February 3, 1999
THE THREAT OF USAMAH BIN-LADIN AND HOW TO DETER HIM
When I was a student a Georgetown University, my roommate and I often debated our opposing views on foreign affairs. Seri, my roommate, animatedly felt that ridding the world of nuclear weapons would gradually end all violence between states. Although idealistically I would have liked to agree, I had to contend that war would never end as long as religion was central to the beliefs of the soldiers fighting. Sheikh Usamah Bin-Muhammad Bin-Ladin personifies and embodies my argument . He has founded organizations and formed coalitions amongst known terrorist groups which "advocate the destruction of the United States" . Furthermore, Bin-Ladin desires that:
The ruling to kill Americans and their allies--civilians and military--is a duty for every Muslim. We--with God's help--call on every Muslim to kill Americans .
The justification that Bin-Ladin submits is that Allah "orders us to carry out the holy struggle 'jihad' to raise the word of Allah above the words of the unbelievers." Bin-Ladin believes that "...Americans impose themselves on everyone who believes in his religion and his rights." Furthermore, he warns of the consequence that America will face whereas "...every day the Americans delay their departure, for every day they delay, they will receive a new corpse from Muslim countries" . Bin-Ladin is a man whose religious beliefs, along with his financial resources, provide him with the power necessary to create wars and terrorist violence. If there were an absence of heavenly decree in his actions, perhaps he would have no power, for he would lack a justifiable motive. Hence, this demonstrates the impact of religion on violence. In this specific instance, the violence is portrayed as a justifiable mean towards reaching the end of furthering religious beliefs.
As a viable threat to America, the United States government must find avenues of deterrence to terminate the current and future terrorist activities of Bin-Ladin. Moreover, prior towards discussing options of deterrence, the threat of Bin-Ladin will first be expanded upon.
It only seems logical to state that when someone is fighting for a cause on behalf of his religious beliefs, he is a greater threat then someone who is not. It would seem that the individual who is defending his religious beliefs would be more willing to lay down his life for his cause, because he is operating in a domain of loss. He has nothing to fear, for his worst case scenario in death is that he reaps the rewards of his courage in the after-life. No matter how well trained the American military is, without a unified religious belief at stake, they are operating in the domain of gain. Hence, I believe that the United States military would be more likely to retreat in a situation where continuing could only result in a minimal gain or possible loss. I am not arguing the legitimacy of the United States military strategy, but simply the non-immediate dedication towards fulfilling a cause. I believe that Bin-Ladin agrees with this idea, as he states:
The youth were surprised at the low morale of the American soldiers and realized more than before that the America soldiers are paper tigers. After a few blows, they ran in defeat... ...And they learned in America that this name is larger then them .
This is just one instance where Bin-Ladin challenges the strength of America.
Another problem that the United States military faces that Bin-Ladin does not is the media's role. For the United States military, every life lost holds a considerable stronger domestic impact, then what Bin-Ladin faces. These contrary viewpoints are partially due to the perception of people viewing the war. America holds different values then the Bin-Ladin Muslims. As mentioned priorly, a loss of life for Bin-Ladin is not a tragedy, but one step closer towards victory. He has stated, "If the whole world decides to get together and kill us before our time has come, we will not die, our livelihood is set" . Therefore, it was in Allah's plan for that soldier to die at that specific time. Our American view seems to be very cynical, however. Unless there was a major tragedy that occurred to our domestic homeland, such as the attack on Pearl Harbor, it is hard to keep Americans back home in support of a war when lives are being lost in high numbers. An example of this is Vietnam where lives were being lost in high numbers, and the media brought back shocking videos of what war was actually about. In my opinion, if the media had no war coverage of Vietnam, it would have not ended as soon as it did. Whether that is a good or bad thing is subjective. Nevertheless, although the governments claim for being in Vietnam may have been noble, the American public did not view it as ample justification. In the case of Bin-Ladin, his statements not only show boldness but a sense of immorality, at least until Allah decides his mortal life is over. This makes Bin-Ladin even more dangerous, and it may be left up to our media to determine whether we will strike first with ground troops, in order to establish resolve. Of course, this would be as opposed to once again launching our missiles to show capabilities.
As for resolve, Bin-Ladin has the advantage hands down over the United States. So far, the only action taking by the United States was on August 20, 1998 when missiles were shot on targets that were "...central to the Bin-Ladin network's ability to conduct acts of terror around the world" . However, the United States has failed to show any true commitment towards defeating Bin-Ladin. On the other hand, Bin-Ladin is currently training soldiers, making threats, publicly endorsing other terrorist activities and building more support for future terrorist acts or wars .
As for capabilities, the United States has the obvious advantage. However, it is our lack of resolve to actually use these weapons that gives Bin-Ladin the advantage. Even though the United States military is arguably the best in the world, Bin-Ladin still has the advantage because of his resolve. Furthermore, I believe that with the weapons that Bin-Ladin does possess, he will utilize them more.
