I among others have found it peculiar that as fine a publication as The Economist could be an Obama supporter.
Yet, the magazine is not run by a band of ideological zealots so it still reveres fact. Having resisted the lure to become an entertainment vehicle, it still provides solid information. As Time and Newsweek pass into the dustbin of history, The Economist is thriving.
Case in point, a new story explains that the Islamic terrorism that Barack Obama said was on the path to defeat is on the march. I among others have pointed to the fact, so it’s good to have a reputable publication telling us how it is:
A FEW months ago Barack Obama declared that al-Qaeda was “on the path to defeat”. Its surviving members, he said, were more concerned for their own safety than with plotting attacks on the West. Terrorist attacks of the future, he claimed, would resemble those of the 1990s—local rather than transnational and focused on “soft targets”. His overall message was that it was time to start winding down George Bush’s war against global terrorism.
Mr Obama might argue that the assault on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi by al-Qaeda’s Somali affiliate, the Shabab, was just the kind of thing he was talking about: lethal, shocking, but a long way from the United States. Yet the inconvenient truth is that, in the past 18 months, despite the relentless pummelling it has received and the defeats it has suffered, al-Qaeda and its jihadist allies have staged an extraordinary comeback. The terrorist network now holds sway over more territory and is recruiting more fighters than at any time in its 25-year history (see article). Mr Obama must reconsider.
Drone attacks had seriously damaged al Qaeda’s central leadership. The Somali branch called al Shabab was on the ropes. Al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula was in trouble.
The Economist reports:
The Shabab is recruiting more foreign fighters than ever (some of whom appear to have been involved in the attack on the Westgate). AQAP was responsible for the panic that led to the closure of 19 American embassies across the region and a global travel alert in early August. Meanwhile al-Qaeda’s core, anticipating the withdrawal of Western troops from Afghanistan after 2014, is already moving back into the country’s wild east.
Funnily enough, for those who were heralding a new democratic Middle East two years ago, the Arab Spring has been a godsend for Islamic terrorists:
The coup against a supposedly moderate Islamist elected government in Egypt has helped restore al-Qaeda’s ideological power. Weapons have flooded out of Libya and across the region, and the civil war in Syria has revived one of the network’s most violent and unruly offshoots, al-Qaeda in Iraq, now grandly renamed the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.
One might reasonably question whether the Egyptian military’s effort to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood represents a victory for Islamists. If you believe that Islamic terrorism is that important a threat, you should support any and all efforts to suppress it. If you say that efforts to suppress it by force inflame it, you are offering a counsel of despair.
That being said, the fall of Qadhafi in Libya and the ongoing Syrian civil war have certainly stoked the flames of Islamic terror.
Why has this happened? The Economist answers that the fault lies with what it calls “Western complacency,” by which it means, the foreign policy of the Obama administration:
How much should Western complacency be blamed for this stunning revival? Quite a bit. Mr Obama was too eager to cut and run from Iraq. He is at risk of repeating the mistake in Afghanistan. America has been over-reliant on drone strikes to “decapitate” al-Qaeda groups: the previous defence secretary, Leon Panetta, even foolishly talked of defeating the network by killing just 10-20 leaders in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The general perception of America’s waning appetite for engagement in the Middle East, underlined by Mr Obama’s reluctance to support the moderate Syrian opposition in any useful way has been damaging as well.
Apparently, American weakness is a very effective recruiting tool for terrorists. It tells prospective jihadis that they might be on the winning side in the war against an increasingly ineffectual America.
Is America also losing the battle of ideas? The Economist bemoans the fact that we have failed to win over moderate Muslims. Doubtless, it is right. But perhaps the reason is that moderate Muslims have been terrorized. Surely, they are not immune from Islamic terrorism. They count among its most important targets.
It makes sense that rich Gulf petrostates have been more than willing to buy off the terrorists.
They have no choice. It’s better than waiting for America to come and save them.