TCS Daily

A Truce, But Why?

By Lee Harris - January 23, 2006 12:00 AM

History is what no one ever expects to happen, and last week it happened again. A tape was released, purportedly from Osama bin Laden, in which he offered a truce "under fair conditions" with the United States, in order to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan.

For the sake of argument, I am going to assume that the tape from Bin Laden is authentic, and that he is sincere in offering a truce. I am aware that these are both bold assumptions, but neither of them affects the question that I want to address, which is, even if it is a ploy, why would bin Laden permit himself to be cast in the light of a suppliant offering a truce? The mere offer of a truce, after all, is an admission of weakness, if not defeat. So, if the tape is authentic, we have to ask the question, Why would bin Laden risk appearing either weak or, worse, defeated, in the eyes of his many followers and admirers in the Muslim world?

It is true that he also threatened more attacks on America, and that he even offered an explanation for why there have been none since 9/11, namely, that he has chosen not to attack us. Of course, this bluster could be simply a way of saving face, of looking tough at a moment of weakness; but, again, we have to ask, Why would Osama bin Laden decide to show such a moment of weakness in the first place?

To see what I mean, imagine the public response if George Bush had made a similar appeal for a truce with al-Qaeda. How would this go over with the American public, and the rest of the world? Wouldn't such an offer, however sincerely intended, be treated as a sign of exhaustion or even appeasement -- evidence that the United States had grown weary of its struggle against terrorism, and was desperately looking for a way out? Certainly, that is exactly how our enemies would look upon it.

The above argument may, of course, be offered as evidence for rejecting the authenticity of the tape itself, but I want to go out on a limb (quite far out on a limb) and to suggest another possibility, speculative though it may be: Bin Laden is scared, but he is not afraid of our drones hovering perilously close above his head. I want to suggest that bin Laden may be scared of what is currently unfolding in the Muslim world -- not afraid of the march of democracy in the Middle East, but afraid that the Muslim world may be on the brink of tearing itself apart, of plunging back into the feud-blood between Sunnis and Shi'ites that has been the theme-with-variations of all Islamic history; and worse, a blood-feud that might be won not by the Sunni Arabs, who have won virtually all such feuds in the past, but by the Shi'ite Persians, whose history has hitherto been that of the perennial loser.

Since 9/11, the events of the world have not followed Osama bin Laden's original game plan. 9/11 was designed to unite the Arab world behind bin Laden, to anoint him as its supreme leader and spokesman. It was intended to be a glorious rebirth of the Arab Golden Age. Instead, four years after 9/11, seldom a day goes by in which Muslims are not blowing up, torturing, or beheading their fellow Muslims. In Palestine, Hamas and Fatah are at each other's throats; in Iraq, it is the Sunnis and the Shi'ites, and the Shi'ites seem to have the upper hand. Surely, that was not part of bin Laden's grandiose fantasy.

And then there is Shi'ite Iran.

Iran's new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is looming larger and larger on the world's stage, and he has behind him an enormous nation of over sixty million people, a large chuck of the world's oil supply, and an army of 350,000 men. Furthermore, Ahmadinejad appears intent on treading the same path as Pakistan, India, and North Korea in disguising his ambition to make his nation a nuclear power behind a very thin veil -- an astonishingly thin veil -- of developing "atoms for peace."

Bin Laden had not been heard from in a year. Ahmadinejad seems to be making news every week. When bin Laden speaks, it is on tapes smuggled to al-Jazeera; when Ahmadinejad speaks, it is in front of the cameras of the world. As bin Laden becomes more and more eclipsed, the focus of the world's attention has turned, with increasingly dismay and alarm, to the histrionics of Ahmadinejad. What will he say next? What will he do next? He has threatened to cut off Iran's supply of oil to the world, and it seems almost as if he has us over a barrel -- actually, over several millions barrels. And would a man who is willing to use oil as blackmail refrain from using nuclear weapons for the same purpose? What can the beleaguered bin Laden do to top that?

Hitler, in his final days in the bunker, was convinced that the West would realize the danger posed by the Soviet Union and would act to keep Stalin from taking over half of Europe by offering an alliance with Germany to fight against the Bolshevik threat. It was a fantasy, of course -- but, as we all know, Hitler's fantasy did not make the Soviets less menacing. Is it possible that bin Laden, holed up in a far more primitive bunker, may be entertaining a similar fantasy, offering us a truce, or even (gasp!) an alliance, in order to rebuild a Sunni-dominated Iraq and Afghanistan against the threat posed by the militant Shi'ite state of Iran -- an Iran led by its charismatic demagogue Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with his pronounced gift for grabbing the world's attention -- a kind of Persian Hitler whose career still lies before him, unlike bin Laden, whose glory days are all but done?

Did bin Laden ever imagine that when the Twin Towers went down that their collapse would begin a historical process that would end by making Iraq virtually a Shi'ite state? No -- no more than we did when we removed the Ba'athist regime of Saddam Hussein in the genuine hope that out of the rubble would emerge a modern secular state.

The Bush administration, rightly fearful of an Iraqi drift toward Iran, is currently trying to bring the Sunni Arabs of Iraq back into the government from which we ousted them. Bin Laden, if the tape is authentic, is strangely reaching out to call for a truce, if not a partnership, with the nation that his organization brutally and wantonly attacked over four years ago. Is he acting by the maxim, The enemy of my enemy is my friend? And if so, how should we respond to him, in a world that may soon to be menaced by an enemy, Iran, whose power to do us ill may far transcend whatever resources are still left to Osama bin Laden? And an enemy whose friends, ominously enough, are Russia and China?

