Why No Attacks?
One of the cherished talking points of the die-hard Bush apologists is that say what you will about Dubya, he’s kept us safe from al Qaeda ever since, well, that one time when he didn’t. And it’s always perplexed me that al Qaeda hasn’t hit us again, considering how truly pathetic our counterterrorism efforts have been since we let bin Laden slip away at Tora Bora. I mean, it’s not like turning Iraq into a violent failed-state hellhole puts a big cramp in his style.
So here’s my theory: Al Qaeda hasn’t hit us again because they don’t need to. Bin Laden’s big-picture goal, as I understand it, is to eject the United States from the Middle East and turn the entire region into some kind of 12th-century fundamentalist Islamic utopia. This is a bit of a tough sell, but it becomes easier if he can superheat the Muslim world’s anger at the United States from simmering to volcanic, until the entire region erupts and kicks us out, like Iran did 28 years ago.
The purpose of 9/11 was not to scare the United States into withdrawing from the Middle East; bin Laden is not that naive. No, the purpose of 9/11 was to provoke us into an ill-considered, violent overreaction that would enrage and radicalize the Muslim community, and Bush obliged beyond bin Laden’s bloodiest dreams.
Not only did Dubya blow up a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, not only did he completely lose sight of al Qaeda as anything other than a useful propaganda boogeyman, but he is still 100% committed to keeping American troops in Iraq to bully, brutalize and kill Muslims forever, provoking the Muslim world every single day that they’re there. So why bother with another attack? Bush is already doing everything he possibly can for al Qaeda, and seems perfectly happy to look the other way as our staunch anti-terrorist ally Pakistan gives terrorists safe haven.
On the other hand, another attack might (repeat, might) force Bush to actually do something about al Qaeda Not-In-Iraq, or pave the way for a president who will. So Osama just releases an occasional taunt-tape to keep the hawks frothing at the mouth, lays low, and harvests the hate until it reaches critical mass. Fortunately for us, fundamentalist reactionaries tend to overestimate their philosophy’s popular appeal…
(My thanks to scarecrow, Siun, Thers, and Ian for their ideas, challenges, and feedback. Anything half-assed or downright idiotic is despite their input and not because of it.)
UPDATE: As I suspected, I was not the first person to suggest this general idea. (h/t Phoenix Woman) Selise has some interesting links as well.