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Bin Laden wins by using the “Tactics of Mistake” against America

4 November 2010

Summary:  In Gordon Dickson’s book “The Tactics of Mistake” he describes how Bin Laden has manipulated America so that we drive the jihadist movement from an irrelevant sideshow to a major and vital aspect of modern Islam.

History contains a few eery examples of fiction predating fact.  Not just in technology, like Jules Verne’s Nautilus, but in events.   Famous examples are Morgan Robertson’s Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan (1998), fantastically similar to the actual sinking of the Titanic 14 years later.  And Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838), in which survivors of a shipwreck ate seaman Richard Parker — just as they did in 1884 following the real-life sinking of the Mignonette.  Now we have another for the record.

The Tactics of Mistake

How the weak can make the powerful serve their ends, changing the destiny of the world.  From Gordon Dickson’s book The Tactics of Mistake (1981).

I need to get him involved with me so I can make use of him. Unless I can make him annoyed enough to thrust, I can’t parry.  And only by successfully continuing to parry every attempt he makes can I finally get his whole attention.

… The fencing tactic is to launch a series of attacks, each inviting ripostes, so that there’s a pattern of exchanges and disengages of your blade with your opponent’s.  your purpose isn’t to strike home with any of these preliminary attacks, but to carry your opponent’s bade a little more out of line with each disengage so gradually he doesn’t notice you’re doing it.  Then, when his blade has been drawn completely out of line, you thrust home against an essentially unguarded man.

… {My goal is} to trap deCastries into a personal fencing match with me, so that I can gradually lead him into larger and larger conflicts — until he commits himself completely in a final encounter where I can use his cumulative errors of judgement to destroy him.

In real life we usually stumble into success, doing what works.  Individual victories lead to a successful strategy.  Strategy follows success, not the other way around.  His 2004 speech suggests that bin Laden might have glimmerings that he’s hit upon a winning method.

Excerpt from the US government’s translation of the Osama bin Laden videotape released on 29 October 2004:

So we are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Allah willing and nothing is too great for Allah. That being said, those who say that al Qaeda has won against the administration in the White House or that the administration has lost in this war have not been precise because when one scrutinizes the results, one cannot say that al Qaeda is the sole factor in achieving these spectacular gains. Rather, the policy of the White House that demands the opening of war fronts to keep busy their various corporations — whether they be working in the field of arms or oil or reconstruction — has helped al Qaeda to achieve these enormous results.

… And it was to these sorts of notions and their like that the British diplomat and others were referring in their lectures at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (when they pointed out that) for example, al Qaeda spent $500,000 on the event, while America in the incident and its aftermath lost-according to the lowest estimate-more than 500 billion dollars, meaning that every dollar of al-Qa’ida defeated a million dollars by the permission of Allah besides the loss of a huge number of jobs. As for the size of the economic deficit, it has reached record, astronomical numbers estimated to total more than a trillion dollars. And even more dangerous and bitter for America is that the Mujahedin recently forced Bush to resort to emergency funds to continue the fight in Afghanistan and Iraq which is evidence of the success of the bleed-until-bankruptcy plan with Allah’s permission.

… And it shows that the real loser is you. It’s the American people and their economy.

The jihadist plan.  About bin Laden, one of the greatest generals in history.

Should our wars with jiahists end badly for us — exiting the Middle East, with jihadist gaining power in one or more state — how will future historians describe these events?  More specifically, how mights jihadist historians write this history?  Perhaps like this, as a sequence of thrusts and parries — each of greater intensity, with bigger stakes and larger US errors — leading to their victory.

The events precipitated by 9-11 led to its acclaim as the most effective military operation in history.  The US government responded with powerful attacks by police and intelligence agencies on al Qaeda’s recruitment, communications, and financial operations.   The next two phases were  invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, quickly routing forces of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.  Although peripheral to the jihadist threat, these boosted America’s prestige and demonstrated the consequences of defying it.

The following two operations involved both greater risks and costs — and increasing divergence away from America’s strategic goals and strengths.  Rather than consolidating its victories by leaving small forces and civilian agencies, the US expanded its efforts in both nations.   Large-scale reforms were initiated in Afghanistan (for reasons unclear even now), along with military thrusts to dislodge the Taliban from its home in the Pashtun tribal areas.  Whatever the intentions, this interference by infidel foreigners naturally sparked insurgent action — at first in the South, later spreading across the nation.

In Iraq America attempted to reduce Iraq to a client state — inciting insurgencies among both Sunni and Shiite Arabs.

  • Preventing elections and attempting to install exile Ahmed Chalabi as puppet ruler.
  • Disbanding the army, making Iraq dependent on US armed forces to maintain security against internal and external threats.
  • Attempting to force upon Iraq laws allowing foreign exploitation of its oil on terms more favorable than those of most nations (including Canada).
  • Building “enduring bases” from which American could project power across the region.

America responded to both insurgencies exacted as predicted by bin Laden:  expanding its military footprints.  As usual with counter-insurgency warfare, war crimes and civilian casualties expanding along with the fighting.  That insurgents with no significant external support (e.g., no MANPADS or heavy weapons) were able to engage American forces so well and for so long boosted the jihadists’ reputation amng the Faithful more than they could have done by themselves over many generations.

Folly followed failure, as the US expanded its operations into Pakistan and Yemen.  Their people looked into the sky at the hated American machines, drones and helocopters carring speical ops assassins — each day marking America’s crusader-like intentions clear to all Moslems. …

America’s expedition to Iraq ended with a resounding victory for Islam, a theocratic state replacing the secular Ba’ath Part — with Iran becoming regional hegemon, and oil interests going to China and other nations.  As for Afghanistan …

The wars produced other gains for jiahadists, such as the rising hatred of Arabs and Islam in American — an inevitable consequence of the long war. …

The final and historic confrontation came in the year …

Fortunately nothing is written, and we can still bring this long war to an acceptable conclusions.  Time is our enemy, however, as the war’s domestic support and global position slowly weakens.

Posts about al Qaeda on the FM website

  1. Lessons Learned from the American Expedition to Iraq, 29 December 2005 — Is al Qaeda like Cobra, SPECTRE, and THRUSH?
  2. Quote of the day: this is America’s geopolitical strategy in action, 26 February 2008 — An example of madness in action.
  3. Was 9/11 the most effective single military operation in the history of the world?, 11 June 2008
  4. The enigma of Al Qaeda. Even in death, these unanswered questions remain important, 15 September 2008
  5. “Strategic Divergence: The War Against the Taliban and the War Against Al Qaeda” by George Friedman, 31 January 2009
  6. Can we defeat our almost imaginary enemies?, 10 December 2009
  7. Are islamic extremists like the anarchists?, 14 December 2009
  8. RAND explains How Terrorist Groups End, and gives Lessons for Countering al Qa’ida, 15 January 2010
  9. Stratfor’s strategic analysis – “Jihadism in 2010: The Threat Continues”, 17 March 2010
  10. Stratfor: “Jihadism: The Grassroots Paradox”, 21 March 2010
  11. Stratfor: Setting the Record Straight on Grassroots Jihadism, 1 May 2010
  12. Today’s news about the Ak-Pak War, about al Qaeda’s strength, 1 July 2010
  13. “The Almanac of Al Qaeda” – about our foe, 16 June 2010

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