"Let nothing human be alien to me"- Terence

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


If one man has dominated jihadi discussions this summer- at least in the popular press- it was been Anwaw al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American demogogue who was the motivating force behind the Ft. Hood shooting, and Christmas attack, and the Times Square bombing.   He has been routinely depicted as the next bin Laden and the most dangerous man in al-Qaeda.  This has been much to my consternation and bewilderment.  In AQAP, at least until recently, he has been pretty far down the totem pole- there are many people who are better strategists and more skilled at propaganda.   This is also just opinion, but I find "inspiration" to be somewhat nebulous and emphemeral- those who can plan attacks and organize men are far more dangerous.  To be really, really crude, he is also just 1-for-3 right now in terms of success. 

Of course, no one can say that he isn't important.  He is excellent at reaching out to the disaffected, especially in Western countries.  And in this summer of anger, where Islam-bashing has far exceeded the aftermath of 9/11, when cynics and bloviating bigots dominate the conversation, there is room for another famous demagogue to speak to a different kind of rage. 

And that sort of encapsulates the man's frustrating danger- we have helped to make him a far more important player then he was before.  His fame completely outstrips his accomplishments, like any reality-show dimwit.  Putting a cross-hair on his unassuming head catapulted him up the jihadi ranks to the point where he is almost as important as we all pretended he was.  He is the Paris Hilton of jihadis- someone who shouldn't be, but is now an inescapable fact in our lives.

My take on this is that the shrewd operators who are the real masterminds behind AQAP are content to let him take credit (and possible drone strikes).  They can continue their long-term goals and step up their attacks in the shadow of someone less-accomplished.   While we have built him up, we have also let our real enemies grow more dangerous.   Our government and media have been swatting a fly while ignoring dragons.  We've created a fully post-modern terrorist.