No, not our plan - I mean Osama's plan. Obviously it hinges on provoking the United States into increasingly irrational and violent actions, and has the ultimate goal of turning the Middle East, and ultimately the entire world, into one giant Islamic superstate.
But what's in between? Is it simply to use our desperate and clumsy flailing to attract new recruits and destabilize and radicalize the region, or does he expect to topple the United States to remove our military and economic power from the playing field? The Bush administration has certainly been playing into Osama's hands beautifully in terms of destabilization and radicalization, but is the second part realistic?
The reason I ask is, I think Osama is in for a disappointment if he believes the U.S. will implode like the Soviet Union did. I'm not saying that it's not impossible for our form of government to change, as the Soviet Union's did - but I don't believe it will happen in a way that is beneficial to al Qaeda. Yes, changes in government caused the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Iraq to collapse and break apart, but they started out totalitarian and moved towards, well, the general direction of democracy. These were countries were the absolute authority of the state was the only force holding them together.
Now consider the U.S. The 2006 midterm elections were a huge positive, but if the Bush Republicans are not permanently removed from power (whether through polls or criminal proceedings), there is always a chance that they could pick up where they left off, and gradually transform the country into a fascist dictatorship - or perhaps not so gradually, if they get another excuse to claim "emergency powers." The problem with this, from an al Qaeda perspective, is that the U.S. wouldn't actually collapse. There might be a slight possibility of revolt, but I think it would be more like Germany in the 30s, where a combination of complacency, xenophobic hysteria, and sheer disbelief allowed the Nazis to incrementally acquire absolute power.
But instead of the unifying boogeyman being Jewish, he would be Muslim. A totalitarian America would be a powerful, unhinged, and implacable enemy of Islam, unbound by any checks and balances or concern for international law. One possible scenario: All pretense of trying to turn Iraq into a democracy is abandoned, and the draft is reinstated to acquire enough troops to impose martial law there. I don't think even the neocons would be insane enough to declare war on the entire region at once, so they use bogus provocations to pick the Middle Eastern countries off one by one (possibly even using nukes), until/unless the rest of the world finally bands together to stop us, at great cost to themselves.
I scares me that I'm pretty sure I just described every neocon's most cherished secret wet dream, at least up until that last part. But to get back to my original question: Is that Osama's plan? To have the U.S. lay waste to huge swaths of the Middle East and elsewhere before getting taken down, and then swoop in to pick up the pieces and take advantage of the global power vacuum? Or does he think the U.S. will just collapse under its own weight like his last nemesis did? Or does he just not care what happens to the U.S., as long as it keeps pushing the Muslim world into his arms?