Cross-posted from The Global Sociology Blog.
Two good pieces on Al Qaeda landed in my Newsreader this week and they both point in the same direction, albeit in different terms. The first one is from Tony Karon who questions the current relevance of Al Qaeda as the big post-9/11 bogeyman. For Karon, Al Qaeda is irrelevant and always was. In this respect, Al Qaeda is comparable to Trotsky... Huh? How does the comparison apply?
"Al-Qaeda is irrelevant, and yet U.S. hegemony in the Middle East is facing an unprecedented challenge from Islamist-nationalist groups. To understand the link between al-Qaeda’s weakness and the greatly expanded strength of groups such as Hamas, Hizballah, the Muslim Brotherhood and, of course, Iran, over the past seven years, it’s worth turning to the 20th century precedent: Leon Trotsky and his followers vs. the larger, nationally-focused parties of the left in the mid 20th century.
Trotsky rejected pragmatism and compromise by nationally-based leftist movements and insisted, instead, that they subordinate their specific national interests and objectives to the fantasy of “world revolution.” And as a result, long before his murder by Stalin, he found himself holed up in Mexico City, manically firing off communiques denouncing all compromise, and being largely ignored by the more substantial parties of the left world-wide. He had become an irrelevant chatterbox, caught up in a frenzy of his own rhetoric while world events simply passed him by. The same can be said of Bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri — it is not al-Qaeda, but the likes of Iran, Hamas, Hizballah, and the Muslim Brotherhood that represent the future of the nationalist-Islamist challenge to Western power in the Middle East."
What makes Al Qaeda seemingly powerful are two factors: the one mentioned by Karon, that is, the fact that the United States treats Al Qaeda as this omnipresent threat of global proportion and reacts to every action as if it were the beginnings of a terrorist apocalypse. The second one, which I think is relevant here and contributes to the first, is that fact that Al Qaeda, being a non-state group, articulates itself opportunistically to nation-based movements (Algeria, Philippines, Indonesia, or Iraq). Read below the fold...