Terror on the Run?

Ralph Peters argues that the year that was may have marked the beginning of the end of Islamist terrorism as a global force.

The greatest media story of 2007 was the one you never read (unless you read The Post): The year was a strategic catastrophe for Islamist terrorists – and possibly a historic turning point in the struggle against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

While al Qaeda in Iraq can still launch suicide missions, such acts now serve only to further alienate the Iraqi people, who’ve come to hate the grisly foreign interlopers with a passion you have to encounter first-hand to appreciate.

That fundamental change in outlook, especially among Sunni Arabs, may well mark last year as Islamist terrorism’s high-water mark, the point at which fellow Muslims by the tens of millions publicly rejected the message and methods of self-styled holy warriors who revel in the slaughter of the innocent.


Islamist terrorism isn’t going to go away, of course. Countries from Algeria to Pakistan are newly endangered as fanatics turn from futile attempts to defeat America to punishing local populations. We’ll still see decades of bombings and assassinations. But Islamist terrorism is no longer viewed as a solution by the masses of the Middle East.

Terror on the Run? Al Qaeda PR Department - Monte Wolverton

Peters is a smart guy who has been right on quite a bit vis-a-vis the Islamic world but he’s also prone to unwarranted optimism. I agree that al Qaeda and company have overreached and thereby alienated many who were sympathetic; I’m much less sure that this much matters.

Presumably, their failure to “win hearts and minds” will hinder their goal of creating a regional caliphate; then again, that goal was always an absurd fantasy. Shorter term objectives, such as discouraging Western intervention in the Middle East, hindering the establishment of a functional civil society in Iraq and thus denying the US a victory, and the like may well be attainable through truck bombings and the like. That these are “acts of desperation” does not render them ineffective.

Hat tip: Spook86. Cartoon by Monte Wolverton.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies 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.


  1. carpeicthus says:

    God I hate how smarmy the conservative media are. Today is Wednesday, but you would only know that if you read our paper!

  2. James Joyner says:

    That is a rather annoying shtick, to be sure.

  3. Anderson says:

    If Qaeda has any oomph left, I would expect an attack shortly before Election Day, to try to influence the election. Osama could release another video like he did before the 2004 election, but a body count would scare people much more, it being 7 years since 9/11 and not just 3 this time.