Something else that Bin-Ladin has over other religious crusaders is that some of his most implausible comments have to some extent actually been carried out or even appear somewhat feasible. As opposed to other prophetic religious leaders, he has a history of accomplishing tremendous tasks and actually defeating some of the strongest world powers. For instance, in the case of Russia during the Cold War period, Bin-Ladin stated about his war with them:
NATO, that American created, we know it spent $455 billion American dollars in improving weaponry to protect Europe and America from Russia, and they did not fire a single shot. Allah stood with the Muslims, the Afghani mujahideen, and those who fought with them from other Muslim countries. We fought against the Russians and the Soviet Union until, not to say we defeated them, but Allah defeated them, they became non-existent. There is a lesson to learn from this for he who wishes to learn. The Soviet Union entered in the last week of 1979, in December, and with Allah's help their flag was folded December 25 a few years later and thrown in the trash, and there was nothing left to call Soviet Union.
I find this very amazing, but in addition to this, Bin-Ladin also goes on to talk about the Muslim defeat over America in Somalia. He states how after a few blows to America, his people:
...forgot about this title (America being called a world power) and left, dragging their corpses and their shameful defeat and stopped using such titles. And they learned in America that this name is larger then them .
To someone who may inquire the validity of divine intervention, these two instances of defeating two super-powers, may add strength to Bin-Ladin and his seemingly improbable statements.
Another danger of Bin-Ladin is that he is convincing people that the United States is a country of pure corruptness. Hence, it would be beneficial to Allah if the American government no longer continues. In my opinion, he has done a far better job then average of making America look like a country that all people should look down on. In accomplishing this, Bin-Ladin cites specific examples. For instance, he builds compassion by referring to the sanctions which we imposed when states how they only "...resulted in the death of over 1 million Iraqi children." If this is true then it makes his statement that "...American policy does not admit to differentiating between civilians, military, and child, human or animal," more sound. Another example of Bin-Ladin pulling at heartstrings is when he is referring to Sheik Abdel Rahman. He states, "We hear that he is in a bad health condition, and he is a man beyond 60 years of age and is blind and America treats him badly." Now he is attempting to show that it is not bad enough that America is responsible for the death of millions of children, but that they are harsh to even elderly, blind men. Of course, he encompasses both of them, and includes women in the historical example of the bombing of Nagasaki. Bin-Ladin states:
American history does not distinguish between civilians and military, and not even women and children. They are the ones who used the bombs against Nagasaki. Can these bombs distinguish between infants and military? America does not have a religion that will prevent it from destroying all people .
These are just a few of the examples of Bin-Ladin statements against America that he can utilize to motivate people to simply support, or even fight for his cause.
Finally, another avenue Bin-Ladin is successful in gaining support is by exposing America's weaknesses. If you were going to fight a war against an alleged super-power, it is reassuring to know that they can be defeated. In addition to what was mentioned previously regarding America as paper tigers and the Somalia conflict, Bin-Ladin provides more examples of American weaknesses. He claims that America would rather fight Cold Wars, and is unprepared to fight a long war. Bin-Ladin supports this historically by Beirut when he states:
...the Marines fled after two explosions. It also proves they can run in less than 24 hours, and this was repeated in Somalia. We are ready for all occasions. We rely on Allah.
Furthermore he claims, "We have seen in the last decade the decline of the American government and the weakness of the American soldier .
In my mind, Bin-Ladin believes that he can actually defeat us, which makes him an even greater threat. Therefore, he does not only have Allah on his side, but a strategy towards defeating us.
Although Bin-Ladin does not claim responsibility for several terrorist actions, he does endorse them. This is very intelligent on his behalf. If he were ever captured and the American government chose to do anything based on the charges which he denies, it further fuels his followers on how crooked the American government is. An example of Bin-Ladin approving of terrorist activities against Anti-Muslim people is when he was referring to the man who bombed the World Trade Center, Ramzi Yousef:
Unfortunately, I did not know him before the incident. I remember him as a Muslim who defended Islam from American aggression. He took this effort to let the Americans know that their government assaults Muslims...
Furthermore, Bin-Ladin describes a scary idealistic thought of his when he states, "America will see many youths who will follow Ramzi Yousef" . Here, he is encouraging younger children to follow the footsteps of this man.
I do not believe that Bin-Ladin can be deterred, unless America sends ground commandos. Unfortunately, I believe that the future United States strategy against Bin-Ladin will be one where we wait until he attacks us before we show any true resolve. The bottom-line is that Bin-Ladin is doing a lot of prophetic terrorism talk and is to some degree backing it up. He is operating in a domain of loss, where he has nothing to lose. Also, he is successful at creating the appearance of America as a sadistic country, whose government is severely infringing upon the beliefs of Allah, and has followers are willing to die for what he interprets as Allah's cause. His religious beliefs beget resolve, and he has the capabilities to cause great harm, in accordance with his financial support. It is not that the Muslim religion is the problem, but the problem lies with the view Bin-Ladin has towards the wishes of Allah. Bin-Ladin states:
We predict a black day for America and the end of the United States as United States, and (there) will be separate states, and (they) will retreat from our land and collect the bodies if its sons back to America. Allah willing .