Two attributes of bin Laden that shine through in Bergen’s account are the extraordinary self-belief and self-confidence that he modeled on Muhammad’s life, rather than simply trying to explain where Bergen came from. It describes it as all the more fascinating result.
From the United States, he genuinely believed that his ragtag followers could drive the Middle East and saw himself as a figure of world-historical significance. In 627, like Muhammad at the Battle of the Trench, he had his 300 followers dig trenches at Bora Tora, and in 624, he saw his version of Muhammad’s victory at the Battle of Badr as a great triumph against a superpower. However, bin Laden still incurred heavy losses, with Al Qaeda’s most dedicated fighters being the ones who did not fight, explaining why it was the Afghans, not bin Laden’s men, who suffered the most casualties. Nevertheless, bin Laden became a war hero in the Arab press, with Peter Bergen explaining that he made bin Laden into a “confrontation of one,” a hero of the contemporary Islamic battles. In 1987, bin Laden got his chance to fight the infidels, just like Muhammad did, when Islamic forces took on the Russians in the Battle of Jaji in Afghanistan.
His leadership style involves excessive control and interference, even to the extent of concealing his whereabouts in Pakistan while he indulges in watching videos from a distance. This also reveals the alarming connection between bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, as well as the unfortunate involvement of Iran. Furthermore, it highlights the fact that Pakistan provided protection to bin Laden in Abbottabad. Additionally, it dismantles the myth that bin Laden possessed weapons of mass destruction. All of these revelations are meticulously reported by Bergen, along with his reporting on Jaji.
The ability of Al Qaeda to operate has been seriously curtailed, with the help of drones. According to Bergen, the information provided through coercive interrogation, which was consistently unreliable, was not key to holding members of Al Qaeda captive by the C.I.A. It is equally believed by Americans that torture was essential in finding Osama bin Laden, as revealed by Bergen.
“It was one of the most remarkable miscalculations in the history of the U.S. Military,” states Bergen. Meanwhile, the Pentagon under Donald Rumsfeld was actively strategizing a conflict against Saddam Hussein, who had no involvement in the 9/11 attacks, while bin Laden was escaping Tora Bora. Highly skilled units that were readily available in the vicinity were never deployed, due to a misguided apprehension of repeating the errors of the Soviets, notes Bergen, as American and British ground forces were at one point outnumbered by journalists. Similarly, Bergen illustrates how the allied forces missed their prime opportunity to apprehend bin Laden at Tora Bora in the months following 9/11.
The United States’ involvement in waging war in Iraq saved America from Al Qaeda’s oblivion. However, their attempts to expel bin Laden from the Middle East failed. The American counterrevolutionaries consistently stretched their emergency powers, but ultimately, they were unsuccessful. Throughout his papers and speeches, bin Laden never articulated a positive vision for the new world he wished to create, unlike most revolutionaries. The narrative in Bergen’s book illustrates some of the iron laws of terrorism and counterterrorism.