ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11
FORECASTS & TRENDS E-LETTER
On this second anniversary of September 11, 2001 – the day the world changed forever – I thought it would be appropriate to send you (with permission) the following analysis by Dr. George Friedman, the founder of Stratfor.com. Stratfor is a leading intelligence-gathering firm with special emphasis on geopolitics. The following article contains Dr. Friedman’s assessment of where we are in the War On Terror. It is very interesting reading but not particularly comforting.
“THE STRATFOR WEEKLY"
TWO YEARS OF WAR
Two years into the war that began on Sept. 11, 2001, the primary pressure is on al Qaeda to demonstrate its ability to achieve its goals. The events of Sept. 11 were primarily intended to change the internal dynamics of the Islamic world, but not a single regime fell as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks. However, the United States - unable to decline action - has taken a huge risk in its response. The outcome of the battle is now in doubt: Washington still holds the resources card and can militarily outman al Qaeda, but the militant network's ability to pull off massive and unpleasant surprises should not be dismissed.
Old military communiques used to read, "The battle has been joined but the outcome is in doubt." From Stratfor's viewpoint, that seems to be the best way to sum up the status of the war that began on Sept. 11, 2001, when al Qaeda operatives attacked U.S. political, military and economic targets.
Though the militants were devastatingly successful in destroying the World Trade Center and shutting down U.S. financial markets, al Qaeda did not achieve its primary goal: a massive uprising in the Islamic world. Its attack was a means toward an end and not an end in itself. Al Qaeda's primary goal was the radical transformation of the Islamic world as a preface for reestablishing the Caliphate - a multinational Islamic empire that, at its height, stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans.
To achieve this end, al Qaeda knew that it had to first overthrow existing regimes in the Islamic world. These regimes were divided into two classes. One was made up of secular, socialist and military regimes, inspired by Gamel Abdul Nasser. This class included countries such as Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Libya. The second class comprised the formally Islamic states of the Arabian Peninsula, which Osama bin Laden referred to as "hypocrites" for policies that appeared Islamic but actually undermined the construction of the Caliphate. Finally, bin Laden had to deal with the problem of Shiite Iran, which had taken the lead in revolutionizing Islam but in which the Wahhabi and Sunni al Qaeda had little confidence.
Al Qaeda's political objective was to set into motion the process that would replace these governments with Islamist regimes. To achieve this, al Qaeda needed a popular uprising in at least some of these countries. But it reasoned that there could be no rising until the Islamic masses recognized that these governments were simply collaborators and puppets of the Christians, Jews and Hindus. Even more important, al Qaeda had to demonstrate that the United States was both militarily impotent and an active enemy of the Islamic world. The attacks would serve to convince the masses that the United States could be defeated. An ongoing war between the United States and the Islamic world would serve to convince the masses that the United States had to be defeated.
Al Qaeda had to stage an operation that would achieve these ends:
1. It had to show that the United States was vulnerable.
The events of Sept. 11 were intended primarily to change the internal dynamics of the Islamic world. The attacks were designed so that their significance could not be minimized in the Islamic world or in the United States - as had been the case with prior al Qaeda strikes against U.S. interests. Al Qaeda also had to strike symbols of American power - symbols so obvious that their significance would be understandable to the simplest Muslim. Thus, operatives struck at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and - in a failed attack - Congress.
As expected, the attacks riveted global attention and forced the United States to strike back, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. The United States could not decline combat: If it did so, al Qaeda's representation of the United States as an essentially weak power would have been emphatically confirmed. That was not an option. At the same time, optimal military targets were unavailable, so the United States was forced into suboptimal attacks.
The invasion of Afghanistan was the first of these. But the United States did not defeat the Taliban; Knowing it could not defeat U.S. troops in conventional combat - the Taliban withdrew, dispersed and reorganized as a guerrilla force in the Afghan countryside. It is now carrying out counterattacks against entrenched U.S. and allied forces.
In Iraq, the Islamist forces appear to have followed a similar strategy within a much tighter time frame. Rather than continuing conventional resistance, the Iraqis essentially dispersed a small core of dedicated fighters - joined by an international cadre of Islamists - and transitioned into guerrilla warfare in a few short weeks after the cessation of major conventional combat operations.
However, al Qaeda did not achieve its primary mission - Sept. 11 did not generate a mass uprising in the Islamic world. Not a single regime fell. To the contrary, the Taliban lost control of Afghanistan, and the regime of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein fell. Nevertheless, given its goals, al Qaeda was the net winner in this initial phase. First, the U.S. obsession about being attacked by al Qaeda constantly validated the militant network's power in the Islamic world and emphasized the vulnerability of the United States. Second, the United States threw itself into the Islamic world, adding credence to al Qaeda's claim that the country is the enemy of Islam. Finally, Washington drew a range of Islamic regimes into collaboration with its own war effort, demonstrating that these regimes - from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan - were in fact collaborating with the Christians rather than representing Islamic interests. Finally, by drawing the United States into the kind of war it is the least competent in waging - guerrilla war - al Qaeda created the framework for a prolonged conflict that would work against the United States in the Islamic world and at home.
