We will never know if bin Laden had it all figured out in advance, but he launched a project that is, after his death, running on its own and moving steadily toward the result he wanted.
Once upon a time there lived a strange individual, a very rich but nonetheless very angry man: he despised what he had, though he had much, and gave it all up to change the world. His dream, or nightmare – depending on one’s perspective, was to destroy the world’s last superpower (not so unreasonable, considering its similarities to the superpower that actually was destroyed, at least in some measure due to himself). But how could one man, even with a gang of his own, bring down the giant? Of his own accord, he could not. The only way would be to use the giant’s own weight, the inflexibility of its momentum on its chosen course.
So he nudged, rather minimally by the historical standards of, say, the Mongols at the gates of Baghdad or Hitler on the Polish border. Indeed, less: he tweaked. The superpower reacted with pathetic predictability. Then he mocked, running into a cave, then across the Himalayas, publishing his word all the time by CD or on the Internet. Again predictably, the superpower became enraged, red-eyed and blind with righteous fury.
It went from trying to swat the fly with a sledgehammer to trying to colonize a secular country that sneered at and ignored the rich fundamentalist. It struck out in every direction, smashing anyone who remotely looked like our poor-dressing rich man, alienating millions and burning its way through trillions of dollars – a success for the rich man that he could never have achieved against a rational opponent.
One by one, the superpower’s endless string of military victories began adding up to diplomatic, financial, and moral self-destruction: Somalia, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran (whoops, not quite, not yet)…and now Syria? The rich man is gone…dead too soon to know the margin of his victory.