Patterico's Pontifications


Could it be that Al Qaeda is a “Cresting Wave”

Filed under: Terrorism,War — WLS @ 3:01 pm

Posted by WLS:

I was just reading a transcript of Hugh Hewitt’s interview earlier this week with New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright, author of “The Looming Tower. ” Wright is one of the foremost journalistic authorities, based on extensive reporting over several years, on the individuals making up the structure of Al Qeada. I was struck by this exchange with Hewitt:

HH: How’s their money situation after seven years of chasing, or six years of chasing their financing?

LW: You know, the truth is, they’re making money. And one of the interesting things to me about al Qaeda is that it’s turning into a group of criminal gangs. If it weren’t for bin Laden, I think it would be easier to see that this is really a group of mafia families now. They make their money off of the opium smuggling in Afghanistan, off of stealing the oil shipments in Iraq, off of kidnapping, big game poaching in Africa. These are really criminal activities that really aren’t of religious political movement at all.

– – – –

HH: When you call them a criminal gang, are you suggesting that the next generation is not so sincere, or that their ambitions are less expansive as bin Laden and generation one?

LW: I think there have been, one might say, three generations of al Qaeda now. At least that’s the way that they are being studied in Europe. And what’s really remarkable about…if you look at the first generation of al Qaeda, bin Laden, Zawahiri, any of those, and probably Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, these are well educated men, middle to upper class. They are religious fanatics, and deeply committed to the idealism of their cause. And then, in this second generation, you began to get a certain criminal element, you know, people that were skilled in counterfeiting, in doing some of these credit card frauds and so on, and that’s how al Qaeda was able to raise some of its money. But that was sort of the second generation. Now, there’s a new generation, a third generation, which is much more proletarian, and I’m talking mainly about the situation in Europe now, in the poor communities on the outskirts of the affluent cities of France and Germany and so on, and in parts of the UK. A Dutch study was done of this group, and what fascinated me about that is that their political goals are absurd, so vague they could hardly put them into words. Now at one point, bin Laden had a political goal. It was to drive the crusaders, as he said, out of the Arabian Peninsula. He wanted to get the American Army out of Saudi Arabia.

HH: Right.

LW: Well, he succeeded. In April of 2003, the Bush administration said that we were withdrawing all of our forces from Saudi Arabia. The very next month, al Qaeda began its assault on the Western housing compounds. So victory wasn’t enough for him. And if you look at the ideology, if you could call it that, of the younger al Qaeda members, they’re really nihilists. They don’t really believe in anything except striking back. And that’s part of the appeal, I think, of the criminality of it.

I’m struck by this observation that AQ — principally its affiliated sub-groups around the globe — are really not the equivalent of their progenitor in Afghanistan. If Wright’s observations are correct, the effort to kill or capture the top echelon of AQ leadership has really dealt more of a blow to AQ’s effectiveness than might previously have been recognized.

If what AQ now amounts to is merely a loosely knit band of affiliates comprised of these third generation types, spread around the globe with little that interconnects them other than some common training and a common association with idea of a violent restoration of a Muslim caliphate, the lack of a sophisticated authority figure or structure to guide them really renders them nothing more than a bunch of criminal street gangs in the neighborhoods where they operate.

The lack of sophistication that seems to go hand-in-hand with this third generation description might account for the inability of any group to carry out any truly significant attacks since Madrid. The London bombers did some damage, but not nearly so much as they might have done had they had an effective leader like a KSM.

Its not clear that AQ exists as the kind of hierarchical organization that is able to fill its upper ranks with individuals moving “up the ladder” so to speak. If that upper management has been disrupted, and the organization is not of a nature that new leaders of equal or greater skill and sophistication are able to move up and replace them, the unsophisticated third generation will likely be eventually run-to-ground and wiped out.

8 Responses to “Could it be that Al Qaeda is a “Cresting Wave””

  1. Sounds like a job for Rudy Giuliani.

    DRJ (5c60fb)

  2. Funny you should say that, DRJ. I was just musing that from the recent revelations about Kerik, Giuliani’s mob prosecutions may have been only taking out the competition.

    nk (597e8b)

  3. Zing. Still, it might be worth it. I prefer Tony Soprano to Osama bin Laden.

    DRJ (5c60fb)

  4. The lack of sophistication that seems to go hand-in-hand with this third generation description might account for the inability of any group to carry out any truly significant attacks since Madrid.

    Or, maybe it’s because we’ve been secretly waterboarding them.

    dave (c44c9b)

  5. What amazes me is the number of lefty bloggers and MSM reporters who haven’t read “Looming Tower.” They have the best source on the enemy and they don’t want to know. Back in the late 1930s, I wonder how many of the British and French politicians who were appeasing Hitler, had read Mein Kampf?

    Mike K (86bddb)

  6. It seems Charles McCarry predicted this world; with some specificity more than a quarter century
    ago. In “The Better Angels” set back then in the near future of the year 2000; he portrayed a nihistic Palestinian terror group called the Eye of Gaza who specialized in suicide bombings. a cell based organization along the lines of Hamas and AQ. Interestingly he saw the real masterminds of the group as not Hassan Abdullah; the group’s leader but Ibn Awad, a mystical Arab prince of the oil rich country of Hagreb; whose description was then chillingly evocative of Saudi Arabia but could just as easily be Ahmadinejad’s Iran. In the tale a Frank Church type liberal President, having narrowly defeated a technocratic businessman conservative incumbent is driven to authorize a covert assasination by the successor
    agency to the discredited CIA; the FIS; in order
    to prevent a nuclear attack on the United States
    by the Eye of Gaza and Ibn Awad. The consequences
    of that act and the subsequent coverup lead to a
    razor thin presidential election; where electronic
    voting machines decide the results. Which prompts
    a presidential impeachment of said incumbent in the sequel published only 5 years before the events in Florida. Hollywood adapted the Better
    Angels into a get smart like slapstick comedy called “Wrong is Wright” where the antihero, an oily liberal newscaster Patrick Graham; is portrayed as the hero by Sean Connery.

    narciso (d671ab)

  7. Get back on your meds Narcisco.

    red (9e9332)

  8. Mike K #5,

    Your point about Mein Kampf well illustrates the difference between today’s left anf the liberals of prior generations. Hitler had published an unexpurgated edition of Mein Kampf in German but a very abridged “don’t scare the capitalists” translation in English. Alan Cranston, a liberal even in California, bootlegged a complete translation in English to warn the West of what it was dealing with.

    nk (597e8b)

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