Friday, February 11, 2005

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The limit to Al Qaeda's appeal

There may be another positive foreign policy spillover from Iraq's election -- it is forcing Al Qaeda into rhetorical gambits that limit its appeal.

Earlier this week Al Jazeera broadcast a tape by Al Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri responding to the Iraqi elections. As Reuters put it, the tape "blasted the 'U.S. concept of freedom,'”

In TNR Online, Joseph Braude translates and analyzes the text of the message. He concludes:

On the question of whether Sunni Islamists of any shade should participate in Arab elections--be they in Gaza and the West Bank a few weeks back, or perhaps in Egypt down the road--Al Zawahiri seems to be taking a decisive stand. He urges the Ummah to "snatch back" the reins of power, apparently eschewing the possibility of gains for Islamists through a nonviolent electoral process. This is a rejection, for example, of Hamas ideologue Mahmoud Al Zahhar's statement earlier this week to a Gaza newspaper suggesting that his movement might join the Palestinian legislative assembly.

Al Qaeda may kill hundreds of innocents in Spain to influence the outcome of elections there--or deliver a tirade against George Bush on the eve of the American elections, apparently to influence voters here--but the movement seems to have no appetite for achieving its goals through elections in Arab and Muslim countries. In this respect, today's message wasn't just another hyperbolic rant. It drew a philosophical line in the sand. And among Arabs and Muslims, it may prove to be an unpopular one.

Read the whole thing. Middle East Online points out that Al Qaeda ain't thrilled with economic integration either:

The new message made reference to [recent] events, including a December 16 agreement between Egypt and Israel, and historic January 30 elections in Iraq.

"We cannot achieve reform when our leaders are seeking normalisation with Israel and destroying our economies for their own personal gains, like the QIZ (Qualified Industrial Zones) agreement signed by the Egyptian regime with Israel," the voice said.

posted by Dan on 02.11.05 at 02:39 PM


How popular do you think the QIZ's are?

posted by: praktike on 02.11.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Cant we get our Say No To Drugs propagandists working on this? "If you go to a Madrassa even once, you and everyone you know will be killed by Israeli commandos. Is it really worth it?". Either that or get the nitwits to annoy them into suicide.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 02.11.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

AQ seems hemmed in by dictrinal rigidity on many fronts. Their appeal to western (and westernized) muslims is very limited - the ideaology is just too rigid and austere. Sure, many may love tough talk from the mosques and the OK to slap women arround ('put them in their place') but no booze, Xbox or hanky panky? Forget about it, most say.

But there are other, more flexible Islamists out there. The group that prodcued the Madrid bombers are Takfirs (sp?). The let their members have it all. They get the fiery Islamist rhetoric AND booze and sex and all the rest. The get to consider themselves 'undercover agents' for lack of a better term - and they don't have to commit suicide, either, unless they're cornered.

The Takfiris are smart and flexible. Bin Laden & AQ had a headstart and a funding advantage but are mostly gone now.

Apparently AQ is more of a branding & PR organization than anything else these days. Morrocco style Takfirs are the one who scare me now.

posted by: Jos Bleau on 02.11.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

I think it is good to let Westerners see clearly what Al-Qaeda is promoting in the Muslim world, but to the extent that yo seem to be suggesting that there is a new strategy here, I don't see it. Back six years ago when Bin Laden, Zawahiri and friends made their famous declaration against "Crusaders and Jews," they basically said the same thing. They have never pretended to support democracy or economic freedom. They have always harkened back to the restoration of the Islamic caliphate.

Kirk H. Sowell

posted by: Kirk H. Sowell on 02.11.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

It is normally rude to try to change the subject. However, I think it to be most appropriate in this instance. Daniel Drezner needs to return to an earlier posting:

“What would you like to ask Mr. Anonymous?

Because he's giving a talk at the Program on International Security Policy, I'm going to have 45 minutes or so to chat one-on-one with Michael Scheuer -- a.k.a., Mr. "Anonymous", a.k.a., author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terrorism.”

Michael Scheuer’s name has come up again:

“Andrew Sullivan caught some of the neo-con paranoia mongering from this talk by Michael Scheuer at the Council on Foreign Relations last week. You can go to Sullivan's blog for the bit he quoted, and here's another bit he didn't quote:
LEMANN: Let's see. The man in the blue shirt there.
QUESTIONER: [Inaudible] Teitelbaum [inaudible] Agency in Hamburg, Germany. Listening to you it sounds as if there is some kind--some sort of Jewish conspiracy about American policy. Can you just tell me in your mind how the Jews make it?
SCHEUER: Are what?
QUESTIONER: How the Jews do it? How do they do it?
SCHEUER: How do they do it?
SCHEUER: Well, mostly through abuse in the media. If someone says anything negative about Israel. We do it to ourselves in some way. [Inaudible]
Well, you know, the idea of the Jewish conspiracy is in your mouth, not mine. What I did was compliment Israel on its ability to control debate in the United States. I don't quite know how they do it, but clearly the reaction of most of our media, electronic and print, to anyone who says, "Geez, you know, maybe the Israelis shouldn't have the lead on all these things," is generally negative.
Read that last paragraph again for an amazing example of cognitive dissonance: "the idea of the Jewish conspiracy is in your mouth, not mine." and then: "What I did was compliment Israel on its ability to control debate in the United States."

