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The Boston Globe: time to surrender to Al Qaeda

Today's Boston Glob has an op-ed piece written by one Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, who bears the incredibly burdensome title of associate director of the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research at Harvard University. (His business cards must be the size of a Hallmark card.) In it, Mr. Mohamedou (the Glob doesn't give his title, but I suspect he must be a "Dr." of something or other -- lunacy of his magnitude is usually rewarded with impressive credentials) asks if it is time for the United States to start negotiating with Al Qaeda.

Mr. Mohamedou spells out his case very carefully, outlining the history of the conflict (largely from their side), citing key moments and rationalizing the various and sundry attacks by Al Qaeda against us. He gives them the high praise of using "military tactics" and calls their terrorists "commandos," even citing their specific declaration of war against the United States, spells out their casi belli, and reiterates their oft-stated demands in exchange for an end to the conflict.

Mr. Mohamedou does manage to gloss over a few minor points, however, such as their choice of targets (quite often civilian ones) their use of weapons (planes full of innocents, for one), But while most people get outraged over most of these admissions, he's hoping that we don't catch on to the biggest scam he's trying to pull on us:

He's trying to get us to recognize Al Qaeda as a legitimate "player" on the world stage, and give them the standing they so richly do not deserve: that of a nation-state.

It's a very well-played gambit. I'm ashamed to admit I very nearly let it slip past me. I nearly didn't catch what he was doing.

The formula for winning a war is simple. The execution is usually difficult, occasionally impossible, but the basic formula is simple.

1) Identify what your enemy wants.
2) Prevent your enemy from achieving that goal.
3) Persuade the enemy to stop trying to achieve that goal:
A) By killing enough of them so they can't keep fighting.
B) By destroying their ability to keep fighting.
C) By destroying their will to keep fighting.

In the war against Islamic Fundamentalism, the first step has been achieved. They want to bring about the Caliphate, the Islamic Theocracy. First, they want to unite the Muslim world. Then they want to bring in any land that was ever under Muslim rule. (This means you, Israel and southern Spain, for starters.) Then, eventually, the entire world must be brought before and beneath Islam -- and not just any old Islam, but their vision of Islam.

One of the key elements of that plan is to be recognized as a legitimate nation-state. They came very close to that in Afghanistan, when the Taliban and Al Qaeda worked hand-in-hand, and were recognized by some nations as a legitimate government. But when they pulled off 9/11, the United States took that away from them in short order.

Now Al Qaeda is largely stateless. Many of the leaders who brought them to such dizzying heights are now dead or imprisoned. They are reduced to scattered attacks of terrorism, nowhere near as spectacular as 9/11, and never within the borders of the United States.

And in the midst of this, with Al Qaeda struggling for relevance, here comes Mr. Mohamedou, using the soapbox so generously provided him by the Boston Globe, arguing that we should restore them the credibility and the status they once enjoyed and we took away from them at the cost of our dearest blood.

No, thank you, Mr. Mohamedou. I happen to like Al Qaeda's current position -- harried, on the run, decimated, and flailing for survival and relevance. Try peddling your surrender elsewhere.

Comments (18)

Wait, how can we engage in ... (Below threshold)
Lurking Observer:

Wait, how can we engage in discussions with al-Qaeda?

In the first place, as the Left has harped upon, we are not at war w/ al-Qaeda, b/c we can only be at war with nations.

Second, what is this business of al-Qaeda declaring war on us? Isn't it in the international legal statutes that govern all relations that only nations can declare war?

It would seem to me that the good professor is more than a tad bit confused. This is a law enforcement issue, and one presumably does not sit down w/ the mafia or tongs or posses to discuss cutting deals?

Any person who subscribes t... (Below threshold)

Any person who subscribes to Al Qaeda's BS or kisses their ass should be picked up by the back of the neck and given the Royal Boot in the ass out of the country. This is MY country, Don't like it, the Leave it!!!!!!!!!!!

Interesting that your respo... (Below threshold)

Interesting that your response to this:

Consequently, and aside from the war in Iraq, between 2002 and 2005 the United States and seven of its Western allies were the targets of 17 major attacks in 11 countries for a total of 760 people killed.

is this:

I happen to like Al Qaeda's current position -- harried, on the run, decimated, and flailing for survival and relevance.

