Sunday, December 19, 2004

Credit Where Credit Is Due 

First, the bad news (courtesy of Zemblan patriot J.M.):
Osama bin Laden claims to have bled the Soviet Union into bankruptcy as an Islamic guerrilla fighter in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Could he do the same to another hated superpower — the US?

The Al Qaeda leader’s latest purported communication highlighted that question by calling on militants to stop the flow of oil to the West — crucial to keeping the economy moving — and praising a December 6 attack on the US Consulate in Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil producer . . . .

[H]e has flaunted the economic theme before, recalling in his most recent video how Afghan mujahideen “bled Russia for 10 years, until it went bankrupt” and taunting the US government over the size of its budget deficit — which peaked at $413bn last year.
Now, the good news:
Security and terrorism experts suggest bin Laden’s claims to be undermining the US economically are largely propaganda, noting the flexible, market-driven US economy is a far cry from the creaky, bureaucratic Soviet giant that disintegrated in 1991 . . . .

Retired general. William Odom, a scholar at the Hudson Institute and an expert on the Soviet collapse, said bin Laden’s analogy is off base since the Soviet Union collapsed for reasons other than Afghanistan, including the weakness of its state-run economy.

As far as spending on Iraq, Odom said damage to the US economy is not attributable to bin Laden, but to the Bush Administration for embarking on the costly war, he said.

“If we’re stupid enough to go off and do something like that, bin Laden can justly crow about it,” Odom said. “But I don’t think he can take credit for having caused it.”

Unless the US plays into his hands, however, Odom said no al-Qaida strategy can topple US dominance. “In an operational sense, US-made policies, not bin Laden’s actions, have risked putting the US in a very serious situation,” he said . . . .

Reinforcing that point from an economist’s perspective, Princeton University economist Alan Krueger said, “The US economy is too large and diverse to be sunk by terrorism.

“The US government budget is overflowing with red ink because of the Bush tax cuts and the ageing of the baby boom generation, not because of Osama bin Laden,” Krueger said in an e-mail.

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