As Libya slips deeper into a bloody civil war, unyielding leader Moammar Gadhafi insists that al Qaeda is behind the revolt against him. Meanwhile, many, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), argue that the uprisings in Libya and across the Arab world are a "repudiation" of Osama bin Laden's network of terrorists. Others aren't so sure. Will the uprisings unleash pent-up support for Islamist extremism?
The revolts will strengthen al Qaeda: The uprisings represent "an enormous strategic step forward for al Qaeda," says Michael Scheuer at The Washington Post. Each dictatorship that falls creates "a more religion-friendly" political environment where bottled-up support for Muslim extremists will now gush forth. And with Egypt's Hosni Mubarak gone, Israel has lost its last "anti-Islamist shield." For bin Laden, who has declared war against both Israel and "the Arab tyrannies," this is a double victory.
"Why the Mideast revolts will help al Qaeda"
Actually, the uprisings make al Qaeda irrelevant: Al Qaeda has never been "more marginal than it is now," says Shahid Alam at the Yemen Observer. It recruits frustrated young people by calling for "terrorist attacks against local tyrannies or their foreign backers." But these uprisings, which have largely succeeded without violence from the protesters, are robbing the organization of its lifeblood, and undercutting its rationale.
"Washington, al Qaeda, and the Arab revolt"
Al Qaeda is down, but not yet out: Al Qaeda was "caught by surprise," says Musa Keilani at Al Arabiya, and it's trying to "muscle its way into the unrest" after the fact. But if new Arab leaders can guarantee stability and jobs, the region's "hopeful youth" will "shun al Qaeda." The real question is whether the governments replacing toppled regimes can satisfy protesters' demands. If the new regimes fail, don't count al Qaeda out.
"Priorities for post-revolt leaders"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Scottish independence is another financial crisis waiting to happen
- Fall movie guide: All the films you should see in September
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- Why the West should let Russia have eastern Ukraine
- The next pandemic
- 10 things you need to know today: September 1, 2014
- The elusive 'It factor' in presidential politics
- The 10 best networking tips for people who hate networking
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
Subscribe to the Week