82. Preponderance of the small (III)
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
Nobody has noticed, but Osama bin Laden won; he should be recorded by history as one of the most fox-like generals to have taken to the field of battle. For now, this is unlikely, since we are entering the post-bin Laden epoch: a new era began, early in 2020, when Covid-19 broke free from the rancid streets of Wuhan. The previous epoch, running between September 11th 2001 and January 2020, was the epoch of the War on Terror; the West’s confrontation with militant Islam. The new generation, post-Covid, will have little curiosity about this time; it is already turning into a moment of historical interest. Yet an entire generation was formed in this context: Islamist terror attacks on the West, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, finally, the European migrant crisis. Even the financial crisis of 2008 was connected, indirectly, with this development. The post-9/11 world saw many strange financial decisions taken to support threatened industries, decisions that later undermined the American economy.
Bin Laden used extremely simple tactics, turning the technology of the West, jet airliners, against us. He fully expected that America would involve herself in Afghanistan and, just as he predicted, she wasted blood and a great deal of treasure trying to subdue the country. America has been defeated in Afghanistan, though nobody notices; they noticed Vietnam, but, without conscription, Afghanistan was a much more private war. It was also a war that large sections of the left supported without complaint, simply because this time the enemies, unlike in Vietnam, believed in God.
America’s other interventions—in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Libya—have been even more disastrous. Every conflict in the region provided a testing ground and recruiting opportunity for Islamist groups which, if not technically tied to bin Laden, represented his spirit. They have grown fat on these disasters. And, worst of all, these interventions eventually sent millions of Muslims into Europe, where, due to the perversities of the dominant ideology, they were welcomed. The terror attacks associated with this mass movement of people were nothing: bin Laden’s true military victory was to inject a mass of non-Western people into Europe, whence civilisational change is bound to follow.
Bin Laden understood the doctrine of wu wei, of subtle overcoming; bin Laden had Sufis in his family, and they are the guardians of this esoteric knowledge in Islam—perhaps he was trained accordingly, perhaps he just knew. The adherent of wu wei knows that the womb is a more lethal weapon than a kitchen knife. He knows in Afghanistan to hold the Americans to a stalemate, stretch their treasury, and use the cause to garner new recruits. So, according to wu wei, the strong overcome the weak by yielding; and all this from a small elite of suicide pilots.
After the Soviets were defeated in Afghanistan, bin Laden said that the time was come to turn on the other great atheist nation—albeit less militantly so than the USSR—the United States; he said the US would fall in Afghanistan, as the Soviets did, and he has been vindicated. Bin Laden’s victory is part of wider trend, heralded by the collapse of the Soviet Union, towards an unrolling of the Enlightenment: everywhere the Enlightened countries—places that are always “experiments”—are falling back. France was the most extreme and the first to see her Enlightenment regime shrivel, though it may have killed the French as a people in the process; then the Soviets fell; and now it is the turn of the last Enlightenment regime, the least extreme and therefore longest-lived, America, to fall.
The Enlightenment is only about 250 years old, but men like bin Laden think in terms of millennia; just as the Hindoo thinks in those great Yuga Cycles of 4.32 million years or so. It is no surprise that, like water dipping on a stone, they should overcome the most solid rock. My only desire is that we should rediscover this secret, and turn it to our advantage.