Daily Office: Matins
Hard to Say
Monday, 28 February 2011

Scott Shane takes a look at the role of Al Qaeda in the downfall of the Middle East’s autocracies — which, so far, has been “absolutely no role.” Have these upsets consigned militant jihadism to the dustbin, or have they on the contrary worked up some new opportunities for terrorists?

Abu Khaled, a Jordanian jihadist who fought in Iraq with the insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, suggested that Al Qaeda would benefit in the long run from dashed hopes.

“At the end of the day, how much change will there really be in Egypt and other countries?” he asked. “There will be many disappointed demonstrators, and that’s when they will realize what the only alternative is. We are certain that this will all play into our hands.”

Michael Scheuer, author of a new biography of Mr. bin Laden and head of the C.I.A.’s bin Laden unit in the late 1990s, thinks such enthusiasm is more than wishful thinking.
Mr. Scheuer says he believes that Americans, including many experts, have wildly misjudged the uprisings by focusing on the secular, English-speaking, Westernized protesters who are a natural draw for television. Thousands of Islamists have been released from prisons in Egypt alone, and the ouster of Al Qaeda’s enemy, Mr. Mubarak, will help revitalize every stripe of Islamism, including that of Al Qaeda and its allies, he said.

All we can ask is that younger American voices will have a greater role in shaping this country’s responses to events on the fly. At bottom, what’s happening more or less violently in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere is bound to happen somehow or other all over the world, as the surging demographic of young people challenges the status quo not in the spirit of boredom and caprice that bedeviled the late 1960s but rather in the earnest pursuit of meaningful careers. Today’s kids want to grow up.