Now I don't agree with Dr. Mohamedou, but just because you say that Al Qaeda is decimated and on the run doesn't make it so. And if it isn't so, and these types of attacks continue and possibly rise in frequency and effectiveness as we continue to try to nation-build (for freedom, of course), what will our course of action then be? Or can we not talk about that? Shall we just repeat to ourselves "we're winning, we're winning...."?

On your first point, Mantis... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

On your first point, Mantis: has a single one of those attacks occurred within the United States? They've had to settle for far less symbolic targets, hitting when and where they can. And in the case of the second London bombings, not even very well.

As far as your second point, Mantis, lemme teach you a couple things about the English language:

Decimated -- reduced by a tenth. Ancient Roman discipline, when every tenth man in a unit was executed. Now usually taken to mean "tremendously depleted," but the original meaning still holds value. Or do you think that they still have more than 90% of their membership? Certainly not 90% of their leadership.

On the run -- lacking a refuge or sanctuary. They had that in Afghanistan, they don't have that any more. No nation will openly give them shelter. They might find temporary hideouts, but they no longer can openly live anywhere in the world without the fear of the long arm of the United States finding them.

Any other words you're having trouble with?


No, none of those attacks h... (Below threshold)

No, none of those attacks have occured here in the U.S. So? This is a global war, right? In any case the point was about their capacity to attack, frequently and with great destruction, which they have shown they still have.

As far as decimated goes, why don't you let us know when you are using archaic definitions. Here's the American Heritage dictionary:

1. To destroy or kill a large part of (a group).
2. Usage Problem.
a. To inflict great destruction or damage on
b. To reduce markedly in amount:

Usage note: Decimate originally referred to the killing of every tenth person, a punishment used in the Roman army for mutinous legions. Today this meaning is commonly extended to include the killing of any large proportion of a group.

And as far as "on the run" goes, Bin Laden has been on the run for years now, and he doesn't seem to have to much trouble. And if the attacks of the past few years are anything to go on, they're not so much "on the run" as hidden in plain sight.
I'm not the one with the language problem here.

Not going to answer my questions?

Every single "question" you... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Every single "question" you've uttered, mantis, has been rhetorical, not inviting a response. Here's a little hint: if you hold down the SHIFT key while hitting the "/" key, it puts up a "?" mark that traditionally indicates a question is being asked.

But what the hey, I'll play along and try to decipher what you meant by "questions."

Do I think we're winning? Hell, yes. Before 9/11, Al Qaeda hit us on our territory in four places, on three occasions. Since then, there has been but a single terrorist attack on United States soil -- and that one was pretty ineffective. We have also broken up numerous plots by Al Qaeda to commit further attacks on US soil, and arrested a lot of their people doing so.

So, deprived of their ability to hit us where we live again, they've lashed out at easier targets. Australia is a great ally of ours, so they figured they'd go after them. But instead of attacking Australians in Australia, they went after a popular tourist point in Bali.

Spain was a shaky ally, so they figured one good scare would drive them into capitulating. That one attack, combined with the incompetence of Spanish authorities, actually worked.

England is probably our greatest ally (although I think the Aussies might dispute that), so they carried out the London bombings. Didn't achieve much, except expose their tactic of using suicide bombers without letting the bombers know about that little detail. That put a damper on the second round of bombings.

And in Iraq... they are mainly targeting our military. That is the one part of our nation best equipped and prepared to take their best shot and give it right back, and it's being proven again and again.

Now they're moving on to killing Iraqi civilians, and that's just more evidence of how desperate and depraved they are. They are simultaneously win the support of the Iraqi people and cow them into submission, and they can't quite grasp how those are conflicting goals. But all they know how to do is to kill and maim and destroy, so they stick with what they know. It's the old "if your only tool is a hammer, all your problems look like nails" syndrome.

I need to lie down. This cold/flu/allergy/malaise I've got is making my head spin, and attempting to answer your so-called "logic" just aggravates it.


There is no war on terror<b... (Below threshold)

There is no war on terror
-Michael Moore

..can't stop what never stared and isn't going on.

Um Jay,Do you thin... (Below threshold)
Yeah but...:

Um Jay,

Do you think we've only hit one tenth of Al Queda (or their leadership) so far? That's a little weak don't you think? Do you consider that a success?

Secondly, I'm fairly sure Al Queda operatives (or rouge elements that sympathise with the actions and goals of Al Queda) are alive and well and living relatively unfettered lives in tens of countries throughout the world, including these United Sates. (Not to mention the excellent training ground Iraq is for them now - remember where their main guys got their start? Their proving ground was the guerilla war in Afghanistan in the 80s). So how does that gel with your uon the run idea?

