Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Blowback myth

Did the US create bin Laden?


As most overblown Islamic warrior narratives have been derived (see, Arab perception of "victory" in the 1973 Yom Kippur War), this one is simply not true, as Jonah Goldberg notes:

[In May 1987] Bin Laden helped lead the Arab Afghans in their most successful military effort: defending their mountain lair, the so-called Lion’s Den. The battle was militarily successful in the sense that the already retreating Red Army was held at bay on its way out of Dodge.

“From the Soviet perspective the battle of the Lion’s Den was a small moment in the tactical retreat from Afghanistan,” wrote Lawrence Wright, my source for all of this, in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “The Looming Tower.” But for Bin Laden and his followers, it was divine proof that the mujahedin crushed the mighty Soviets. There was, according to Wright, “a dizzying sense that they were living in a supernatural world, in which reality knelt before faith. For them, the encounter at the Lion’s Den became the foundation of the myth that they defeated the superpower.”

Armed with this useful myth, the Arab Afghans became the core of a new global jihadist insurgency called al Qaeda.

Bin Laden and his lieutenant, Ayman Zawahiri, were convinced that they were the protagonists in a world historical drama, when in fact they were more like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, jabbering outside of the limelight.

Thus, the myth of bin Laden as a hero, warrior and leader. Today, the Left sees blowback everywhere:

For years, some of the shriller voices on the left have argued that 9/11 was a classic example of “blowback” from our support of the mujahedeen’s struggle against Afghanistan. But the fact is we didn’t “create Bin Laden” — he largely created himself. And to the extent that any superpower can claim credit for him, it’s the Soviets. It was their withdrawal, not our support, that convinced the foreign fighters that their pinpricks felled the Soviet bear.

Today, a new “blowback” thesis is in the works. The Washington Post, Time, and the Associated Press are just a few of the news outlets that have asserted the U.S. is arming the Sunnis in Iraq. This is simply not true, Gen. David H. Petraeus insisted in congressional testimony Monday. But it’s no surprise that so many people are leaping to that conclusion because the familiar “blowback” story line is the only plausible one for millions of people who’ve made up their minds that the war is, was and forever shall be hubristic folly.

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