Winning: Al Qaeda Builds Its Brand


March 8, 2007: Al Qaeda has become a good example of "upward failure." The more defeats the terrorist organization suffers, the more it recasts those events into seeming victories. For example, the inability to launch another attack on the United States is simply ignored. Having shifted its efforts to Europe, and failing to carry out even one attack a year since September 11, 2001, that failure is pitched as giving the Europeans time to reflect and surrender. The continuing violence in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a PR disaster for al Qaeda within the Islamic world. All those dead Moslems has caused al Qaedas popularity to plummet in Moslem countries. At the same time, the police state governments that run most Moslem nations have become more vigorous in going after Islamic radicals, thus making it more difficult for al Qaeda to operate in the nations it previously did most of its recruiting from. While Europe has become a very hostile environment for al Qaeda, it's strong civil liberties atmosphere has made it possible for pro-terrorist young men among Europes twenty million Moslems to be indoctrinated and recruited for terror missions elsewhere.

Then there's the myth that al Qaeda is acquiring more tentacles. What's been happening is that Islamist groups in areas where they've been on the losing end (Algeria, the Philippines, Indonesia, etc.), are proclaiming themselves affiliates of al Qaeda, as an alternative to disappearing entirely. This has become a familiar death rattle for Islamic radical groups being ground down by local police. Al Qaeda leaders (whoever they are these days) have little if any influence over these new "affiliates". In the long run, that's probably good, since sooner or later one of them will do something really outrageous. But in the short run, it may raise Osama Bin Ladens, and al Qaedas, prestige a bit.

But you can't win a war with clever press releases and brand management. Al Qaeda started out as an organization that would replace the training and technical advice the Soviet Union used to provide anti-West terror organization. It has now been reduced to a few experts-on-the-run that provide just enough training to make the terrorists dangerous to themselves. Note the eager ineptitude of the "al Qaeda trained" suicide bombers in Afghanistan. Al Qaedas only growth of late has been as a brand. As a terrorist organization, it has become a long list of ways to fail.


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