Therefore, on first reading it would appear that the war has thus far gone pretty much as al Qaeda hoped it would. That is true, except for the fact that al Qaeda has not achieved the goal toward which all of this was directed. It achieved the things that it saw as the means toward the end, and yet the end is nowhere in sight. This is the most important fact of the war. Al Qaeda wins if the Islamic world transforms itself at least in part by establishing Islamist regimes. That simply hasn't happened, and there is no sign of it happening. Thus far, at least, whatever the stresses might have been in the Islamic world, existing regimes working in concert with the United States have managed to contain the threat quite effectively.
This might be simply a matter of time. However, after two years, the suspicion has to be raised that al Qaeda calculated everything perfectly - except for the response. Given what has been said about the Islamic world's anger at the United States and its contempt for the corruption of many governments, the failure of a revolutionary movement to take hold anywhere raises the question of whether al Qaeda's core analysis of the Islamic world had any truth, or whether other factors are at play.
Now turn the question to the United States for a moment. The United States clearly understood al Qaeda's strategy. The government understood that al Qaeda was hoping for a massive counterattack in multiple countries and deep intrusions into other countries. Washington understood that it was playing into al Qaeda's plans; it nevertheless did so.
The U.S. analysis paralleled al Qaeda's analysis. Washington agreed that the issue was the Islamic perception of U.S. weakness. It understood, as President George W. Bush said in his Sept. 7 speech, that Beirut and Somalia - as well as other events - had persuaded the Islamic world that the country was indeed weak. Therefore, U.S. officials concluded that inaction would simply reinforce this perception and would hasten the unraveling of the region. Therefore, they realized that even if it played directly into al Qaeda's plan, the United States could not refuse to act.
Taking action carried with it a huge risk - that of playing out al Qaeda's scenario. However, U.S. leaders made another bet: If an attack on the Islamic world could force or entice regimes in the area to act against al Qaeda inside their borders, then the threat could be turned around. Instead of al Qaeda trapping the United States, the United States could trap al Qaeda. The central U.S. bet was that Washington could move the regimes in question in a suitable direction - without their disintegration. If it succeeded, the tables could be turned.
The invasion of Iraq was intended to achieve this, and to a great extent it did. The Saudis moved against al Qaeda domestically. Syria changed its behavior. Most importantly, the Iranians shifted their view and actions. None of these regimes fell in the process. None of these actions were as thorough as the United States wanted, either - and certainly none were definitive. Nevertheless, collaboration increased, and no regime fell. But at this point, the battle is in doubt:
1. The United States must craft strategies for keeping both the Afghan and
Iraqi campaigns at manageable levels. In particular, it must contain
guerrilla activities at a level that will not be perceived by the Islamic
world as a significant victory.
Both sides now are caught in a battle. The United States holds the resource card: Despite insufficient planning for manpower requirements over the course of the war, the United States is still in a position to bring substantial power to bear in multiple theaters of operation. For al Qaeda, the card is another massive attack on the United States. In the short run, the network cannot do more than sustain the level of combat currently achieved. This level is insufficient to trigger the political events for which it hopes. Therefore, it has to up the ante.
The next months will give some indication of the direction the war is going. Logic tells us that the United States will contain the war in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, in Afghanistan. Logic also tells us that al Qaeda will attempt another massive attack in the United States to try to break the logjam in the Islamic world. What al Qaeda needs is a series of uprisings from the Pacific to the Atlantic that would topple existing regimes. What the United States needs is to demonstrate that it has the will and ability to contain the forces al Qaeda has unleashed.
At this moment, two years into the war, the primary pressure is on al Qaeda. It has not yet demonstrated its ability to achieve its goals; it has only achieved an ability to mobilize the means of doing so. That is not going to be enough. On the other hand, its ability to pull off massive and unpleasant surprises should not be underestimated.” END QUOTE.
The State Department (not Homeland Security) issued a new warning today about possible new terrorist attacks on U.S. facilities abroad and inside the country. Let’s hope and pray they do not occur.
With sincere 9/11 regards,
Gary D. Halbert
Forecasts & Trends E-Letter is published by ProFutures, Inc. Gary D. Halbert is the president and CEO of ProFutures, Inc. and is the editor of this publication. Information contained herein is taken from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed as to its accuracy. Opinions and recommendations herein generally reflect the judgement of Gary D. Halbert (or another named author) and may change at any time without written notice. Market opinions contained herein are intended as general observations and are not intended as specific investment advice. Readers are urged to check with their investment counselors before making any investment decisions. This electronic newsletter does not constitute an offer of sale of any securities. Gary D. Halbert, ProFutures, Inc., and its affiliated companies, its officers, directors and/or employees may or may not have investments in markets or programs mentioned herein. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future results. Reprinting for family or friends is allowed with proper credit. However, republishing (written or electronically) in its entirety or through the use of extensive quotes is prohibited without prior written consent.