Al Qaeda’s losing streak

AL QAEDA’S LOSING STREAK…. The terrorist network has taken a beating recently. Good.

Analysts said Bin Laden’s death amounted to a double blow for Al Qaeda, after its sermons of anti-Western violence seemed to be rendered irrelevant by the wave of political upheaval rolling through the Arab world.

“It comes at a time when Al Qaeda’s narrative is already very much in doubt in the Arab world,” said Martin S. Indyk, vice president and director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. “Its narrative was that violence was the way to redeem Arab honor and dignity. But Osama bin Laden and his violence didn’t succeed in unseating anybody.”

Right. Al Qaeda told the Muslim world that the only way to be free is to commit acts of violence. The terrorist network’s message has been proven false in recent months, rejected by the very people it was intended to influence.

It’s against this backdrop that al Qaeda was “diminished,” even before this year’s developments.

Indeed, the Guardian had a report in September 2009 on al Qaeda “finding it difficult to attract recruits or carry out spectacular operations in western countries.” Counter-terrorism officials said the terrorist network “faced a crisis that was severely affecting its ability to find, inspire and train willing fighters.”

The New York Times had a related report soon after, which reached a similar conclusion: “[I]n important ways, Al Qaeda and its ideology of global jihad are in a pronounced decline.”

Emile Nakhleh, who headed the CIA’s strategic analysis program on political Islam until 2006, noted that al Qaeda is finding it “harder to raise money.” Audrey Kurth Cronin, a professor at the National War College in Washington, added, “I think Al Qaeda is in the process of imploding. This is not necessarily the end. But the trends are in a good direction.”

And that was long before U.S. forces took out Osama bin Laden himself.

This is not to say the threat is gone; it’s not. The point is that the terrorist network that executed the attacks of 9/11 is weaker and is less capable, and this larger trend is clearly heartening.

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.