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.