Saturday, November 22, 2008

Al-Qaida Turns 20 - Nears End of Life

Terrorism occurs periodically in waves throughout history that can last up to 40 years. Some come as tsunamis of intense violence, but after several years or a few decades, peter out. Al Qaida is approaching 20 years - happy birthday. The Base is aging out without adequate appeal to a younger generation enamored with blowing themselves and others to smithereens.

Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World is the fourth installment from the National Intelligence Council led project identifying potential and probable key drivers and developments that may shape world events a decade or more into the future. This is only a part of that report examining the future current terror groups and their potential for further affronts to civil order.

Why al-Qa’ida’s “Terrorist Wave” Might Be Breaking Up

As al-Qa’ida celebrates its 20th birthday, most experts assert that the struggle against it will continue indefinitely, the so called “long war.” Other experts who have studied past “waves” of terrorism believe that al-Qa’ida is an “aging” group by terrorist standards and suffers from strategic weaknesses that could cause it to decay into marginality, perhaps shortening the lifespan of the Islamic terrorist wave.

A wave of terror is a cycle of activity—which can last up to 40 years—characterized by expansion and contraction phases: rise, floodtide of violence, and ebb. The wave of terror concept was developed by UCLA Professor David C. Rapoport and provides a basis for the comparative analysis of terrorist movements. In each wave, similar terrorist activities occur in many countries, driven by a common vision—such as anarchism, Marxism, nationalism, or Islamic extremism. Terrorist groups who form the crest of each wave usually dissolve before the entire wave does, and their decay contributes to the breaking of the wave. Al-Qa’ida’s weaknesses—unachievable strategic objectives, inability to attract broad-based support, and self destructive actions—might cause it to decay sooner than many people think.

Research indicates that terrorists’ strategic objectives fail on two fronts. Objectives that pose a threat to the existing political order court tough counterterrorism measures, while objectives that are seen as neither achievable nor relevant to solving problems have little appeal to elites or the general populace. The two primary strategic aims of al-Qa’ida—the establishment of a global Islamic caliphate and the removal of US and Western influence so that “apostate” regimes can be toppled—are clearly threats to many existing Muslim governments and are resulting in stronger counterterrorism measures.

*There is little indication that the vast majority of Muslims believe that such objectives are realistic or that, if they could come to pass, would solve the practical problems of unemployment, poverty, poor educational systems, and dysfunctional governance.
Despite sympathy for some of its ideas and the rise of affiliated groups in places like the Mahgreb, al-Qa’ida has not achieved broad support in the Islamic World. Its harsh pan-Islamist ideology and policies appeal only to a tiny minority of Muslims.

* According to one study of public attitudes toward extremist violence, there is little support for al-Qa’ida in any of the countries surveyed—Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. The report also found that majorities in all Arab countries oppose jihadi violence, by any group, on their own soil.

* Al-Qa’ida is alienating former Muslim supporters by killing Muslims in its attacks. Recent scholarly research indicates that terrorist groups that kill civilians seldom accomplish their strategic goals. Although determining precisely the number of Muslims worldwide who have died in al-Qa’ida attacks is difficult, examination of available evidence suggests that at least 40 percent of the victims have been Muslims.
The roughly 40-year cycle of terrorist waves suggests that the dreams that inspire terrorist group members’ fathers to join particular groups are not attractive to succeeding generations. The prospect that al-Qa’ida will be among the small number of groups able to transcend the generational timeline is not high, given its harsh ideology, unachievable strategic objectives, and inability to become a mass movement.

In relying almost exclusively on terrorism as a means to achieve its strategic objectives, rather than transforming into a political movement like Hizbollah or Hamas, al-Qa’ida is using a stratagem that rarely is successful. Recent academic research indicates that only 6 percent of terrorist groups active in the last 40 years have achieved their proclaimed strategic objectives. Al-Qa’ida’s lack of success in executing attacks against the “far enemy” could portend a period of operational futility leading to increased frustration, decreased organizational √©lan, and inability to attract new members.

Because history suggests that the global Islamic terrorist movement will outlast al-Qa’ida as a group, strategic counterterrorism efforts will need to focus on how and why a successor terrorist group might evolve during the remaining years of the “Islamic terrorist wave.”
Though not mentioned in this report, it's important to recognize that no purely terroristic movement has ever succeeded in all of recorded history. Every terror movement has, like old soldiers, just faded away. There is no doubt the current al Qaida franchised terrorism will also fade away. Senator John Kerry, former Democrat presidential candidate, was the wrong messenger and stated the case with annoying nuance, yet was quite right when he said that terrorism is a manageable nuisance. Terrorism will probably always be part of normal life as the world's people become more intertwined, but it can be managed at an acceptable level of violence, like gang warfare is in Los Angeles.

The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.


The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Interesting Global Trends report.

Senator John Kerry, former Democrat presidential candidate, was the wrong messenger and stated the case with annoying nuance, yet was quite right when he said that terrorism is a manageable nuisance. Terrorism will probably always be part of normal life as the world's people become more intertwined, but it can be managed at an acceptable level of violence, like gang warfare is in Los Angeles. problem with "manageable nuisance", is that we live in an age of possible wmd terror threat.

Anonymous said...

It is difficult for me to refer to the murder of my fellow citizens as a "manageable nuisance." Don

Indigo Red said...

Unlike the meaning of "IS" whach apparently can be negotiated, other words do have real meaning. Often, through the trialization of everyday overuse, lose their power to inform.

