Saturday, July 23, 2005

Terrorism in Egypt

My condolences go out to the victims of today's terrorist bombing assault in Egypt, and their families. For news and analysis of the attacks, please visit the Counterrorism Blog, and read this excellent post from Dan Darling at The Fourth Rail. While not part of a single plan, it is clear that the jihadists behind the Sharm-el-Sheikh atrocities were, at least in part, trying to capitalize on the momentum resulting from the July 7th London bombings.

The Middle East is in the early stages of a long and wrenching process of democratic change. It will be neither quick nor easy, but its outlines are clearly visible. The spectre of democracy is al Qaeda's worst nightmare. Democracy is the antithesis of the totalitarian vision of radical Islamism, and it represents our most potent weapon in the ideological struggle for the future of the Muslim world.

The only way the al Qaeda movement can try to stop the move towards democracy in the Middle East is to draw attention back upon itself and its agenda by committing acts of terrorism that dominate the headlines. Just as the 9/11 atrocities pushed the radical Islamist vision to the forefront and served as a tool for recruiting and proselytizing, so the jihadists hope that these additional bombings will serve to persuade Muslims to forget about democracy and pursue jihad against "infidels" and "apostates".

Unfortunately for the terrorists, this strategy is unlikely to work. Terrorism experts like Evan Kohlmann may well be right when they state that the jihadist movement has been able to use the Iraq War as a recruiting tool. Yet the overall result of al Qaeda's 18 month campaign of terror of Iraq has been to reduce popular support in the Muslim world for both Osama bin Laden and the concept of suicide bombing. At the same time, support for the idea of democracy among Muslims is almost overwhelming.

Al Qaeda has failed to derail the process of political change even in Iraq. It is unlikely that they can stop democratic reform from continuing elsewhere in the Middle East. As I've written before, the jihadists can murder and destroy with terrifying effectiveness, but they have no compelling vision to match that offered by democracy. That will be their ultimate downfall.


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