Of course, we can no more cut a deal with al-Qaeda to fight with us against militant Shi'a than the Allies in World War Two could cut a deal with Hitler to fight against the Soviets. But whose fault is that? Osama bin Laden set off a chain reaction of events that have led to the destruction of his dream. If he is now in a bunker of delusion, it was his own actions that have put him there.

Lee Harris is author of Civilization and Its Enemies.



I thought the Bin Laden didn't offer a truce, but stated that he would accept one if the US were to offer it.

Generally speaking, the army that has seized the initiative has no need to offer a truce. We are looking at what the military calls culmination. Culmination is that point where an army can no longer sustain it's operations either because if lacks the military power, equipment, or will to continue operations. Once an army reaches the point of culmination, the opposing commander is then in a positon to dictate terms for a truce to be followed by an Armistice. An army that is approaching culmination will often offer a truce to buy itself time to reconstitute, rearm, and resupply. Historically, it has proven less costly to continue operations against the enemy forcing him to culmination rather than to accept a truce. I suspect that Osama Bin Laden is rapidly approaching his culmination point. If he were winning the war, he would have no need to offer a truce. Major Bill

Osama is a good muslim who follows the model of his prophet.
This model is set out in the koran and the sunnah (the life and sayings of mohammed)where the truce or hudna is used when the believers are in precarious position militarily. The truce allows them to rest, regroup and rearm. The truce is for a maximum of ten years or a minimum of time deemed necessary. Osama is a good muslim and always follows the islamic book of rules.

Osama's truce has historic precedent.
Osama is a good muslim who follows the model of his prophet.

This model is set out in the koran and the sunnah (the life and sayings of mohammed)where the truce or hudna is used when the believers are in precarious position militarily. The truce allows them to rest, regroup and rearm. The truce is for a maximum of ten years or a minimum of time deemed necessary.

Osama always follows the Islamic book of rules.

Uh oh.
Sorry for the duplicate posts.

There need be no rules if it further's Allah's cause
Basically, murder, lying, cheating and stealing is OK as long as it benefits Allah. It's a shame the odds are so slim that we'll ever see Osama again in his majestic mountain redoubt. I hear that he's had a face job and is wearing a blue leotard...posing with George Galloway on British reality TV.

A Head-Scratcher...
Normally I am a huge fan of Mr. Harris' writings, but this time I am ambivalent.

First things first.

My understanding (and please forgive me if I have been misinformed) is that this 'new' tape from UBL has actually been determined to be over a year old. If there is some evidence which has come to light which has demonstrated this tape to be significantly newer than that, then I will stand corrected.

However, if the tape is as old as has been alleged, then the entire notion that UBL's 'truce' could not possibly have anything to do with Iran's 'president', and probably very little to do with the Shia surge in Iraq.

Second, speaking of Iran's 'president', again, as I understand it, the position of president in Iran is primarily that of a figurehead, a toothless entity, while the real power lies with the fundamentalist mullahs, the last remaining tatters of the revolutionaries of '79. Iran's 'president' has no more real power to do any of the blustery things he has claimed than I do.

Third, Iran has several things going for it that Iraq never had under saddam: a relatively healthy economy, a genuine middle class, a young educated generation already chomping at the bit to come into its own, and a much more recent history of pro-western leanings. It would not be difficult at all to imagine the young men and women in Iran being availed of the stories from their grandparents of the 'good old days' of the Shah, before the ayatollah khomeini.

Setting all that aside for the moment, I believe that the 'truce' offer from UBL is nothing more than a continuation of (regardless of when the tape was actually made) the only really-demonstrated skill left to the terrorists - that of western media manipulation. The terrorists (UBL included)seem not to have noticed the forthcoming demise of the traditional western 'power bloc' of the fourth estate here in the U.S., and therefore still have a somewhat neive belief that popular opinion can still be swayed by the 'MSM'.

In other words, it probably is just as other posters have noticed - that UBL is merely attempting a last-ditch effort to put at least a temporary halt to the relentless onslaught against his organization and abilities.

The fact that this 'new' tape has garnered hardly a shrug nationally, even from the MSM-fed intellectual elites, just goes to show how far both UBL and the MSM have fallen.

In fact, there is still wide speculation as to whether UBL is even still alive.

But at least we do know for sure that the MSM is on its deathbed.

...I can only hope the next car bomb goes off somewhere close to you and your family. Then we'll see how much you admire Osama.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's pretty clear you didn't read the book with your glasses on. Or perhaps your Koran was sitting on top of it. Oh ...or perhaps you have been excluded from the 25% or less literacy rate for most women in most Islamic countries in which case I apologize and encourage you to learn how to read something besides the Koran -- in whose faith you place far too much energy.

What I've read is that the tape was made in December, which while last year, is not a year ago.

Wesley's Post
The article was written while I was in fact scratching my own head, trying to figure out why bin Laden would release such a tape--if he did release it.

Sometimes, when I write a piece, I am trying to grapple with an issue that I don't fully, or even partially, understand myself. I am literally throwing out ideas--and the ideas in this case were obviously highly speculative.

What disturbs me is that too often conventional wisdom gells far too quickly, as I think it did with the bin Laden tape.

We desperately need to look at every possible angle, and in this piece I was trying to offer one that has been overlooked.

Perhaps the best way to approach the article is to imagine that you are sitting in a seminar discussing the bin Laden tape and someone turns to me and asks, "So, Lee, off the top of your head, what do you think?"

That's why I appreciate so much that other people, like yourself, are willing to participate in the same seminar with me. I guess in some ways I am an anti-pundit. I don't write to preach, but to learn.

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