Al Qaeda Defeated by Fox News, Bloggers, and Bush

Harold C. Hutchison has a piece at StrategyPage assessing the collapse of al Qaeda, apparently prompted by yesterday’s news that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was running out of suicide bombers and thus redirecting his efforts along more conventional lines.

Despite the many brickbats of the media, al Qaeda has been defeated in Iraq, and is now retreating to lick its wounds where it can. If it can. Just over four and a half years, al Qaeda has gone from being the dominant terrorist group in the world to a defeated shell of its former self. In trying to defeat the United States, al Qaeda made three big mistakes: They fought the last information war, they underestimated the American leadership, and they also managed to anger the Iraqi people.

From the moment the United States and al Qaeda began fighting in Afghanistan, the terrorists were looking for a chance to re-create images similar to those of American troops being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu in 1993 or Walter Cronkite calling the Vietnam War a stalemate in 1968. It was hoped that such a moment would cause a dramatic drop in support for the war among the American people and force the United States out of Iraq. It did not happen.

Why not? The short answer is that Fox News, Matt Drudge, bloggers, and others would not let the liberal media get away with defeatest propaganda, the Bush administration is much less sensitive to bad press and poll numbers than its predecessor, and the terrorists miscalculated by turning its efforts against Iraqi civilians.

Aside from the facts that al Qaeda appears far from defeated and that the American public seems to have tired of the war effort even though Fox is the most popular network, this is some brilliant analysis.

Update: I should note, since it’s apparently not obvious, that the last clause in the original post was sardonic. Hutchinson is probably right in his observations about Fox News, bloggers, Bush’s resolve, etc. as far as it goes. The idea that they were major factors in defeating al Qaeda, though, would be dubious enough were al Qaeda actually defeated.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. misneach says:

    I hate to rain on your parade, but there is absolutely no factual evidence to back up the statements made that “al qaeda is retreating.”
    It seems to be accepted as “fact” that since the leader of “al qaeda in iraq” has gone and made a long video that he must obviously feel that his days as a terrorist are numbered and that he must move into the political arena. What is being carefully ignored in favor of unabashed support of this premise is the fact that there was absolutely no proof of ANY al-qaeda presence in Iraq prior to the US led invasion. If there was no presence in that large country 3 years ago, and there is (as stated in this very article) a presence there now, I don’t see how that could lead someone to believe that the terror network is shrinking.
    Furthermore, it would be quite difficult for anyone who reads or watches the news (apart from those who ONLY watch fox “news”) to honestly believe that Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in afghanistan have been so thoroughly defeated as premised in this article. As recently as 2 weeks ago there were reports of fighting between the coalition forces and forces loyal to the taliban/alqaeda, and if they’re still fighting I don’t see how one could draw the conclusion that (5 years later!) they have been defeated. Additionally, the recent report “state sponsors of terror” from the US State Department specifically outlines a large increase in terrorist attacks over the past 5 years. Upon examination of available evidence, I don’t think that your premise that “al qaeda is retreating” holds up at all.

  2. spacemonkey says:

    msneach,
    Your ‘quote’ didn’t occur in the ‘post.’

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    James, you might want to take a look at this post from ComingAnarchy. In the post the author discusses the tactical and strategic errors made by the Palestinians over the last 15 years or so and the very similar mistakes made by Al-Qaeda. I put my own reactions here.

    While I agree with misneach that the current apparent state of Al-Qaeda doesn’t suggest it’s on the ropes, I do think there have been some major developments. To me it looks as though the reasons behind the developments are, indeed, due to the continued pressure put on them but are also due to the intrinsic contradictions of Islamist terrorism.

  4. Tano says:

    James,

    Your comments really are confusing. Even re-reading them, I can’t quite tell if you are being (appropriately) snarky and sarcastic about the StrategyPage nonsense, or whether you buy into, at least to some extent.

  5. James Joyner says:

    Tano: I don’t know how to be more clear. Perhaps boldface will help:

    Aside from the facts that al Qaeda appears far from defeated and that the American public seems to have tired of the war effort even though Fox is the most popular network, this is some brilliant analysis.

    Update: I should note, since it’s apparently not obvious, that the last clause in the original post was sardonic. Hutchinson is probably right in his observations about Fox News, bloggers, Bush’s resolve, etc. as far as it goes. The idea that they were major factors in defeating al Qaeda, though, would be dubious enough were al Qaeda actually defeated.

    Plus, the title of the post is something of a clue….

  6. Tano says:

    Thanks for the clarification James. Maybe it was just me (I was only halfway through the first cup of coffee), or maybe I spend a bit too much time checking into sites where such a headline would be a straightforward expression of their basic worldview.

  7. James Joyner says:

    Tano: It wasn’t just you. Maybe I need to color code my snark or something!

  8. Geek, Esq. says:

    JJ:

    I figured that you were being sardonic. However, the Victor Davis Hanson fanclub types would probably carry the same headline without a shred of irony. Since the conservative side of the aisle tends to get lumped together as such, liberals/leftists oblivious to differences amongst conservatives might miss the sarcasm.

  9. anesthesia says:

    Wretchard at the Belmont clib reported a few weeks ago that the insurgency in Iraq was defeated. Now it’s all “political” or something. Considering that he’s reported the insurgency completely defeated over 97 times since June 2003 I would say the end is nigh. An insurgency simply can’t be completely defeated that many times without losing some of it’s spark.

  10. Cernig says:

    James you have my unreserved apology.

    I wrote the original post at 7am after being awake half the night with an asthma attack (I get them from time to time and they suck). I should have known better than to try anything like thinking at that point and I leapt to a dumb conclusion. I’m going to leave the original post in place, with an apology inserted above it, as a constant reminder to myself not to be so hellishly stupid in future.

    Regards, Cernig

  11. misneach says:

    You’re right the quote did not appear in the post. The quote was the TITLE of the news story that this post was discussing, as viewed here.
    Perhaps it makes you feel better to dismiss my views as “defeatest propaganda” however, and if that is the case, so be it.

  12. fester says:

    anesthesia—- you only have 97 declarations of victory by Wretchtard — by by count he is up to 114 — did you miss the one where he declared victory on the basis of the increased sheep smuggling 🙂

    /snark

  13. Jim Henley says:

    BTW, that London Times story smells like a plant.