The Future of Al Qaeda

Monday, February 28, 2011

Via a good friend of mine, I saw this NYT article: As Regimes Fall in Arab World, Al Qaeda Sees History Fly By.

The article forms a decent point-counterpoint about what the growing unrest and movement towards democracy means to Al Qaeda. Though the article itself doesn't answer the question, it does a better job than most point-counterpoint articles in that at least this one cites real experts with real opinions based on real research rather than the usual fare (research versus some idiot they found on a blog...ahem...).

For nearly two decades, the leaders of Al Qaeda have denounced the Arab world’s dictators as heretics and puppets of the West and called for their downfall. Now, people in country after country have risen to topple their leaders — and Al Qaeda has played absolutely no role.

In fact, the motley opposition movements that have appeared so suddenly and proved so powerful have shunned the two central tenets of the Qaeda credo: murderous violence and religious fanaticism. The demonstrators have used force defensively, treated Islam as an afterthought and embraced democracy, which is anathema to Osama bin Laden and his followers.


“So far — and I emphasize so far — the score card looks pretty terrible for Al Qaeda,” said Paul R. Pillar, who studied terrorism and the Middle East for nearly three decades at the C.I.A. and is now at Georgetown University. “Democracy is bad news for terrorists. The more peaceful channels people have to express grievances and pursue their goals, the less likely they are to turn to violence.”

This is in contrast to:
There is evidence that the uprisings have enthralled some jihadists. One Algerian man associated with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the network’s North African affiliate, welcomed the uprisings in a weekend interview and said militants were returning from exile to join the battle in Libya, arming themselves from government weapons caches.


Michael Scheuer, author of a new biography of Mr. bin Laden and head of the C.I.A.’s bin Laden unit in the late 1990s, thinks such enthusiasm [disappointed demonstrators turning to Al Qaeda as the only viable option] is more than wishful thinking.

Mr. Scheuer says he believes that Americans, including many experts, have wildly misjudged the uprisings by focusing on the secular, English-speaking, Westernized protesters who are a natural draw for television. Thousands of Islamists have been released from prisons in Egypt alone, and the ouster of Al Qaeda’s enemy, Mr. Mubarak, will help revitalize every stripe of Islamism, including that of Al Qaeda and its allies, he said.

As I read the article, it seem to me that democracy is quite simply good for democracy. Though it may yield some short-term mayhem - we may face some newly-elected governments that are none too fond of us for historic reasons - in the long term, I believe M.E. democracies will ultimately be best for U.S. foreign policy and security in that region.

I think a lot depends, too, on work an educational opportunities present in the region; highly-educated youth with no means to find work have turned, in the past, to groups like Al Qaeda to not only vent frustration but also because that group would possibly help overthrow the (sometimes U.S. installed) government that was currently doing nothing for them. Maybe not so much with a democracy, being much more, um, accountable? To their citizens...


Anyway, the whole article is short, to the point, and worth the read as the debate over the best course of action for Obama takes place.


Friday Funny

Friday, February 25, 2011

Enough said.

[h/t Streak]



Wednesday, February 23, 2011








I got sick of looking at my post from last week, and the rest of you are apparently too apathetic or lazy to post anything, so this is an open thread.


Fizzy Math

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

OK, whatever. The math in this video is probably a bit fizzy fuzzy, but I don't care. Drink more craft beer, and make your favorite establishments carry it.
The resources offered on that video are worth checking out, if for no other reason than they are wonderful ways to expand your beer horizons:

Selling Craft Beer
Craft Beer
Beer Advocate
Rate Beer


Leave It To The Experts

Monday, February 14, 2011

I ran across this op-ed in the Washington Post: In post-Mubarak Egypt, the rebirth of the Arab world, by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley.

All jokes about trusting the name "Hussein" aside, I found this to be quite a cogent take on "what this all means" by a couple of guys who, by a quick check of the CVs online, know just what they're talking about.

If I could sum it up in a couple lines, it'd be: the U.S. rhetoric is right; people really do want self-government. The People of the middle east see that their governments are puppets of the West and they, as citizens, are forgotten. If we play our cards right (we = U.S.), we have a new ally in an old ally. But the most important part of the world's long-term prospects in the Middle East is to support the democratic movement, even if it means we don't always love who's in power at the moment. We have to let go of our narrow interest.

As for me, I agree with some of that, but not all of it. I think the U.S. can and should lead (as soon as possible) a deal that includes not only Egyptian self-government, but reaches into Israel and Palestine as well.

I then ran across this NYT piece (via Balloon Juice), that tied the whole region together - Egypt, Israel, and Palestine - and makes the point in the end that total regional peace and democracy is actually achievable, if Obama takes advantage of the negotiations between Palestine and Israel, for whom the Egyptian upheaval is the most noteworthy beyond the Egyptians themselves. Israel sees this as a possible threat. Palestine sees it as a huge opportunity, and war could result if this isn't handles as carefully as apparently Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas had in 2008.

