intelligence and military forces off guard. The second theory known as Let It Happen argues that certain elements in the US government knew the attacks were coming but consciously let them proceed for various political, military and economic motives; and the third theory Made It Happen contends that certain US government elements actively planned or assisted some aspects of the attacks. Based upon your knowledge of 9/11 events and their aftermath, which theory are you more likely to agree with?”

How long before we see an American presidential campaign worker wear an Osama bin Laden t-shirt? We’ve already seen love of the Communist terrorist Che among campaign workers.

Update: Purpleslog agrees.

The first 9/11 after 8/8/08

Many tributes to 9/11 are up today, including those by , Purpleslog, and zenpundit. This being the seventh anniversary of al Qaeda’s attack on our homeland, there will be many more, as well.

On this seventh year anniversary, it is important to see how we are winning. Small actors like al Qaeda control short-term situations, so they were able to cause a non-trivial amount of daamage to our economy, and set the board for us invading two Muslim countries. States, though, control long-term situations. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, al Qaeda is now simply a small faction inside a much larger civil war that is ultimately for the Afghanis and Pakistanis to figure out. We can continue to do the right thing, such as supporting those who want to open Pakistan’s economy to the outside world, and those who oppose al Qaeda specifically, but for now things are trending remarkably well. Even more in Iraq, into which both US and al Qaeda forces surged following our overthrow of Saddam Hussein, we have destroyed al Qaeda’s ability to fight and taken to the work of setting up a post-war government that can befriend its neighbors, accept international investment, and get on with the work of being a country.

9/11 no longer defines United States foreign policy. Chappen, apart from the hard work of hanging the political culture of the middle east does not look like it’s going to happen apart from the slow transformation of economies, perhaps as a result of their Oil windfall. al Qaeda is a shadow of its former self, the staunchly anti-American Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is dead (along with much of his family), and the staunchly anti-American Iraqi leader Colonel Gaddafi sold out for some help in digging up oil.

Instead, America’s grand strategy now seems to hinge on rolling back Russia and preventing the emergence of interstate war as a tool of diplomacy. Part of this involves allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons, as most recently highlighted by our preventing Israeli from attacking Iran and selling defensive weaponry to the Gulf states. It means encouraging our allies in Europe in completing the Ukraine-EU Association Accord, and accelerating Russia’s financial crisis. It means making it more difficult for Russians to invest in the west, and easier for Western governments to seize Russian assets. Other tools will be used when they are needed, as well.

The world after 8/8/08 is less emotional than the world after 9/11. Humans just hate to die in random catastrophic terror, and the perceived risk of that in our slow fight against Russia is much lower than in our war against al Qaeda.

Russia’s economy makes it a warlike version of Portugal. Russia’s nuclear weaponry makes it a warlike version of North Korea. Russia’s oil makes her a warlike version of Venezuela. Russia’s demographic collapse makes it a warlike version of Italy.

Russia’s international friendships make it part of the feared Russian-Nicaraguan Axis.

(You better watch out, or Belarus could join too.)

Our challenge now is easier than our challenge then. The fight against Russia is not a new Cold War, but merely a fight against the “lesser includeds” — the remainder from our hard work. Whether Russia was ever really in the New Core, it fell off the wagon. Russia is a problem to be dealt it, as is her use of War. But we’ve won much harder challenges. We will do well this time, too.

Another 9/11 rolls past. al Qaeda continues to melt under assaults from all sides. Our teachable moment with Russia is at hand.

Globalization rolls on.

The Iraq War is about Feedback more than Revenge or Justice

OD, a new tdaxp commentator on loan from Castle Argghhh!, has been contributing to the discussion on the thousand-year implication of the Iraq War. Among many good points, though, he makes a simple but understandable mistake:

You suggest that imposing a grim fate on Iraq’s Sunnis is just revenge, because Sunnis attacked New York on 911.

Certainly the Iraq War was good and just, but saying the Iraq War was revenge for 9/11 against the Sunni Arabs is like saying that leukemia is revenge for dizziness against cancer cells.

Rather, the Iraq War is directed feedback against the Sunni Arab world — both the tribal states that do nothing and the National-Secularist states that destroy Arab civilization.

A certain amount of “noise” — murders, ethnic cleansings, genocides, and the like — are to be expected from any part of the non-integrating Gap. Generally we care nothing for this, as such tragedies are symptoms of life outside the Core. Thus AIDS ravages Africa, women are honored-killed in Muslim lands,

9/11 — because it was directed against citizens, of the Core, in the Core, on a massive scale — was not just noise. It was an unacceptable breach of the quarantine the civilized world puts on the barbarians. The immediate task was to prevent the same stateless network that conducted the attacks, al Qaeda, of doing so again. Thus the Afghan War. But far more important was perturbing the Sunni Arab system to change We do this by overloading the Sunni Arabs — sending as much feedback to them as possible.

The Iraq War accomplished this goal in several ways. Among others:

  • The world-historic shift of Baghdad from a center to Sunni to Shiite civilization
  • The great feelings of humiliation — that is, collective weakness — such engenders among Sunni Arabs
  • The great feelings of betrayal — that is, the inability of Sunni Arab governments to forestall such humiliation — such engenders among Sunni Arabs
  • The great feelings of worthlessness — that is, the inability of Sunni Arab governments to reverse the betrayal — such engenders among Sunni Arabs

The Iraq War had many other benefits besides, and those should not be minimized, but feedback is the essential part of the conflict. The humiliation, betrayal, and worthlessness throughout that part of the world is the appropriate response for 9/11 — not just about of justice (though of course it is) and not just out of revenge (though of course it is) — but through the hope of change those tidings bring.