Tuesday, May 29, 2007

With al Qaeda on the Decline, the media provides life support

It depends who you ask.

Pat Dollard thinks al Qaeda is doomed. And he has good reason to believe so.

Not simply because of good news such as an Iraqi tip-off which led to the U.S. freeing 42 Iraqis from al-Qaeda hideout.

And not only because their ideological sisters the Taliban are now paranoid, as Hot Air explains, due to the recent rash of assassinations among their senior leadership (again, thanks to tip-offs and betrayal by former sympathizers).

Not only because the mainstream media have even occasionally come to realize the great success Anbar province has become.

Not only because Most Iraqis, military leaders predict chaos if U.S. pulls out.

al Qaeda is doomed, first and foremost, for the reasons laid out by Michael Yon and The Belmont Club in recent days.


Iraqis have told me many times that the larger part of this war is not about religion. Fanatical groups such as al Qaeda surely have wreaked havoc, but a huge part of the war is about business, influence and resources. The American Commanding General, David Petraeus, has said repeatedly that money is ammunition in this war. The meetings I attend with local leaders around Iraq are never about religion. Religion is seldom if ever brought up. The meetings are about security, electricity, jobs, water projects. The meetings often are about influence, and politics fit for a novel.

Everything I see at these meetings indicates that those Coalition officers who say that money is ammunition in this war, are right. Al Qaeda is proving itself to the Iraqis to be bankrupt morally, and financially. There is a chance to fill the vacuum.

And Belmont Club:

I've always wondered what tactical utility the al-Qaeda obtained from its "slaughterhouses". The Iraqi captives -- and certainly the 14 year old boy -- could not have had any information of military value. And what information they had would have gone stale in the four months. Moreover the operational danger to maintaining these dungeons must have been immense, as the al-Qaeda who maynow be in US custody after the raid must now realize. So what was the purpose of the "slaughterhouses"? The answer I suspect, will largely resemble the answer to the question of why the Nazis made lampshades out of human skin, soap out of gas-chamber victims or performed medical experiments on live inmates when there was very little practical use in it. The utility was in the brutality itself; in the psychological benefit which the Nazis somehow derived.

Al-Qaeda, like all the evil vapors of the world through history, inevitably comes to resemble its predecessors. Soldiers of the dark eventually find themselves wearing the same livery. Flowers bloom in myriad ways, but evil, like pornography, is repetitive. It marches to the same dull beat that all the Lost of the ages have heard call. Poor men, these al-Qaeda, they who would remake the world in their ostensibly new vision only to find it had been templated long ago by some sad and ancient corruption.

Both Yon and The Belmont Club are saying the same thing. al Qaeda's philosophy, its culture, and its modus operandi offer nothing but death and despair. It is clear that American military commanders have come to the same realization on the ground in recent months.

The vast majority of Iraqis desire what al Qaeda can never give them: Peace, security, freedom, and jobs.

We've seen the ravages of an Islamic state under the Taliban in Afghanistan. We are now seeing the rapid decline of an Iranian regime run by mullahs and a mad man, with little disregard for sound economic policies, free speech, or self-expression.

Yet, for the New York Times, the war in Iraq has only produced militants who will be exported to wage terror abroad. But they will fail, as they are failing in Iraq, for what they cannot provide.

Of course, this has always been the stated goal of al Qaeda, Iraq war or not. Bin Laden and Zawahiri have long dreamed of a Caliphate from Spain to India. If it wasn't Iraq, it would be Afghanistan, if not Afghanistan, then Chechnya, and so on.

Now, it is true that we must not get complacent with the recent progress in Iraq. As MSNBC noted:

NEW YORK - There is a saying in the tribal areas that span the Afghanistan-Pakistan border lands, one that is usually expressed with a sly smile: “The Americans have the watches. We have the time.”

The underlying message, of course, is quite clear: Al-Qaida and the Taliban have the patience they need to reconstitute and refocus their operations, using different models than those they used prior to Sept. 11, 2001, and working perhaps on different targets.

Many are now calling characterizing the terror group as al Qaeda 3.0.

For good reason.

As Strategy Page points out, the group has become adept at public relations:

Al Qaeda Telethon Appeals for Donations

May 28, 2007: Borrowing yet another technique from other non-profit organizations, al Qaeda has gone on television and appealed for donations. Pointing out that the organization has thousands of gunmen and suicide bombers on the payroll, and a severe cash shortage in Afghanistan, .the leader of al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, Shiek Mustafa Abu al Yazid, made the plea recently on al Jazeera television.

And as Lorie Byrd adds:

Al Qaeda mastered media manipulation in Iraq
...much of their strategy revolves around manipulation of the media. An enemy unable to beat us on the battlefield is employing a strategy of attacks planned specifically for maximum media coverage and effect.

The war on terror may not be won or lost through the media, but it can certainly influence the length and scale of the battle.

If our media can really wake up to the realities on the ground, and resist their prurient interests, which play into the devils' hands, we may even be able to shave years off this struggle.

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