Somebody cranked up the spin machine to 11 on this one. Thesis: The Bush adminstration’s strategy is beating al Qaeda. And that’s baaad.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President George W. Bush’s administration has crippled al Qaeda’s ability to carry out major attacks on U.S. soil but at a political and economic cost that could leave the country more vulnerable in years to come, experts say.

Even as al Qaeda tries to rebuild operations in Pakistan, experts including current and former intelligence officials believe the group would have a hard time staging another September 11 because of U.S. success at killing or capturing senior members whose skills and experience have not been replaced.

“If the question is why al Qaeda hasn’t carried out another 9/11 attack, the answer I think is that if they could have, they would have,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Tighter U.S. airport security, greater scrutiny of people entering the United States and better coordination between the CIA, FBI and Department of Homeland Security also have made it harder for extremists to enter the country, experts said.

Home-grown extremists in the United States are believed to be isolated and lacking the will or ability to carry out large-scale operations.

All of that sounds good, right? Well, not so fast. The article quotes several counterterrorism experts, mostly about the present state of play or what’s working against al Qaeda’s efforts to hit us here. None of them actually say that any of the administration’s success against AQ is baaaad.

But…then comes a man…to pour cold water on everything. And this man is Michael Scheuer.

“Look at al Qaeda’s plans,” said Michael Scheuer, who once led the CIA team devoted to finding al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. “They’re very simply defined in two phrases: spread out America’s forces and bleed the United States to bankruptcy. I’d argue America has been under attack successfully every day since 9/11 from that perspective.

“If you’re looking at it from the cave, or wherever al Qaeda is hiding at the moment, you have to be pretty happy with the way the world is moving,” he said.

Remember him, author of Imperial Hubris? That book made essentially the same argument, which is that we can’t win for losing. Whatever we do won’t work. Whatever we try will fail. &c. In Scheuer’s world, everything works to bin Laden’s benefit, including Israel’s self-defensive actions against Hezbollah. And to think, Scheuer was once the CIA’s go-to guy on the bin Laden hunt. Maybe he was Valerie Plame’s mystery walkabout guy.

Read the whole article. It’s an al-Reuters classic, in which a single authority is set up to speak for all the rest by giving his quote the pivotal point in the article. His is the voice that makes the headline, even if the others quoted don’t agree. We don’t know whether they agree or not, because they’re not given the space to make the call. Only Scheuer gets that honor. But hey, why should we doubt the judgment of Michael Scheuer? It’s not like he thinks al Qaeda has a legitimate beef with us or anything.