On Saturday the Wall Street Journal had a excellent editorial, “Al Qaeda on the Run.” The Journal, while rightly acknowledging that we are seeing an Arab revolt against al-Qaeda’s efforts to subjugate and brutalize them, added this:
the U.S. offensives in Afghanistan and especially Iraq deserve most of the credit. The destruction of the Taliban denied al Qaeda one sanctuary, and the U.S. seems to have picked up the pace of Predator strikes in Pakistan – or at least their success rate. This has damaged al Qaeda’s freedom of movement and command-and-control. As for Iraq, Zawahiri himself last month repeated his claim that the country “is now the most important arena in which our Muslim nation is waging the battle against the forces of the Crusader-Zionist campaign.” So it’s all the more significant that on this crucial battleground, al Qaeda has been decimated by the surge of U.S. forces into Baghdad. The surge, in turn, gave confidence to the Sunni tribes that this was a fight they could win. For Zawahiri, losing the battles you say you need to win is not a way to collect new recruits.
The Journal also links to a column by Bret Stephens, written in March, in which he spoke about the significance of the Egyptian radical Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif — better known by his pseudonym Dr. Fadl — and his volte face on violent jihadism. In Stephens’s words, “There really is a broad rethink sweeping the Muslim world about the practical utility — and moral defensibility — of terrorism.” Stephens was, as usual, ahead of the curve — something that can also be said of the newspaper for which he writes. On Iraq, the “surge,” and the war against jihadism, Stephens and the Journal have been right even when it was unfashionable. These days, thankfully, conventional wisdom is finally catching up to them.