As an aside, I heard the President saying that we brought Osama bin Laden to justice. I don't think so. I think we killed him. Bringing him to justice would require bringing him before the bar of justice. We did not do that. Well killed him and then buried him at sea. Should we have tried to capture him, thus putting our SEALs at greater risk? I don't think so. We saw him as an enemy combatant and dealt with him as such. But, that is not the same as a trial for General Tojo.
But, back to the issue at hand, over at the Weekly Standard we have an article titled "'The War on Terror Is Over". At the National Journal it is a question, Can Obama Safely Embrace Islamists?. As National Journal Columnist Michael Hirsh puts it,
It is no longer the case, in other words, that every Islamist is seen as a potential accessory to terrorists. "The war on terror is over," one senior State Department official who works on Mideast issues told me. "Now that we have killed most of al Qaida, now that people have come to see legitimate means of expression, people who once might have gone into al Qaida see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism."I think this is a good assessment. I do think "savagely successful" is a bit over the top, but basically a correct statement. The Arab Spring was not the move to a paradise on earth, as some characterized it a year ago, but it is a major step forward.
The new approach is made possible by the double impact of the Arab Spring, which supplies a new means of empowerment to young Arabs other than violent jihad, and Obama's savagely successful military drone campaign against the worst of the violent jihadists, al Qaida.
On Friday last, giving the first Terry Deibel Lecture♠ at the National War College, Retired Professor Bard O'Neill reprised his 2001 lecture to the War College Class of 2002, on the nature of terrorism, as understood by al Qaeda. The lecture was given the day after 9/11, and electrified the class. It wasn't what we know about al Qaeda but what Bard thought al Qaeda thought about itself. Here is a print version, in interview format.
One point Professor O'Neil made early on was "hidden hands with blue eyes". The al Qaeda vision of Islam is not something that only grows on the Arabian Peninsula. We might find it anywhere. And, suicide bombing is not restricted to the realm of Arab males.
From the al Qaeda point of view the West is trying to destroy Islam. One of the ways it is doing this is by calls for separation of Mosque and State. This thinking about the unification of faith and state is much like the thinking of Pritans in the early Massachusetts Bay Colony. Early on it even included a form of democracy, albeit with a limited franchise, as in Massachusetts. A change today is that al Qaeda sees democracy as an abomination to be expunged. The danger is man-made laws that contradict Shari, that are an abomination.
To al Qaeda, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was a "near enemy", as was President Hosney Mubarak. And soils the Muslim Brotherhood. A "near enemy". And, they don't like those apostates, the Iranians. Nor the House of Saud.
The leaders of al Qaeda see their goal as an Islamic Caliphate♥ stretching across the Globe.
Those same al Qaeda leaders see themselves in what is, in the end, a battle of ideas. To paraphrase:
You don't have any message for the downtrodden, especially the educated downtrodden.That is to say, there is suffering in the Third World. If you cast your lot with the West you will end up with nothing. This approach has a certain appeal to intellectuals, who see the .
The late Osama bin Laden examined Socialism and found it a failure. He looked at Capitalism and rejected it. While the West was trying to put Viet-Nam behind it, he was looking at the writings of Mao and understanding Mao's Three Stages.♦ And, he leaves behind an organization, notwithstanding our efforts to eliminate it.
But, more important to us, this Wahhabist view view of Islam and its fight for a world-wide Caliphate will continue to inspire people to take action against the near and far enemies—and we in the West are part of the far enemies. With Osama bin Laden gone money and organizational talent is reduced, but not eliminated. It may be twenty or a hundred or two-hundred years before we see something like 9/11, but this approach will be back, as it has been, time and time again. The timing and the intensity will depend upon the amount of acceptance of this Salafist approach by the billion Muslims across the globe.
For us the question is, when can we return to normal? For example, if TSA spreads its screening to our passenger trains, that will be a strong sign that either it is bureaucracy run amok or that our Federal Government believes there are still major threats out there. Another example is how we treat screening at airports. If we go for an approach that relies more on randomness and tells from personal behavior, then we know we are winning. If TSA doubles down, then it is a bad sign. Two things to keep in mind. First, it isn't what the Federal Government tells us, it is how it actions. And, second, as Dr Bard O'Neill says, there are always "hidden hands with blue eyes".
Regards — Cliff
♠ The late Dr Terry Deibel had been a Professor at the National War College since 1978.
♥ The Caliphate is described here.
♦ Mao Zedong's "classic" three stages includes, (1) the guerrillas earn population's support by distributing propaganda and attacking the organs of government, (2) escalating attacks against the government's military forces and vital institutions, and (3) conventional (mobile) warfare to seize cities, overthrow the government, and assume control of the country. Circumstances may require going back a stage, before again moving to a higher stage.