The Strategic Effects of 9/11, Part 2: Provoking the Tyrant of the Sea & Air


  • The main strategic question of the ’80s was how to mobilize Muslim youth to fight the Soviet incursion into the Islamic world while local conflicts were distracting the youths’ attention.
  • After the fall of the USSR the question became, why provoke the sole remaining superpower?  Is the US comparable to the USSR?  After all, the latter was attacked in Afghanistan at the nadir of its power.
  • Even more sensitive questions have been raised, like what was the Sharia basis for defying the Taliban emirate and suddenly attacking the US?  Was it worth ignoring the interests of the Taliban for the sake of a frivolous war?  Did Palestinians benefit from 9/11 when Sharon exploited it as a pretext to use excessive force in the Palestinian territories?  Did it help Iraqis?
  • The most troubling question has been: was the strike an attempt to escape the jihad’s setbacks that came in Egypt, Algeria, Chechnya, Bosnia, and Somalia at the end of the ’90s?  By provoking the enemy, was the intent to reunify the mujahids and mobilize the Muslim masses, as was done against the Soviets?
  • Most of these questions don’t matter anymore in light of revelations that the US wanted to invade Afghanistan and Iraq before 9/11 and that it wanted to do away with the Oslo Accords.
  • What can be said is that 9/11 forced the U.S. to use the worst means to carry out its pre-9/11 plans.
  • The purpose of this section is to examine the strategic motives for the 9/11 attack.
  • The USSR was the superior land power and the US was the superior naval power.  Similarly, in early Islamic times, Persia was the dominant land power and Byzantium was the dominant naval power.  Muslims defeated the Persians and the Byzantines because the two empires were exhausted from fighting each other.  Muslims ruled both the land and the sea for centuries until the Mongols invaded, controlling the land, and the crusaders invaded, controlling the seas.  Consequently, the caliphate in Baghdad was lost.  In modern times, naval and land powers also combined to defeat the Ottomans, destroying its caliphate.  When the mujahids helped defeated the USSR’s land power, the US moved in to fill the strategic gap and Muslims were not strong enough to stop them.
  • The US sought to control Eurasia to prevent a Russian resurgence and to maintain their global dominance (cites Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard and a statement by Halford Mackinder on the importance of controlling Eurasia).
  • During the breakup of the USSR, Muslims were used as a new tool to thwart post-communist Russia so that it couldn’t return to regional ascendancy.  It fell to the mujahids to confront the global power imbalance.  They had not liberated Afghanistan to see one hegemon be replaced by another.
  • This does not mean that al-Qaeda wants to fight all enemies at the same time.  They wish to neutralize some enemies before others.
  • The essence of the US’s problem is that it arrived at its global dominance prematurely, before it was capable of handling it, as the geographer Jamal Hamdan has argued.  Its body developed before its brain was capable of handling its new capabilities.
  • In the two years before 9/11, the US realized that it was becoming too economically dependent on the rest of the world.  But because it cut its military budget in the ’90s it did not have enough forces to protect its imperial economic interests.  Moreover, it had lost its ideological appeal in the eyes of other nations. (For these points, Abu al-Fadl cites Emmanuel Todd’s After the Empire.)
  • It is at this propitious moment that the planes struck in New York and Washington, revealing the face of American fascism when the US’s terrible retaliation began.
  • What happened on 9/11 was not an attempt to hurt the US economy, even if the strike caused enormous damage.  It was a symbolic, ideological strike that has accelerated the decline of America.

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