If you want to understand how serious a quagmire we are now in -- way beyond Iraq and Afghanistan and regardless of the outcome of the election (though clearly if Bush wins, the acceleration towards a "Clash of Civilizations" war is much more likely) -- read Imperial Hubris by Anonymous (first outed as CIA analyst Michael Scheuer by Jason Vest)
As Richard Clarke wrote in the Post (6/04), "For those Americans who had begun to doubt whether the Central Intelligence Agency could produce good analysis, Imperial Hubris clearly demonstrates otherwise. It is a powerful, persuasive analysis of the terrorist threat and the Bush administration's failed efforts to fight it."
As Clarke notes, the problem w/U.S. war-planners is that the "war on Terror" is framed wrong. Terrorism is a tactic. The enemy is "an Islamic insurgency," a multinational movement to replace governments in the Islamic world with fundamentalist theocracies. Jihadist leaders believe they must eliminate the American presence in the region and U.S. support for existing governments there so that they can seize power.
The portrait of bin Laden painted by the author is of a kind of Islamic Che Guevara. I.e., though most Americans can't understand it, to many who live in Islamic countries, his cause is seen as righteous, religious, moral and logical.
We can't beat the Jihadists through sheer superior military force. The way we are going about things now in places like Iraq, we only plant the seeds of support for his cause. Unfortunately, it seems like some Christian fundamentalists and neocons would love to see the kind of "Clash of Civilizations" that many of the jihadists envision.
What did Bush say? "Bring it on."