Now I'm not saying that we should surrender, or try and make peace or anything of the sort for that matter, but I do think that your dressing down of mantis was a little heavy handed, this time anyway.

It seems to me that a war, in a conventional sense, against an enemy as ethereal as Al Queda is basically nonsense. Mind you it is nonsense of this sort that is invoked far more often by the right than the left, so before picking on this misguided fool writing in the Globe, maybe you should chastise some of those closer to you on the political spectrum.

Yeah but:mantis ha... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Yeah but:

mantis has a history of pushing my buttons. I should be more aware of that, and moderate myself, but I plead illness today.

I used "decimated" in both contexts. There are no hard numbers around, but I know we've killed or captured a LOT of them. Their numbers were severely depleted.

And they're using Iraq as a training ground? So are we. And it's costing them a hell of a lot more than it's costing us.

I call it a "war" because that's what our military does: it fights wars. In the 90's, we treated the threat of Al Qaedas as a law-enforcement issue, and that was utterly ineffective. I agree that there is no model we can follow here, no precedent. We don't even have a proper vocabulary for what's going on; we're having to adapt old words and phrases, and invent new ones, just to keep up.

But I stand by fundamental position: the most successful way of dealing with this threat so far has been the military. And attempts like this dipshit Harvard moron (among others) to mitigate that just give me more encouragement that it is still working.


I like that killing civilia... (Below threshold)

I like that killing civilians on 9/11 was their great organized attack, but killing civilians in Iraq shows they are "desperate and depraved". Jay, they always attack civilians, they're terrorists! Depraved, yes. Desperate, I'm not so sure.

In any case, I know it's hard to see them, but there was clearly a question mark here:

And if it isn't so, and these types of attacks continue and possibly rise in frequency and effectiveness as we continue to try to nation-build (for freedom, of course), what will our course of action then be?

Let me rephrase. If our current strategy turns out to have no effect on global terrorism rates, or if those rates increase (as they have), what do we do then? What will our next course of action be? And don't say invade another country (it'll be a while until we're ready to do that).

Another question: If there is a successful terrorist attack in this country in the near future, does that mean we're not winning?

Further, what does winning mean in the war on terror? How do we know when we've won? How long will it take?

I've put in lots of question marks so you'll be sure to see them. I would also add that I hope you feel better, but you'd probably consider it a curse.

I used "decimated" in bo... (Below threshold)

I used "decimated" in both contexts.

Ok, nevermind, this is pointless. You have the intellectual honesty of John Kerry.

tas, I simply don't have th... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

tas, I simply don't have the energy to deal with this properly. I'm going to take some more drugs and call it a night. But I do intend to revisit this, when I can be a smidgen more coherent.

Then, I might be able to spell out that I meant "decimate" in the literal sense, as I lack precise numbers, but also in the figurative sense, meaning severely damaged. I'm not thrilled that the word now means "almost obliterated" to many, as we have plenty of words that mean that, and "decimate" has both a precise meaning and a historical context that don't mean that. It's the Language Nazi in me.


heh--"Language Nazi"<... (Below threshold)

heh--"Language Nazi"

Kinda like the part in me that goes stark raving mad when national television journalists mispronounce "epitome."


I sense more than a little ... (Below threshold)

I sense more than a little intellectual dishonesty here. If you're such a "language Nazi" then I assume you'll agree that one of the primary goals when writing is to be understood by the reader. Do you honestly mean to tell us that you presumed your readers would think "Oh, wow, we've reduced their numbers by one-tenth"? Which, by the way, is in opposition to the context of your point. It looks a little more like someone went to the dictionary after being called on it and couldn't defend the fact that he used decimated. And it's not nitpicking, since it's central to your point.

For the record, I donm't agree with the idea of negotiating with al-Qaeda. But a couple of things really bother me here. One is this from Lurking Observer: "as the Left has harped upon, we are not at war w/ al-Qaeda, b/c we can only be at war with nations."

When has the left "harped" on this? I don't mean can you find a quote somewhere of someone saying this, because at this point you can find a quote of someone saying just about anything you can imagine. I mean what is your basis for saying the left harps on this? It's part of a continuing patternn of posters saying "the left says X," based on no evidence, then arguing against a point that was never made.

