Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Bin Laden's Gaslighting of America

Somewhere in an Afpak cave, the 9/11 mastermind must be smiling as the US takes the next big step in his "bleed-until-bankruptcy" plan to defeat the most powerful nation on earth.

Today's news should reassure Osama bin Laden (and/or his heirs) that the objectives he laid out in November 2004 are working out well--to gaslight his enemies into self-destruction, a term derived from the World War II movie to describe intimidation and psychological abuse through false information that clouds the victims' perception.

"All we have to do," he said back then, "is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note..."

The human and economic losses will grow larger as the number of American troops in Afghanistan approaches 100,000, but the political losses are surfacing even before then, as party-line distinctions blur in a wave of contradictions and self-doubt.

From the right, we have the Weekly Standard urging the President to stop being half-hearted and start talking about victory, while moderate Republican Sen. Dick Lugar suggests "we put aside the health care debate until next year" because "the war is terribly important."

Moving left, a Slate writer confesses to a cardinal sin of columndom, "mixed feelings," Democrat Dick Obey calls the escalation "a fool's errand," and Michael Moore with his trademark understatement, urges the President, "Stop, stop, stop! For the sake of the lives of young Americans and Afghan civilians, stop. For the sake of your presidency, hope, and the future of our nation, stop. For God's sake, stop."

From the sidelines, retired diplomats and generals muse about the "the possibilities and the limits of nation-building," coming to a consensus that "world powers have at best a mixed record when it comes to establishing functional, stable governments in countries devastated by war. The efforts have been long and costly, tangible results often hard to measure, and support for a prolonged involvement difficult to maintain."

Osama bin Laden couldn't have scripted it better. No matter what Barack Obama says tonight, the man in the cave will have controlled the situation more through gaslighting than the man in the White House who has all that 21st century enlightenment at his command.

Update: Now the picture is complete as Dick Cheney weighs in to claim that the President is "undermining" the forces in the field by "agonizing" over his decision. The former VP is a great advocate for shooting from the hip, even if you never nail bin Laden but hit your best friend in the next duck blind.

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