Austin Bay Blog Ho Chi Saddam Trail? Nope./Iraq in the War on Terror
This is a long article and well worth the read. Abu Ibrahim exhibits a lot of bravado, but take two steps back and there’s a case to be made this Al Qaeda fanatic has been suckered and frustrated.
The global war he so desired is being waged on his home turf, not in Manhattan, not in Los Angeles. Change has been brought to his world.
He also sees traitors (read the article for the full context of the following quote):
Abu Ibrahim said he now views the cleric (Al Qaqaa) with suspicion, suggesting that he is helping Syrian authorities track jihadi “rat lines,” as U.S. commanders refer to the smuggling chains. The same suspicion was voiced last autumn by a Yemeni fighter interviewed in Fallujah.
In January 2003 I suggested that Iraq would be a “fatal attraction” for Al Qaeda.
Here’s the main idea:
The massive American build-up around Iraq serves as a baited trap that Al Qaeda cannot ignore. Failure to react to the pending American attack would demonstrate Al Qaeda’s impotence. For the sake of their own reputation (as well as any notion of divine sanction), Al Qaeda’s cadres must show CNN and Al Jazeera they are still capable of dramatic endeavor.
This ain’t theory. Al Qaeda’s leaders and fighters know it, and the rats are coming out of their alleys.
Attacking Iraq “flipped” Al Qaeda’s strategy:
Strategy is always about applying one’s own strength to an opponent’s weakness. Al Qaeda’s historical pattern is to wait patiently, for years if necessary, and carefully prepare a terror operation until it’s certain of success. Prior to 9-11, with little pressure on its hidden network (succored by the Taliban, Wahhabi petro-dollars and, yes, Iraq), Al Qaeda could take its time to spring a vicious surprise attack – surprise and visionary viciousness being its strengths and the gist of its “asymmetric” challenge to America’s “symmetric” power. “Fear us, America,” was the message, “because Al Qaeda chooses the time and place of battle, and when we do you are defenseless.”
9-11’s strategic ambush sought to force America to fight on Al Qaeda’s terms, to suck the United States into a no-win Afghan war, to bait the United States into launching a “crusade against Islam.” Osama bin Laden believed he possessed an edge in ideological appeal, “faith based” strength against what he perceived as U.S. decadence. U.S. failure in Afghanistan would ignite a global “clash of civilizations” pitting all Muslims against America.
Bin Laden’s strategy flopped, for a slew of reasons. Chief among them, American liberty remains an ideologically powerful idea. The United States also pulled an “asymmetric” military move of sorts, using Green Beret-guided Afghan allies and hi-tech airpower to topple the Taliban.
Since the loss of its Afghan base, Al Qaeda has experienced extraordinary pressure. Time to plan is squeezed. The United States has used diplomacy, police work, better intel and military presence to exert the pressure.
Al Qaeda has attempted to adapt, with talk of a sleeper cell strategy while aggressively attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
The Bush Administration “suggested” this case but shied away from making it the center of its public diplomacy. In retrospect that was a political mistake. “The rats” are attracted to Iraq, and the US and coalition are building an Iraqi Army that will fight them. The US strategy has brought the War on Terror home to the Middle East– the politically dysfunctional Middle East where Assads, Zarqawi, Saddam, and radical Wahhabs mix. Abu Ibrahim is waging jihad of sorts, but not on his terms.
Here’s the material form the November 29, 2001 column on Al Qaeda’s goals. It’s Abu Ibrahim:
In soundbite format, the strategic collision between Bin Laden-type extremists and America may well be one of “imperial restorationist” versus “liberating reform.”
Bin Laden has complained of the terrible “80 years” of Muslim indignation and suffering since the end of the Islamic caliphate. Turkey’s reforming general and political genius, Kemal Ataturk, must rate a special place in any Hell designed by Bin Laden. Ataturk, as part of a program to replace Ottoman political structures and modernize Turkey, ended the caliphate in 1924.
In the angry babble of his psyche, Bin Laden just knows that should not have happened. History, going wrong for Islamic expansionists at least since the 16th century, really failed when the caliphate went poof.
In Bin Laden’s future, the caliphate is restored. The decadent modern world fades as American power dies, though techy bits of modernity are OK, such as videophones and nuclear weapons. Global rule of Bin Laden-interpreted Islamic law follows.
Don’t snicker. Violent “imperial restorationists” have an ugly track record. Benito Mussolini and his Italian Fascists dreamed of restoring the Roman Empire. The obvious choice for caesar was Benito. Who but Bin Laden serves as caliph? Add that title to Osama’s “end state.” It underlines the autocratic and despotic motives that lie behind the schemes of various religious absolutists, ethnic zealots, ultra-nationalists and eco-crazies around the world who reject the moderation and compromise that participation in the global system requires. Remember, violent eco-crazies battle for the “restoration of nature” – a green empire.
Fantastic column on the Austin Bay Blog