Why did we let Osama Bin Laden escape when we had him surrounded in 2002 and have not caught up with him since? Because we need him to justify our open-ended occupation of Afghanistan. The Al Qaeda militants Osama is said to lead are not a traditional army with fixed headquarters and a single chain of command. Much like the Russian Mafia, it operates in small, mobile cells, ideological united but strategically disconnected from each other. Capture members of one cell and no amount of interrogation can extract from them reliable information on the whereabouts or next move of other cells. And because their weaponry and methods of combat are so simple—roadside bombs hidden in trash bags, brainwashed, crazed or drugged suicide bombers—their fighters could just as readily be trained in Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia, the jungles of Bolivia or in abandoned factories in Gary Indiana.
Recall that the 9/11 hijackers got most of their training here in the U.S., and all were citizens of Saudi Arabia, a major trading partner and ally of ours. Recall also how two poverty-level misfits kept Virginia, Maryland and DC terrorized for weeks with nothing more than a deer rifle and an old car.
So if Osama bin Laden is killed—assuming he’s not dead already— some other equally charismatic honcho waiting in the wings would simply take his place, and the conflict would range on, in Afghanistan, some other part of the world, or here at home. We then would have to publicly admit that we have taken on a chameleon-like monster that cannot be destroyed militarily, like we did Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War II. Absurd though it may seem, a healthy, mighty Osama Bin Laden on the run is our most valuable propaganda asset.
Now the question arises: What are we doing in Afghanistan to begin with? Why are we sacrificing our brave soldiers, displacing and killing thousands of innocent Afghan civilians, trying to shove our cultural values down their throats, wasting billions bribing corrupt local officials, incurring the anger and disrespect of the rest of the world when it is obvious that the so-called “War on Terror” in Afghanistan—like the one Iraq–is a non-war that cannot be won militarily? Can’t we see that the only way to fight the low-tech, small- cell kind of terrorism waged by Al Qaeda is to turn the problem over to Federal, state and municipal law enforcement departments?
On the face of it, it would seem that our leaders in Washington are either, mad, blind or downright stupid. But that’s not likely. There is, there has to be, a reason why they insist on fighting a war with no end in sight. Two-hundred and fifty years ago the philosopher David Hume (Adam Smith’s mentor) suggested that stripped of their political, ideological, patriotic, religious and other high-minded rationalizations, the real reason behind wars was economic. It could well be, then, that there are people, or groups of people, in America and abroad, who stand to profit hugely by “staying the course” in Afghanistan, and Iraq. So maybe, instead racking our brains trying to make sense out of the War on Terror from a military or diplomatic perspective, we should do as Hume suggested and simply follow the money.