Published for www.commentarymagazine.com, May 1, 2012
The Pew Research Center released a poll showing support for Osama bin Laden had waned considerably among Muslims around the world. That’s not terribly surprising a year after his death. But what is worth calling attention to is that bin Laden’s popularity decreased substantially during the Bush years and the “war on terrorism.”
Why point this out at all? Because there was a popular theory advanced by foreign policy analysts like Peter Bergen, which (in 2007) sounded like this:
America’s most formidable foe once practically dead is back. This is one of the most historically significant legacies of President Bush. At nearly every turn, he has made the wrong strategic choices in battling al-Qaeda. To understand the terror networks’ resurgence and its continued ability to harm us we need to reexamine all the ways in which the administration has failed to crush it
Bergen also believed the war in Iraq gave new life to al-Qaeda; in fact, the war ended up dealing a devastating blow to al-Qaeda.
Bergen’s premise, as well as his analysis, were deeply flawed. The Bush years were very bad ones for bin Laden and for what Bergen called “America’s most formidable foe.” It’s worth adding, I suppose, that they weren’t good years for Bergen’s credibility as a commentator on world events.