Thursday, September 11, 2008

Juan Cole On Al Qaeda

Image credit: Screenshot of this YouTube taken by Cujo359

Juan Cole, one of the more astute observers of the Middle East, had this to say today about Al Qaeda:

The original al-Qaeda is defeated.

It is a dangerous thing for an analyst to say, because obviously radical Muslim extremists may at some point set off some more bombs and then everyone will point fingers and say how wrong I was.

So let me be very clear that I do not mean that radical Muslim extremism has ceased to exist or that there will never be another bombing at their hands.

I mean the original al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda as a historical, concrete movement centered on Usama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, with the mujahideen who fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s at their core. Al-Qaeda, the 55th Brigade of the Army of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan under the Taliban. That al-Qaeda. The 5,000 fighters and operatives or whatever number they amounted to.

That original al-Qaeda has been defeated.

On the Seventh Anniversary of September 11: Time to Declare the original al-Qaeda Defeated

Of this, at least, I think there is little doubt. Al Qaeda have not mounted a major terrorist act in the world outside their own countries in several years. The bombings in Britain seem to be related to Al Qaeda only loosely. As others have observed, Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri are still on the loose, but as Cole points out, they are both diminished in influence and effectiveness.

Prof. Cole goes on to make an interesting point about Afghanistan:

The Bush administration over-reacted to September 11, misunderstanding it as the action of a traditional state rather than of a small asymmetrical terrorist group. Its occupation of Iraq lengthened al-Qaeda's shelf life. But poor strategy by the Sunni radicals themselvesf brought the full wrath of Iran, the Iraqi Shiites, Jordanian intelligence, and the United States military down on their heads.

"Al-Qaeda in Iraq" is not a reason for the US to extend its occupation of that country, but is rather an epiphenomenon created by the occupation and the political mistakes it made.

On the Seventh Anniversary of September 11: Time to Declare the original al-Qaeda Defeated

I've learned that I disagree with Juan Cole at the risk of being wrong, but I think the original invasion did serve a purpose. At least, it could have if its message, which is that if a government supports terrorism it will lose, had not been diminished by our actions in Iraq and in regard to Pakistan. Whether the initial invasion was an overreaction is at best a nebulous point - the invasion changed a great deal, including the fact that Al Qaeda no longer had its training ground and a strong alliance with a nation's government. What it has in Pakistan is a safe haven, but it is far from the reach of the country's real government, and that government, despite its support of terrorism in India's Kashmir province, doesn't want any more to do with Al Qaeda than Saddam Hussein did.

Our invasion of Iraq, and the growing hatred in our own country for people different from ourselves are both fallout from this war on terrorism. Iraq never should have been invaded - that much is clear to all but the most deluded. The hatred of Muslims and others who don't share the majority view of things in this country is something we need to get over before it destroys us. The fear that countenances the destruction of our freedoms has to end, too.

So it's time to declare the "War On Terror" over, not that it was ever legitimately a war. The enemy, such as they were, are gone. It's time to move on.

In short, it's time for September to end. We have lots to do right here.


One Fly said...

Cujo-you have just been tagged. I'd like to read that.

Dana Hunter said...