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What happens when we win?

By See-Dubya  •  May 26, 2008 10:38 AM

There’s an interesting question posed in this David Ignatius WaPo article about the strategic side of the National Counterterrorism Center–what happens when we beat Al Qaeda?

The analysts discussed several of the “nightmares” that might arise in this world where Muslim rage continued but without the discipline of a controlling central organization.

“My doomsday scenario, aside from weapons of mass destruction, is personalized jihad,” explained one analyst. “Everyone gets to do it on their own. Anyone can take a knife and stab someone in the back.”

A related concern is the devolution of targeting. With al-Qaeda, targets were selected to meet certain criteria of economic and symbolic importance. But as U.S. counterterrorism operations disrupt al-Qaeda, one analyst noted, “that pushes targeting down in the ranks.”

The analysts recall the anxiety produced by the Washington area sniper attacks in October 2002, in which random shootings by John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo created a fear that nearly paralyzed the region. That illustrates the damage that personalized jihad could do.

That excerpt makes it sound like it’s a gloom-and-doom why-even-bother article, but it’s not–these are just fair questions. Administrating the peace is every bit as important as winning the war, as the history of a badly drawn peace after WWI shows.

I tend to think beating Al-Qaeda will have benefits around the world the aren’t immediately apparent. The sort of Muhammad/Malvo “personalized jihad” they mention is horrifying and disruptive, but let’s face it: those two bozos aren’t really capable of stealing a nuclear warhead from Pakistan, shipping it into a U.S. port or urban center undetected, and detonating it (even as a dirty bomb). An international organization like Al Qaeda–when it’s not cowering in caves dodging daisy cutters and trying to stay alive–can.

In other words, I think crippling Al Qaeda is like crippling an undetectable, undeterrable, nearly untraceable nuclear/chem/bio missile launcher aimed at the West, or Israel. By finishing them off, the nuclear tension in the region might be taken down a notch.

Of course, there are many other groups like Hezbollah and Hamas that can move in and take their place…

Al Qaeda’s support flows from deep ideological springs; unless they can be stanched something new will take its place. I’m very glad to see those NCTC eggheads looking beyond the end of Al Qaeda and considering what fresh horror radical Islam may try to release upon the world.

{Post by See-Dubya; hat-tip to…my mom.}

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