Winning: Victory As A Matter Of Opinion


July 18, 2008:Because al Qaeda doesn't have any real estate to call its own, much less a capital city to capture, determining who wins, or is even winning, the war on terror has always been subject to interpretation.

Those (in the West, and especially the U.S.) who believe the war is being won point to the lack of anymore terrorist attacks in the United States, the killing or capture of most known al Qaeda leaders, and defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq. Here al Qaeda openly declared they were fighting a major war with their infidel enemies, and now just as openly admit they were beaten. Then there are the opinion surveys throughout the Moslem world showing the steady decline of al Qaedas popularity since 2003.

Those (again in the West) who believe the war isn't being won point to the continued existence of al Qaeda, thousands of pro-terrorist web sites, and the existence of pro-al Qaeda groups in Europe and the Moslem world. Al Qaeda and the Taliban still thrive in Pakistan, where government inaction has provided a sanctuary.

In the Moslem nations, particularly those which provide most of the al Qaeda manpower (Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq, plus North African nations like Algeria and Libya) also tend to have two views of who is winning. Those who believe al Qaeda are winning tend to be Islamic radicals who want to get involved, but usually don't (aside from Internet cheerleading, and occasional public demonstrations). Since al Qaeda is on a mission from God, belief in ultimate victory is a matter of faith. Facts have little to do with it. Those who see al Qaeda as defeated, or losing, are those appalled by the number of Moslems killed by al Qaeda attacks, and the intolerance (towards Islamic practices not recognized by Islamic conservatives) expressed by al Qaeda members.

Different perceptions of progress in a war, and how it is being prosecuted, is nothing new. In every American war, including the revolution, there were numerous, and vehement, critics of how things were being done, and the results of those efforts.

In Moslem, and especially Arab, countries, the support for al Qaeda was originally based on the initial al Qaeda efforts to overthrow the corrupt governments that run most of these nations. Al Qaedas turn towards Western targets in the 1990s was the result of the terrorists failure to overthrow those Arab tyrants. Those same tyrants had long supported the belief that economic and other problems in Arab countries were the result of what the West had done (colonialism, persistent interference and support for Israel), and not the local despots. With decades of this anti-West propaganda, and the inability to get rid of their own tyrants, it was easy to blame everything on the West. Still is. Hard to tell who is winning or losing in that department.

The debate over who won, and how, will go on long after al Qaeda has completely faded away. That's also nothing new. Books are still being written about who won, or lost, or should, and in what manner, during World War II.


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