"Bin Laden, according to Gartenstein-Ross, had a strategy that we never bothered to understand, and thus that we never bothered to defend against. What he really wanted to do — and, more to the point, what he thought he could do — was bankrupt the United States of America. After all, he’d done the bankrupt-a-superpower thing before [USSR]. And though it didn’t quite work out this time, it worked a lot better than most of us, in this exultant moment, are willing to admit."
The U.S. is indeed in great debt and a dangerous fiscal position. Perhaps that can be laid more at the greed of Wall Street and the lax oversight by the feds. But certainly Bin Laden, by raising our paranoia level to a boiling point, contributed mightily to our current financial problems. Why did we go insanely crazy after 9/11? It was an incredible terrorist attack to be sure. But it was a tiny group led by a multi-millionaire that pulled it off. Yet we treated it not as a crime but as some monolithic gigantic army of millions just waiting to go after many more targets of the United States.
We know now that Al Quaeda had little support in actuality around the world. Yet we now spend more on our military than all the other nations of the world combined. We now submit to groping and unconstitutional searches of our persons just so we can fly. We have our own torture center at Guantanamo. Our own president said that "enhanced interrogation" or, more accurately, torture, was necessary from the great threat of terrorism.
Bin Laden scared the crap out of us. He made us spend incredible resources on our paranoia. So to that degree, he succeeded. Maybe now that he's gone we can get our spine back?
"By conservative estimates, bin Laden cost the US at least $3 trillion over the past 15 years, counting the disruptions he wrought on the domestic economy, the wars and heightened security triggered by the terrorist attacks he engineered, and the direct efforts to hunt him down."