Nicholas Lehmann BTW - the moderator - is Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism. Note that he didn't challenge Schneuer about any of this, like, oh, maybe to provide some actual examples instead of paragraphs of innuendo. (Yeah, that Columbia School of Journalism.) (Yeah, that Columbia University.) Read the article and count the number of Jewish names. Note how no one in the audience called Scheuer on his shit.”

Isn’t it time for Daniel Drezner to call “Scheuer on his shit?”

posted by: David Thomson on 02.11.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Jos Bleau makes the argument that the money trail is the most important avenue to track. The cosmopolitian appeal of terrorism is relatively obscure in the places where it matters most - Pakistan, Saudi Arabia. More and more there are stories of young men that are drawn into the life in order to acheive superstar status so as to jetset around the region like a Khalid Shiekh Mohammed or Ramzi Yousef. But the reality of the stories is much more dire.

Some of the men are being coerced into suicide bombings. We have stories of young women in the GS and WB that were "dishonored", ie raped, by militants in order to sully the girl's reputation and force her to seek redemption through suicide bombing. These stories need to be investigated more thoroughly, particularly by the Arab media that should reflect the reality of these events for the primary targets of the recruitment, Arabs.

I see the trend away from Islamic identity of liberation struggles and more towards nationalist identities. If there continues to mount an Islamic identity to liberation it will be in places where liberation theology is a protected idealism - the West.

Not that I see this trend as a warm sign of potential to lessen liberation tactics throughout the world, but it is a strong blow to the Iranian policy of connecting with Muslims in their struggles against all non-Muslims. What's bad for Iranian mullahcrats is good for the rest of the world.

What makes the nationalist struggle more appealing is that it subtracts the foundation for Al Qaida. Since it's history and reputation is a result of an Islamic call for Jihad against the Soviet Union, and its outgrowth was a direct result of the repatriation of the Afghan Jihad veterans, then when this foundation is destroyed the personal religious connection is lost. Therefore, the ways and means of making the impersonal personal are near impossible.

David Thomson: Strange, isn't it? In the free market where the media must compete you find strong defenders of Israel that expose detractors of Israel as impartial demagogues. But in Academia, where the market couldn't more less free, Israeli detractors are a protected class of tenured citizens.

Frankly, the campus is one of the only places where two plus two can equal five without any correction or retribution.

posted by: Brennan Stout on 02.11.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

“Frankly, the campus is one of the only places where two plus two can equal five without any correction or retribution.”

The recent capitulation by Larry Summers to the forces of political correctness is further evidence of the seriousness of the problem. The president of Harvard has utterly disgraced himself. He probably needs to resign as soon as possible. I long ago realized that anyone possessing a Ph.D. in a soft science specialty should be treated like an idiot unless proven otherwise. I am unfortunately not even slightly exaggerating. The following email sent to Jonah Goldberg is quite interesting:

"PHDS CONT'D [Jonah Goldberg]

From a candidate at an Ivy League school:
Jonah, I am in a similar boat as your previous emailer. I entered academia knowing it was left-leaning, but dreamed of engaging in great debates. I never imagined what it would really be like. Academia is everything the Left claims to despise. Foucault wrote about how society demonizes deviant behavior (sexuality) by treating it in a sinful way. Well, the academy has done the same thing for conservatives. No matter where you go, introductory conversations always begin with a recitation of your liberalism and hatred for conservatives; in effect, making those with alternate views feel uncomfortable with their own ideas from the get-go. It is so pervasive and entrenched that you wither get on board or get left behind. For a conservative, it has been amazing to witness a hegemonic force at work, but I doubt the Left would ever admit that they have become their worst fears. As an American, I think it is a disaster for our country on multiple levels - it to some extent limits the number of conservative intellectuals, affects the minds of our youth, and leads to the coarsening of society because an entire institution has become a singular political entity, instead of an arena for dialogue.

Posted at 07:34 PM”

It stunned me that so many Jewish-Americans supported John Kerry. The anti-Semitism of the campaign was patently obvious to me. Was it a matter of self hatred or merely an unwillingness to rock the boat? Michael Scheuer’s views are perhaps even the norm.

posted by: David Thomson on 02.11.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

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