The Stratfor Terrorism Intelligence Report has an excellent report on the results of derailing the terrorist attack on airplanes in the UK.
Al Qaeda believes that it can win a war of attrition against the United States, and the group’s leadership has said so repeatedly in public messages. They do not think that the United States has the stomach or the attention span to go toe-to-toe in the late rounds of the fight. As bin Laden noted in a 1996 fatwa: “However, when tens of your solders were killed in minor battles and one American pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu, you left the area — carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you.”
To wage this war of attrition, al Qaeda’s chief requirements are to survive — or answer the bell at the beginning of each round — issue threats and conduct an occasional strike to prove they are still relevant. The large number of media releases from al Qaeda leaders this year show that they have indeed survived. The statements also may be an attempt to overwhelm and exhaust the enemy. Obviously, the United States and its allies cannot conceivably protect everything, and attempts to do so take great tolls on human resources and finances.
Viewed through this lens, the responses to the disrupted airlines plot may, in fact, be a form of success for al Qaeda, despite the failure of the actual plot.
Unfortunately; there are many American’s, mostly Democrats, that agree that we cannot win. They think we should acquiesce to their demands, whatever they are, and negotiate for the best surrender terms we can get.
Due to the defused nature of the threat, it is not possible to target a specific group of people in a specific location. The problem is not one that will be defeated by capturing or killing their leaders, however satisfying that might be. The idea that terrorism has an address, in Afghanistan, and is attributable to one man, Osama bin Laden, is ludicrous. The threat can only be met by attempting to change the culture that give rise to it. That is vast numbers of people with no hope of improving their lives. People that see the luxurious lifestyles of their rulers and the West and wonder why they don’t have the same. The area has only one country that is prosperous and free…Israel.
What is needed is to change the culture and the reality of the region. That was what we attempted by overthrowing Saddam. Iraq has a population of educated and hardworking people. If we could free them from the yoke of the traditional Arab dictatorship and allow them to build a free and prosperous country, that would go a long way in showing other people in the region that they too could have the lives that they envy Israel and the West for.
But a lot of people think that we should give up, that it’s just too hard, too expensive; that we should back another authoritarian ruler who could keep the different factions under control, even if that means reinstating the Secret Police and reopening the torture rooms. That’s something that might give us some temporary respite but it would just move the day of reckoning down the road a few years…and possibly not even that long.