Manageable nuisance doesn't simply mean talking to the neighbor about his nightly barking dog, or his Christmas decorations still hanging fro thye eaves in July.

Both 'manageable' and 'nuisance' are more serious than that. And together can describe realistic posture toward what is ultimatly normal, and deadly, behavior.

from Manage -
1. To direct or control the use of; handle: manage a complex machine tool.
2. a. To exert control over.
b. To make submissive to one's authority, discipline, or persuasion.

3. To direct the affairs or interests of: manage a company; an agency that manages performers.

4. To succeed in accomplishing or achieving, especially with difficulty; contrive or arrange.

verb intransitive.
1. To direct or conduct business affairs.
2. To continue to get along; carry on:

1. One that is inconvenient, annoying, or vexatious; a bother:
2. Law A use of property or course of conduct that interferes with the legal rights of others by causing damage, annoyance, or inconvenience.

And if you are unsure as to the actual meanings of the words used in the definitions above, please look them up in a good dictionary, virtual of dead tree.

Piracy is a nuisance crime, always has been. Pirates have never played any significant roll in history, international relations, finance, yet holds an outsized place in our imaginations. Piracy has beenand always will be a dangerous and damaging sideshow that periodically comes and goes because it is manageable. The fact that piracy is a managed behavior that now and again appears shows vy clearly that it is a nuisance, one the causes great irritation and vexation but rarely any great damage.

Yes, many people died in the bombing of the Twin Towers, thousands in fact. And not all of those victims to terrorism were Americans, though we accept them as Americans to honor them as believers in Liberty.

But, that singular four pronged attack at the heart of the world's economy was largely a lucky shot heart 'round the world. As the years ahve past, we have all returned to life as normal, we fly on airliners with additional security hassles, we need passports for destinations not required before, shampoo is now a WMD, but all in all, life is still as it has always been - fairly mundane.

When there is a terror attack somewhere, we barely take note. Since 9/11 to this moment as I write, there have been 12,279 terror attacks around the world. Go ahead, name 9,000 of them. How 'bout 2500? 98? 37? Beyond 9/11and 7/7, Bali and Madrid, few others can even be remembered.

Truly, Don, how many of your fellow citizens have been murdered by terrorists that justifies carryibg on the fight beyond reason versus those killed by gang violence in Chicago and Los Angeles and any other American city? Gang killing here outscores terrorism every year, but we accept gang related killing with not so much as a ho-hum anymore. We do in fact accept the larger death toll on our doorstep as a manageable nuisance. Last week, a gangbanger was murdered not 50 yards from my office, yet my lifegoes on without undue fear. Terrorism and piracy are facts o life that swirl at the far edges of normalcy and decency.

That terrorism causes death and destruction leaving shattered families, broken dreams, and unremmitting fear in its wake is inargueable. What can be argued is the cost in treasure and blood will throw at the diseases of terror and piracy which have never cost more than the cure.

Manangeable nuisance may seem trivial when describing terrorism. But, hoisting terrorism and piracy to the stature of a viable political, economic, and military alternative in the hearts and minds of millions has not accomplished what was intended. "I'm stunned by the range of it, less so than I am the size," said Admiral Mullen. The pirates are "very good at what they do. They're very well armed. Tactically, they are very good." This may be true, but these praises should never be uttered in public to give bragging rights to the very people one is trying to destroy. It's time to relegate the terrorist and the pirate to the back-burner of irrelevancy once again. They are a nuisance. They and their crimes can be managed. It's about time we do just that.

dcat said...

Al-Qaida Turns 20 - Nears End of Life

Sounds good to me!

It's not going away with me! Muzzies will always be muzzies and always watch your back!

I will always be ready! It's the lights that stay up untill AUG. that get me!!!

Anonymous said...

I have a confession to make. I don't waqnt AQ to suffer a natural death...................... I really want them all killed by U.S. Army Rangers!!!! Don

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

What I don't like about "manageable nuisance", is it sounds like a return to the "law enforcement" approach toward dealing with terrorism.

Certainly, the "war approach" has created its own set of problems, too.

But I do believe that the war in Iraq helped to delegitimize al Qaeda in the eyes of many Muslims; and that removing Saddam was the right thing to do, almost aside from the terrorism-cooperation issue.

The dangers of terrorism in the 21st century is in the potential for them getting their hands on wmd.

Indigo Red said...

It is a bit of a return to the law enforcement angle, Word. It's a part of the equation that should never have been taken out. I don't think we have the luxury anymore to separate out any tool available. There is no reason law enforcement and military resources cannot be used to fight terrorism at its various levels. To treat the disease with one or the other methods risks immunity to both.

Indigo Red said...

That would be my choice too, Don. But I'll take any kind of death to AQ we can get.

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

It is a bit of a return to the law enforcement angle, Word. It's a part of the equation that should never have been taken out.

I don't think it's ever been taken out of the equation. We've been fighting the Islamic terror network on many levels, not just militarily.

Indigo Red said...

You're absolutely right, Word. Perhaps what was meant was that law enforcement had been minimized too much. Many of the cases we've seen the last several months have bee the result of gumshoe police work that pre-empted the bad guy's plans. Maybe what looked like taking out the law enforcement agle was really a case of law enforcers being unfamiliar with the new duties and having to coe up to speed along with the laws needed to do the job.

I firmly believe we are on the right track now.