Hat tip to Hot Air.
The New York Times as well as other media outlets are now confirming, along with the Obama Administration, that Al Qaeda’s second-in-command, Abu Yahya al-Libi, has been killed by a drone strike in a remote, Pakistani village last week:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A Central Intelligence Agency drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal belt killed Al Qaeda’s deputy leader, Abu Yahya al-Libi, American officials said on Tuesday, dealing another blow to the group in a lawless area that has long been considered the global headquarters of international terrorism but the importance of which may now be slipping.
The White House spokesman, Jay Carney, said that as a result of Mr. Libi’s death, “there is no clear successor to take on the breadth of his responsibility, and that puts additional pressure” on Al Qaeda, “bringing it closer to its ultimate demise than ever.”
If his death is borne out this time, it would be a milestone in a covert eight-year airstrike campaign that has infuriated Pakistani officials but that has remained one of the United States’ most effective tools in combating militancy.
One American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, described Mr. Libi as one of Al Qaeda’s “most experienced and versatile leaders,” and said he had “played a critical role in the group’s planning against the West, providing oversight of the external operations efforts.”
As damaging as these “decapitation operations” may be to Al Qaeda, we seem to be losing the forest for the trees.
While the U.S. focuses on sending missiles through the windows of every, significant Al Qaeda leader that remains (and each, new one that sprouts up), the war against Militant Islam has long since moved on to other, more threatening venues. Iran, for example, is a declared enemy of the United States, bent on developing nuclear weapons, but U.S. policy has never reflected anywhere near the seriousness accorded to Al Qaeda, despite the fact that Iran poses a threat that is orders of magnitude greater than Al Qaeda. Islamists appear poised to take absolute control of the most populous Arab state in Egypt and are actively taking advantage of the civil war in Syria where U.S. intransigence has created a vacuum among the rebel forces. Turkey is moving doggedly toward an Islamist state that will seek to dominate the region in direct conflict with U.S. national interests. Pakistan seems to be increasingly in the grip of Islamists who occupy key positions in its military and intelligence services. More ominously, Europe is increasingly subject to the influence and intimidation of Islamist immigrants who regularly resort to violence to undermine traditional, Western values. In the U.S., any talk of Islamists or their ideology is forbidden throughout the federal government.
For all that George W. Bush may have gotten wrong during his eight years in office, and in particular with his war planning, he did understand that the United States (and the West at large) was not fighting only or even primarily against Al Qaeda, but against a broader ideology– islamofascism, if you will– that motivated not only Al Qaeda but an entire movement of muslims determined to impose fundamentalist Islam upon the world.
As a last, side note on the al-Libi assassination, we should be careful what we wish for. The U.S. may succeed in debilitating Al Qaeda’s operation capabilities to such an extent that they will change tactics and resort to the sort of “lone wolf” terror tactics that traumatized Israeli society in the intifada days of a decade ago. Anyone who lived as I did in the Washington, D.C. area in the Fall of 2002 well remembers how just two persons, acting on their own in seemingly random fashion, could seriously disrupt an entire region. It is a wonder that the Islamists have not resorted to this tactic in any concerted way. Let’s hope that they don’t. But, considering how little strategic thinking seems to be going on in D.C., “hope” may be the only thing left.