Monday, May 12, 2008

Declaring Victory

In the September 2006 issue, when Atlantic still lived behind the legacy media’s cordon sanitaire of a subscription wall, James Fallows wrote a well documented piece, Declairing Victory, about how the Global War on Terra was over, and that we’d won. Failing to recognize this, and casting our bottles of water away, taking off our shoes for the TSA minions, and, more importantly, denying smart people in turbans entry visas and, um, engaging in a colonialist, unwinnable war, was exactly what bin Laden wanted the US to do.
Viewing the world from al-Qaeda’s perspective, though, reveals the underappreciated advantage on America’s side. The struggle does remain asymmetric, but it may have evolved in a way that gives target countries, especially the United States, more leverage and control than we have assumed. Yes, there could be another attack tomorrow, and most authorities assume that some attempts to blow up trains, bridges, buildings, or airplanes in America will eventually succeed. No modern nation is immune to politically inspired violence, and even the best-executed antiterrorism strategy will not be airtight.

But the overall prospect looks better than many Americans believe, and better than nearly all political rhetoric asserts. The essence of the change is this: because of al-Qaeda’s own mistakes, and because of the things the United States and its allies have done right, al-Qaeda’s ability to inflict direct damage in America or on Americans has been sharply reduced. Its successor groups in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere will continue to pose dangers. But its hopes for fundamentally harming the United States now rest less on what it can do itself than on what it can trick, tempt, or goad us into doing. Its destiny is no longer in its own hands.

It’s old, but it’s still fresh. Kinda like a Lil Debbie snack cake.