Osama Bin Laden declares war on Pakistan

By Megan McArdle

Osama Bin Laden is starting to remind me of my college boyfriend, whose brooding anger at the white male bourgeois power structure quickly disintegrated into anger at the non-Scott power structure. Since this was, as you can imagine, quite large, it often led to do things that weren't, strictly speaking, a very good idea. I didn't need behavioral economics to tell me that people don't always act in their rational self-interest.

Now Osama has declared war on the government of Pervez Musharraf in the run up to the elections. This would make sense if Pakistan had any sort of reputation for being the sort of stable and open representative democracy whose government could be ousted by grand emotional proclamations. But it seems rather mad in the current circumstances.

Pakistan has been, at best, a fickle ally of the United States, though it's hard to know how much to blame Musharraf for this; he isn't actually in control of the bits of his government that seem to be helping Al-Qaeda in the tribal areas. But why would Osama do this? Previously, he had a fairly stable arrangement; Musharraf couldn't root him out of the tribal areas for various military and political reasons, and Osama couldn't bring on the Caliphate just yet. But last time I looked, the Caliphate didn't seem terribly imminent. Meanwhile, he has just given Pervez Musharraf and any waverers in his government a much stronger incentive to find Osama and his merry band of cave-dwelling madmen.

This is the kind of overreach that has caused every government that has ever offered him shelter to ultimately kick him out, except for Afghanistan, which didn't have much of a government. Even so, he went and found another government to kick him out. And where will he go this time? He's running out of lawless quasi-states to hide in.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2007/09/osama-bin-laden-declares-war-on-pakistan/1959/