Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Al Qaeda is Overblown and Playing the West

I've been slacking on the blogging recently in part because I'm a slacker and in part because I want to spend more of my time reading than expressing my opinion (I realized you just laugh right about now I did too).

Anyway, following the events in Libya I have to say one thing. Al Qaeda is overblown. The protest around the Arab world are not for a giant Islamic Caliphate they are for democracy. It might not be an ideal democracy in the western sense but it will be freer both in terms of politics and economics and less violent (democratic peace).

There are a lot of miss conceptions about al Qaeda. To clear it up al Qaeda is against the western supported monarchies and dictatorships in the Muslim world. They see these dictatorships as corrupt, neo-colonialist and secular. They want to overthrow these dictatorship and create a universal Islamic government.

So far, it looks easy to say al Qaeda has a had in the current protest yet this is not true. You can break down what is happening in throughout the Muslim world (Iran and Afghanistan are Muslim but not Arab) into three factions:

  1. Dictators/Monarchs: These are largely western supported and secular. They represent the status quo.

  2. Protestors: Pro-democracy and reform advocates also largely secular.

  3. Coalition/the West: Allied with most of the regimes facing protest (Iran and Syria are notable exceptions). Again they are secular and are caught in an awkward position between supporting stability and democracy. In the past they've chosen stability but now are leaning towards in democracy on a case-by-case basis.

Notice on thing all three of the participants have in common. They are all secular or largely neutral on religion. None of them want an Islamic Caliphate not the dictators, not the protesters, and not the coalition. All three major actors are enemies of al Qaeda.

Not to mention, contrary to popular belief, al Qaeda is not that powerful, organized, or popular. They do not have the political or economic ability to propell themselves into power. The only country were al Qaeda is possibly a threat is Yemen.

In the end, these protests are a rebuke of al Qaeda and terrorism in general. The whole idea of al Qaeda is you need religious violence in order to overthrown these dictatorships. Instead the protests found a third and more obvious way. Demand freedom through (largely) peaceful and secular protests. Al Qaeda does not the only thing going on in the Muslim world. By believing this we are giving al Qaeda more credit than it deserves. We are playing right into their hands.