Stephen Schwartz today:
The human, financial, and technological resources of Al-Qaida have diminished immensely since 9/11: it lost its Afghan base and then plunged into the Iraqi bloodbath, in which it is being defeated. Rather than a second Vietnam for the U.S. – comparing two wars that really have almost nothing in common – Iraq could be a fatal quagmire for al-Qaida. With the increasing failure of Iraqi Sunnis to rally to AQI, the enemy seeks to export the Iraqi jihad to the weakest area on the Western front: Europe.
But as became visible in the successive London terror conspiracies as well as the most recent investigation in Germany, Al-Qaida has been significantly degraded everywhere. In place of expensively-trained cadres driving airliners against the most famous buildings in the West, the enemy must have recourse to marginal fanatics using low-tech explosives. Superficial clichés about “homegrown terror” among Muslims in the West ignore two things. First, the conspiracies are never “homegrown,” i.e. based in local grievances and organized spontaneously. They are always directed from the same nexus in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Second, the “terrorist movement” among European Muslims remains atomized and peripheral. Its criminal efforts require efficient detection, prevention, and punishment, but they are based in isolated cells, not in a network with ranks of volunteers such as Al-Qaida possessed in 2001. Cell operations cannot and do not replace mass movements in changing history.