Another thing I see a lot on this blog that is really annoying is typified by this headline:
" The Boston Globe: time to surrender to Al Qaeda"
Putting aside for a minute the fact that the article doesn't call for surrendering to al-Qaeda, the fact is that this wasn't a statement by the Globe. I would say that you really should learn what an op-ed is, and how it doesn't represent the opinion of the paper. But you know that. This is just an intellectually lazy and dishonest swipe at a paper you don't care for. So a certain number of people are going to read that headline and think the Globe is calling for negotiations with al-Qaeda. But you knew that.

And finally, al-Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, while Clinton was president. Tere wasan't another terrorist attack on our soil during his entire Presidency. So I guess we can agree, by the logic presented here, that Clinton was extremely successful in fighting terror. Right now he leads Bush, seven years to four.

Chris, I'm struggling with ... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Chris, I'm struggling with a bitchin' fever here, but I think I still might be lucid enough for a few answers:

1) Fine, replace "decimated" with "devastated." Simple rhetorical device, easily tossed overboard to give the twits one less thing to nit-pick about, to focus on instead of the overall picture.

2) After the first World Trade Center bombing, Al Qaeda attacked the USS Cole (a United States warship is sovereign US territory) and two of our Embassies in Africa (again, sovereign US territory). There's your "three occasions" and "four places."

3) I've been reading the Glob for years. They have opposed the war from Day One. They have been complicit in several intellectually dishonest ploys to discredit the war, such as this incident. So presuming that the Glob either sought out this jackass and asked him to write this, or openly embraced him when he stepped forward, is a presumption I'm quite comfortable making.

4) The key point I was trying to make is that to "begin talking with" Al Qaeda is to grant them the legitimacy they have sought, to treat them as we would a sovereign nation-state. It is taking all the gains we have made in this struggle and throwing them away. It reminds me of the People's Peace Treaty for Vietnam that John Kerry endorsed -- the United States immediately conceded everything and anything, and the North Vietnamese agreed that once the US did everything it said, it would "discuss" returning prisoners and the like.

I need more, and better, drugs.


To be fair, I'll acknowledg... (Below threshold)

To be fair, I'll acknowledge that your points about the Cole and the embassies is technically correct, although if the subject is protecting against terrorist attacks it hardly follows that a president is responsible when we have no control over borders or the area surrounding a target. And if we're going to get technical, I said there wasn't another attack "on our soil." Technically only the interior of an embassy is sovereign territory, and if a warship is on soil they need to call a tow truck. So I guess you decimated my argument, but I'm still 90 percent right.

I still think it's a stretch to "assume" the Globe sought ths guy out or "embraced" him. He's a Harvard professor with all the right credentials presenting a provocative and controversial idea. That's what op-eds are for. A couple of days ago the Globe published an op-ed by one Newt Gingrich titled "Reforming the UN." Did they "embrace" him, as well? Just because they were against the war doesn't mean you can ascribe any position you want to them. I was against the war since before it started, and I don't want to negotiate with al-Qaeda.

And when are you guys going to learn that a paper reporting something is not the same as being complicit in it> The story you linked to was about something tht took place at the Boston City Council, which makes it newsworthy. The headline describes the photos as "purported" to be about rape, and there's a full paragraph clarifying that there's nothing in the photos that establishes that they are of US soldiers or Iraqi women. How much more qualifying did they have to do? Are they supposed to cover city council meetings but only report on that which they deem to be true? If the Globe only reported things that public officials said that weren't bullshit, we'd never see George Bush quoted again.

Gee, the author soun... (Below threshold)

Gee, the author sounds like a disinterested party.


If Osama is still alive and... (Below threshold)

If Osama is still alive and manages to die from natural causes, he will die in exile, without a country and without a home.

He will die in a cave or mud hut never knowing if the next person to walk through the door will be a Navy SEAL.

He will die as the head of an organization whose top leaders are dead, in custody, or also on the run.

He will die knowing HIS attempt at resurrecting the Caliphate will have failed.

He will die knowing that both Afghanistan and Iraq have been freed from the likes of people like him.

He will die knowing he has been defeated by an America willing to pay any price to maintain its freedom.

He will die a defeated and bitter man, wondering how his grandiose plans went so terribly wrong.

He will die harried, on the run, his Al Qaeda decimated, flailing for survival and relevance.

Works for me.

Also, a word of advice to Osama. Dress warmly. Dante says that lowest level of Hell gets a tad cold.






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