MIDDLE EAST CIVIL UNREST REDUCES AL-QAEDA RECRUITING
The widespread civil unrest in the Near East is capturing the more radical elements in Muslim societies and causing them to direct their angst inward, against the dictators who rule their countries rather than against the United States, the favorite subject of blame for most of those dictators. For years, dictators across the region have attributed everything from unemployment to moral decay on Western influences, principally those coming from the United States. The civil unrest in these countries is revealing the blame to be misplaced: misery comes to the Near East from the oppressive regimes that deprive the people of liberty.
For decades now, regimes throughout the Near East have contributed to the growth of radical Islam by characterizing the United States as a great Satan, inviting the conclusion that Americans ought to be killed. That concept combined with radical Islamists hunger for Jihad led many to romanticize the notion of suicide bombings.
Young people in the Near East who would otherwise find travel to terrorist training camps and the chance for martyrdom in acts of terror against the West attractive now find themselves called to a new ideological struggle—domestic revolution. Few are willing to leave their homes in the middle of a crisis that may affect the fate of their families. After all, the primary objectives of the radicals appear to be near achievement through these national revolts. The rise of popular demands for reform are reducing the influence of the West and increasing the influence of domestic factions. Jockeying for power by elements in the military, the radical Islamists, and various secular groups creates an environment likely to remain unsettled for years to come.
Al Qaeda’s recruitment must necessarily suffer because its message of exporting terror to the United States carries less urgency than the call of neighbors and local religious and political groups to rise up against domestic dictators. The primary aim of Al Qaeda, short of destroying the West, was to remove Western influence from the Near East. That is happening precisely because popular demands are having a greater impact on domestic reform than any outside influence.
Slowly but surely radicals within these countries are realizing that they possess the power to alter regimes they once thought incapable of being altered without removing Western influence. They appreciate well that their demands are in fact toppling dictators, altering domestic agendas, and rearranging power relationships in ways far more significant than simply causing American military forces or politicians to disappear from the region.
Thus, while we lament the rise in fuel prices and the consequential inflation and unemployment stemming from Near East unrest, we can perceive at least one positive development: that Al Qaeda is losing suasion in the region precisely because of civil insurrection. It is true that rarely in history do regimes replacing those toppled bring about greater freedom for citizens, but that is not our proper concern. Our interest lies not in restructuring those societies or pursuing to the nth degree George Bush’s ill-conceived aim of transforming those dictatorial states into Western style democracies. It lies in defending the American people against harm and protecting Americans who conduct business in the region.
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The change in the Near East political environment creates a unique opportunity for the United States to destroy Al Qaeda. Dramatically increasing the use of special forces and unmanned aerial and ground vehicles in search and destroy missions against Al Qaeda is the best move possible right now because it is likely that what remains of Al Qaeda is limping along, suffering significant losses in revenue and personnel. If there was ever a time when it would be possible to find and eliminate Osama Bin Laden, that time is now. Failure to seize the initiative in the midst of this turmoil would be a serious strategic mistake.
� 2011 Jonathan W. Emord - All Rights Reserved