Who really won – America or bin Laden? The answer is as obvious as it is painful: He did.
Bin Laden’s goal was to trigger a clash of civilizations. He sought to pit radical Islam against the West, becoming a galvanizing force for Muslim militants everywhere. He gave new life to the Islamist project of imposing a global caliphate based on Shariah law. Revolutionary Islamism has tens of millions of followers, spreading like locusts across the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and Europe. Bin Laden may be dead, but his macabre ghost lives on.
The former Saudi millionaire (and playboy) cut his Islamist teeth in Afghanistan during the 1980s. He was deeply impressed by the Afghan Mujahedeen – Muslim holy warriors who eventually defeated the mighty Soviet army. Having humiliated one superpower, he set his sights on the more powerful one: America.
Bin Laden’s strategic ambition was to suck the United States into prolonged guerrilla wars. Being a man of the East, he understood that Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires. Britain, czarist Russia, the Soviet Union – their armies were broken by Afghanistan’s harsh terrain and fierce tribes. His aim was to bankrupt America, slowly bleeding us as we fought one counterinsurgency operation after another. In short, he set a trap – and we rushed headlong into it.