Conventional Wisdom says bin Laden attacked the US certain that we would not respond in any meaningful way. He thought our history since the hostage crisis in Iran (The barracks bombing in Lebanon, the embassy bombings, the first World Trade Center bombing, etc.) showed us as unwilling or unable to move against Islamist provocation, that "popular resistance" to warfare, or so our newspapers and networks told us, would keep our troops at home. The short leash of a bribed UN would ensure it. bin Laden expected the same on 9-11.
Today in the NYT Magazine, Prof. Mark Danner describes bin Laden's reason to attack us as:
The 9/11 attacks seem to have been intended at least in part to provoke an overwhelming American response: most likely an invasion of Afghanistan, which would lead the United States, like the Soviet Union before it, into an endless, costly and politically fatal quagmire.
Well, that's a new spin on it. bin Laden didn't think that we would only respond to 9-11 in a half-hearted and ineffectual way, no, it really was part of a brilliant maneuver to pull us into Afghanistan and trap us there.
Should I mention that Prof. Danner makes no mention of the previous Conventional Wisdom of a weak and unresponsive USA? He just pretends that the "brilliant trap" theory was bin Laden's intention all along. He turns the subsequent American response and surprising bin Laden defeat (or as Prof. Danner says "In Afghanistan, bin Laden would be disappointed.") into a planned bin Laden victory.
No doubt Prof. Danner lept up after 9-11 shouting "It's a trap! Don't fall for it".
However, Prof. Danner does admit to the defeat and "decentralization" of Al Qaeda. He doesn't offer any defense to the terroist attacks to come from the now "amateur" terrorists. When it comes to a strategy to defeat the terrorists, he leaves a vacuum. He can offer nothing to our defense.
And President Bush's strategy to eliminate the terrorists recruiting centers in the Middle East by bringing to them democracy and liberty, is still the only answer we have.
As Prof. Danner concludes:
A withdrawal from Iraq, rapid or slow, with the Islamists still holding the field, will signal, as bin Laden anticipated, a failure of American will. Those who will view such a withdrawal as the critical first step in a broader retreat from the Middle East will surely be encouraged to go on the attack. That is, after all, what you do when your enemy retreats. In this new world, where what is necessary to go on the attack is not armies or training or even technology but desire and political will, we have ensured, by the way we have fought this forever war, that it is precisely these qualities our enemies have in large and growing supply.
We cannot withdraw. Only desire and political will is necessary for attack. He is right. So, on the history that democracy, liberty, and the rule of law correlate to fewer terrorists, we must change the desire and political will of the Middle East. Only this will prevent a "large and growing supply" of enemies.
This is how will we defeat terrorism.