My worry is that the Obama Administration, despite Hillary Clinton's best efforts, might not have the chops to pull this off. I don't agree with the conservative talking-head rhetoric that the Administration was neutered in all of this; that oversimplifies it, is quite simply the politics of "THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT HE SAID IS RIGHT!, and clearly, Obama is committed to allowing people to forge their own initiatives towards Democracy (that's what his Cairo speech was about). The commitment exists. It's whether or not this issue overwhelms this Administration that worries me. A lost opportunity here, as was apparently lost in 2008 (according to the NYT article linked above), leads to more disaster in the Mideast.

All this to say that I have no damn clue what I am talking about when it comes to Middle East affairs, but what these guys are saying sits well with my untrained, barely-educated ear.


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

A Bookface "friend" posted Wayne Allyn Root's wildly hysterical and generally insane ramble entitled Rules for Radicals: Obama's New Plan to Destroy America. Being in a silly mood, I followed the link.

I returned to Facebook, and stated simply that his link was "possibly the most vapid, under-researched, unfathomably misinformed and purposefully misdirectional piece of drooling slander I have ever wasted my time with, period. This article pretends to debate policy when all it really does it evoke Beck-esque conspiracy theorizing, which is especially hilarious when, on his own website, Root says "I am not a fan of conspiracy theories. I actually think that wild conspiracy theories detract and discredit any serious attempt to ask legitimate questions about the background of our President.""

I notice that I have been unfriended. This was probably for the best.

One of my favorite gems:

Why would Obama launch this all-out assault on capitalism, you ask? The answer is simple. He's an ideologue who hates America and believes the capitalistic system is destructive and exploitive (as do most of my Columbia classmates). Like Mao and Lenin, Obama sees himself as the "people's savior."
That's pretty standard fare for, um, some ideologues who aren't fans of the President. But it's nothing new; hates America, blah blah, Stalin, blah blah, commie. Yawn.

The piece really hits its stride here:
Obama's new plan is brilliant. Act like you've learned a lesson. Compromise. Move to the center. Talk like a moderate conservative. Support tax cuts. Become a friend to business. Act supportive of repealing parts of your own Obamacare plan. Make nice to the Chamber of Commerce. Appoint business leaders to your management team. Talk about tort reform. Talk about the dangers of debt. Become "the jobs" President. Allow Bill O'Reilly to interview you and claim your new goal is to get spending under control. Spend your entire State of the Union praising America. You are now a patriot bleeding red, white and blue.
This, in and of itself, is brilliant in its deviousness. And by brilliant, I mean massively, blazingly dim. And by deviousness, I mean purposeful misdirection.

Let's break it down:

Root just took everything that the President has done in the past month and a half, and listed it out as if it's a by-the-book "this is how you create plans to destroy countries" step by step process. Step 1, capitulate. Step 2, change your speech. Step 3, etc etc etc. No, Wayne. All you did was list 6 weeks worth of activity. It's how he writes that passage that makes it so bad. That everything the President has done is premeditated all the way back to Mao, as if Mao wrote somewhere that if you do these things, in this order, BAM! Despot 1; Nation 0.

That, folks, is fucking funny.

Ah, but we get some more fun:
Why would he commit this act of fraud and deception? One over-riding goal: Get re-elected in 2012.
Wait, you mean getting re-elected is Obama's over-riding goal?? Noooooooo!!!! Wait. WAIT!! That was Bush's goal too?? And Clinton's??? AND VAN BUREN'S????

But why? WHY would Obama want to get re-elected?
Why is getting re-elected so important? Because then Obama has nothing standing in his way of completing the job he set out to do -- DESTROY AMERICA.
Wait. What's...standing in his Does he need 4 years? Because if you ask Red State or O'Reilly, he's kinda already done it. So...what gives?
Two more years of patience and the keys to the kingdom...and the economy...and the Fed...and the United States Military...and the nuclear arsenal...all belong to Obama.
Wait. Wait. Doesn't...doesn't he have the keys to all that stuff right now? And who might he nuke? Us?

Idiot feed for the idiots. Typical shock-jock radio nonsense geared towards the people who would actually believe it.


Superbowl Commericals Part II

Monday, February 07, 2011

I liked the Smitty family's favorite ad from the superbowl a lot. Any references to my Star Wars childhood are immediately cool.

My favorite was the Chrysler ad featuring Eminem and the Chrysler 200 sedan. This is the ad people are talking about in my office this AM.

The 200? Meh.

A commercial saying cool things and showing the Detroit sites and attractions that no one hears about to a national audience? Completely awesome.



By far, the Smitty Household's favorite Superbowl ad was the Darth Vader ad:

Smitty Jr tries in vain every single day to move something or blow something up in our house using the force. The Wonder Twins, following suit, try it too. We officially have 2 Jedi-in-training in our house, and 1 Sith. Given the wry grins and classic "Eddie Haskell" attitude of one of the kids, though, I am fairly certain that one of the Jedi will very easily slip to the Dark Side given a little time. Up to those who know my kids to decide who is in training for what.


Two Moms and a Baby

Thursday, February 03, 2011

I don't know when this speech was given, nor do I much care. It what he says to an Iowa legislative committee that counts:

The massively shitty thing is that despite this and probably many other speeches, the assholes still voted to add open discrimination to their constitution.



Potential Drunks

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