How seriously should we take Al Qaeda's threat to nuke us to hell? (Part II)

Drudge is giving this wire story above the headline billing: “Al Qaeda says would use nuclear weapons.”  Here’s the quote from Reuters:

“God willing, the nuclear weapons will not fall into the hands of the Americans and the mujahideen would take them and use them against the Americans,” Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, the leader of al Qaeda’s in Afghanistan, said in an interview with Al Jazeera television.

Al-Yazid goes on to say that AQ’s strategy remains the same: stick it to the U.S., or in typically flowery jihadi vernacular, “to hit the head of the snake, the head of tyranny–America.” He’s also offering a truce of sorts, if the U.S. meets with AQ’s demands:

The militant leader said al Qaeda would be willing to accept a truce of about 10 years’ duration with the United States if Washington agreed to withdraw its troops from Muslim countries and stopped backing Israel and the pro-Western governments of Muslim nations.

Okay, I wrote about this last week, too. How seriously should we take any of these statements? Well, we know that our national security establishment takes the first threat very seriously. Obama himself has used the threat of Al Qaeda nuclear terrorism as his justification for the escalation of the war in Afghanistan. At the same time, we don’t take Al Qaeda’s demands very seriously at all–we ignore them completely, more or less. Al Qaeda has been whining about infidels in the Muslim lands for a good fifteen years now, and our response has been to send more infidels to Muslim lands.

I’ve been a bit skeptical of AQ getting a little red button of their own. Not that the terrorist organization wouldn’t use nukes if they could get them–I just don’t think there’s a high probability of that actually happening. And it suits AQ’s propaganda interest to keep repeating the nuke threat to scare us–because it works. We’re acting scared. The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before them, seems to view nuclear terrorism as the number one threat to our national security.

As for the AQ’s demands, I’m not suggesting we abandon Israel and withdraw every U.S. soldier in Central Asia and the Middle East over night. But perhaps it makes sense to examine that possibility that if we started down that path, while continuing a vigorous, law enforcement based/intellgience anti-terror effort, we could start to make real progress in eliminating Al Qaeda, taking away the best propaganda tool they have–our pseudo-occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Would we then be appeasing the terrorists? No, we’d just be looking at terrorism against the United States in the same way we view other foreign policy issues around the globe related to terrorism. For instance, when Pakistani-linked terrorists hit India, we say “Well, that’s because of Kashmir.” When Palestinians blow themselves up at Israeli checkpoints, we say, “Well, that’s because of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and long standing historical grievances etc.” When North Irish Catholics bombed London, we’d say, “Well, that’s because of Britain’s support of the Protestants in Northern Ireland.” But when we view terrorist threats against the United States, we have a different perspective. Under Bush, this was neatly summed up in, “That’s because they hate our freedom,” or some variation of that line. Obama’s taken the politically safer path of omitting the reasons of why we’re targets for terrorism, or hinting at them, or flipping them around in rhetorical juijitsui. (In his National Security Speech from May 21, Obama stated we’re at war, and therefore we must fight in a way that upholds our most cherished values. Those values aren’t shared by our enemies; the implication that our enemies hate those values, and therefore us. So he closes Gitmo because it’s a “a rallying cry” for our enemies. But he doesn’t extend that logic to the rest of our foreign policy–the fact that sending 17,000 more troops to Muslim lands is an even bigger rallying cry, along with the continued occupation of Iraq.) In other words, even under Obama we don’t look at terrorism rationally, as if there’s a cause and effect, or we do so only in short bursts.

I’m running on here. What I’m getting at is this: what we lack in our mainstream policy debate is a reasonable perspective. It’s still a lot of fearmongering with blinders on. Perhaps we might be able to realize that terrorism is a threat to some degree–but not the civilizational threat we once imagined. And then we can look closely at the real reasons our enemies have for wanting to nuke us in the first place.

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About michaelhastings

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2 Responses to How seriously should we take Al Qaeda's threat to nuke us to hell? (Part II)

  1. libtree09 says:

    I was a boy during the Cuban Missile Crisis and remember the fear in the air, it was real and based on truth. There really were missiles pointed at us and after the crisis passed, guess what, there were still missiles pointed at us. Soviet subs routinely patrolled off our coast. We lived through it and went on our way. Now the right would have us shaking in our boots over the possibility of nukes getting in the wrong hands. Believe me this has been a problem and fear since the 1960’s. The fall of the Soviet Union brought new fears. Would Iran strike Israel with nuclear weapons? Would they pass them out like so much candy to extremists?
    I doubt very much that Iran has a death wish nor does Pakistan who were and may still be in bed with the very people who hit us. Lets get real people.

    The hysterical fear mongering from the right, for me, just seems silly. Am I to believe that hordes of Muslims are going to invade and start throwing Burkas at women as Ann Coulter implies? Yes 9/11 was terrible and our country is going to have to live with terrorism just as countries in Europe have for generations. To believe any other country or band of hoodlums could truly over take this country is nonsense just as it was with the domino theory of the cold war. Good god every civilian is armed to the teeth. Fighting proxy wars leads only to death and a burden for the taxpayer. The way to defeat terrorism is to not give in to fear at all but stand resolute and confident as we have through out our history.

  2. Michael Peck says:

    The problem with this argument is that it assumes that external factors are driving Muslim fundamentalism. Al Qaeda’s real goal is overthrowing the existing Arab regimes so they can return to some romanticized caliphate that never really existed. They see the U.S. as an enemy because they believe we prop up those regimes. After 9/11, didn’t Bin Laden promise not to attack if we withdrew from the Middle East?

    By the way, when Bin Laden suddenly made “liberating” Palestine a rallying cry, Palestinians pointed out that he had never even heard of Palestine until after 9/11.

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