Ben Stein's Diary

Osama Is Still Winning

The worst is yet to come.

By 2.3.14

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Sunday
I am weighed down by some thoughts I have been having lately. I think that since you are my family out there is Spectator-land, I will share them with you. (Although usually family are the last people who want to hear your thoughts. My sister is an exception, of course.)

First, a few days ago, I had a brief talk with a thoughtful high school student in my beloved Greenville. The topic was whether or not Osama bin Laden had realized his objectives in the attack of 9/11.

The woman had all kinds of brilliant insights, and herewith I add my gloom and doom addenda:

For OBL and the evil men and women he represents, the attacks were probably the most “successful” acts of wickedness by a small number in history (except for the acts of the founding members of the Nazis, the Bolsheviks, the Khmer Rouge, and the Chinese Communists). For the loss of 19 horrible scum people and an expenditure like what I spend on mortgages in a year, OBL and his henchmen killed 3,000 plus fine men, women, and children, tore apart the social fabric of the nation, caused us to spend trillions we would not otherwise have spent. He also caused us to lose roughly 3,000 grand men and women in our armed forces, innumerable good people in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sowed the seeds of a mighty oak forest of self-doubt and division in the free world.

This act of murderous terrorism did more than what OBL could have ever dreamed possible. It led us into an entirely unnecessary and fruitless war in Iraq. It led to Iraq being a hothouse of international terror, far worse than it was as a cruel despotism under Saddam.

It was as if the hijackers and their leaders by some act of sick, evil magic, put a spell on the earth and we still have not recovered from that spell. In fact, the spell is worse than ever.

Al Qaeda, which had been a small group in Sudan and Afghanistan, now commits acts of terror from Nigeria to Indonesia. It holds power positions in Syria, Libya, east and west Africa, and Asia. And it’s just getting started.

OBL could never have imagined that his acts of viciousness, hatched in caves in Afghanistan, would lead us to squander lives and treasure, greatly affect the fiscal health of America, and make us wonder if the future belongs to them or to us.

The one giant miscalculation that OBL made was that the attacks would greatly affect the stock market. That is a hardy species and only was out for a few days. It was the height of naïveté for OBL to think that bombing lower Manhattan would devastate a worldwide capital market, which is far more a state of mind than a place.

But look at where we are in responding to al Qaeda and tremble:

Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japan on December 7, 1941. Three and two-thirds years later, Japan was in ruins. The mighty Japanese fleet was mostly sunk. The people were starving. The U.S. had flattened most of the cities and towns of Japan. There was hardly anything left to bomb and Japan surrendered unconditionally in September of 1945.

 Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Fewer than six years later, Germany was starving, bombed flat, its women terrified (with good reason) of the Red Army, its men dead, wounded, or captured. The Führer had killed himself and Germany as a great military power was finished for the foreseeable future. (They’ll come back, though. I am sure of that.) The Germans surrendered and were rendered in twain by the end of May 1945. The Nazis were in hiding or dead or captured.

9/11 was almost thirteen years ago. The enemy is not even close to being beaten. OBL is dead and so are many of his friends and fiends. But al Qaeda is bigger and badder than ever.

This isn’t from lack of trying. It is because in al Qaeda we are not facing a nation or an alliance. We are fighting a mental disease of hatred that has taken root and is spreading worldwide. Its rallying cry? “Look what we did to the U.S. on 9/11. We will do it again and worse.”

And who can doubt it? We now know OBL was trying to buy a nuclear bomb to use against the U.S. Once Iran has the bomb — and they’ll get the bomb — who knows where it will be used? A new level of fear will grip us — and it should.

So, did OBL achieve his objectives on 9/11? Far beyond his wildest dreams. He had a sick, twisted — but true — insight that the West would have a very hard time against a mental disease such as he represented. He was not a nation, not a party: he was a sickness and he correctly guessed that the West did not have an antibody.

This is a depressing assessment, but it’s true.

Now, onto something else: My pal, Peggy Noonan, the lovely, charming, gracious, and talented woman who writes a fine column for the WSJ, correctly suggests that since Obama became President, Americans are angry and scared and miss the old America where we felt free and secure. She’s right, of course, but it’s not all Obama’s fault. Obama is doing the best he can, but he is up against the limits of his socialist ideology and his inherent paranoia.

I am not at all sure that Mr. Romney would have done any better at all. He would not have given us the albatross of Obamacare, but the security state would still be in place. We would still feel as if we were being watched all of the time. We feel that way because we are, and that’s because of 9/11.

But Peggy, much as I love her, made a hilarious mistake in this week’s column. She said that Obama had an approval rate of 81 % in DC. This she attributes to the high number of lobbyists in DC who love big government. Uh, how about, “No?”, Peggy. Those people live in McLean. Obama has that high approval rating in D.C. because D.C. is so very largely black and the black voter approval rating of Obama is off the charts. Peggy, that’s basic.

On a similar subject....My pal, Steve Moore, now chief economist at Heritage, has a fine piece about how well Grand Rapids, Michigan is doing compared with Detroit, Michigan. He doesn’t ever say exactly why. Gosh, Steve, do you think there might be a culture/socio-economic factor at work here? Or do you think it’s all about taxes and unions? Umm, let’s think about who lives in Detroit and who lives in Grand Rapids. There might be a clue there. Gangsters versus Rotarians? Which city will do better?

Now, I have to watch the Super Bowl.

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.