President George W. Bush’s decision to put America on offense after 9/11 was costly and remains controversial. President Obama, once a critic, adopted and even expanded the policy, though now declares the “tide of war is receding” and is speeding troop withdrawals.
But before we close the book on the “war on terror,” it’s worth considering how Usama bin Laden saw things. Unlikely as it may seem, documents seized in his Pakistan compound afford Bush a measure of vindication. Our military might frustrated the terrorist leader’s plans for Mideast dominance and provoked non-stop whining.
“America, the guardian of the West, is by far the most influential country in the region,” bin Laden wrote in one of the documents released by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. “America is the lifeblood ... America is strong enough to have toppled the Iraqi regime, and the Islamic government in Afghanistan.”
He repeated his complaint that our forces were thwarting an Islamic caliphate. He likened the United States to “a wicked tree” that “has many branches.” The trunk represents America while “the branches of the tree represent countries, like NATO members, and countries in the Arab World.”
Al Qaeda could succeed only by attacking the trunk. “Say a branch represents the United Kingdom,” bin Laden wrote. “We should ignore that opportunity, and to go back to sawing the trunk of the tree.”
He said jihadists should ignore other targets. “We must then aim every bow and arrow and every land mine at the Americans. Only the Americans,” he wrote.
He talked of a “war of attrition,” which the United States would quit because of costs and “disadvantage,” leaving jihadists free to topple Arab governments and establish their own state.
Signing off in one letter, he predicted “America will have to withdraw during the next few years because of many reasons, the most important of which is America’s high deficit.”
Bin Laden is dead, but Bin Ladenism lives. We are about to find out whether he was right about what will happen when America withdraws from the battlefield.
Michael Goodwin is a Fox News contributor and New York Post columnist. To continue reading his column on other topics, including Ray Kelly, click here.