The Decline of Al Qaeda
January 08, 2010

Peter Beinart has a terrific column on how and why al Qaeda has gotten so much less dangerous: Once upon a time, al-Qaeda's modus operandi was to launch multiple, simultaneous attacks. That way, even if one attack failed, the entire operation wouldn't. On 9/11, the network deployed 19 hijackers on four planes; on 12/25, by contrast, it managed only one. Second, the underwear attack failed because Abdulmutallab wasn't particularly well trained. The 19 Sept.

Seven Egyptian Christians Murdered Outside a Church After Midnight Mass for Coptic Christmas. Who Done It? Maybe a Few Isolated Extremists.
January 07, 2010

Actually, I don't think we are going to hear the phrase "isolated extremist" again, at least not from the president. In fact, the more we hear from him from now on, the more entangled and united the terrorist international is likely to appear. The shock of Detroit has probably been most traumatic for Obama himself. He really did believe that the world of Islam was a civilized order, and he simply can't believe it now. Or can he? But the Copts won't get much attention. After all, they are Christians.

TNR on Yemen
January 04, 2010

What do you need to know about Yemen? The New Republic has been covering the country for years—from the civil war that made it what it is today to its current incarnation as a hotbed for Al Qaeda. Read below for some of our best pieces: "Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula: A Primer," by Michelle Shephard (1/1/2010) What you need to know about the organization that gave us the Christmas bomber.   "The Next Afghanistan?" by Bay Fang (5/6/2009) Pirates, Al Qaeda, unruly sheikhs. … Yemen has it all. "Bad Fences," by John R.

Whack A Mole, al Qaeda Edition
January 04, 2010

Good WSJ story on how al Qaeda operatives migrate away from U.S. military pressure, always finding the next safe haven: U.S. and allied-government officials have claimed significant progress against al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq recently.

The President's Delusions About Yemen. What The Man Probably Doesn't Know.
January 03, 2010

Yes, I suppose we are in no position to abandon Yemen, although, frankly, I hardly knew we were really there. Well, we are, as I pointed out in my Abdulmutallab posting on New Year's Day. But imagine how Senators Levin and Leahy would have reacted if poor George Bush had stumbled into the sands of "the empty quarter" without so much as advice, let alone consent. Maybe they were informed. But who knows whether, like the memory of Madame Speaker, theirs are also a bit confused. (By the way, among the first to describe one of the world's largest sand deserts was H. St.

The President Finally Uses the Word "Terror." So Abdulmutallab Is No Longer an "Isolated Extremist." He Is a Muslim Terrorist.
January 03, 2010

President Obama used the terms "terrorism" and "terrorist" six times in his weekly address to the nation. I don't know how long it has actually been since he’s uttered those words. But my memory is that it's been a very long time. By using them, however, he was able to make, as it were, structural corrections, talking about Al Qaeda as "a network of violence and hatred" strung out "from East Africa to Southeast Asia, from Europe to the Persian Gulf." I don't know why he didn't include America in this litany.

No One Yet Has Said He's A Nutcake. But What Does "Isolated Extremist" Really Mean?
January 01, 2010

Joe Klein, who spent a lot of print trying more or less to exonerate Dr. Major Nidal Malik Hasan by dint of his being a nutcase, has been curiously silent about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. In fact, there's been a certain shyness among the whole left-wing blogosphere (and among Democrats, generally) about the skivvies terrorist. There is no place for these journalists to hide and no logic, however dubious, with which they can transfer the guilt to us.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula: A Primer
January 01, 2010

On a February morning in 2006, as Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, was jolted awake by the calls to prayer from the city’s mosques, 23 Yemeni prisoners crawled their way to freedom. They had spent weeks patiently digging a 140-foot tunnel that would extend from their basement prison cell to a nearby mosque. Among the escapees were Jamal al-Badawi, the alleged mastermind of the 2000 USS Cole bombing that killed 17 American sailors, and Jaber al-Banna, a Yemeni with U.S.

"We Have Forged a New Beginning Between America and the Muslim World." From Obama's Mouth to God's Ears.
December 05, 2009

I know this is the president's ambition. But the thought that he has already forged it is pretension of the highest order. In fact, it can be his ambition only if he believes the task is, in some actual sense, easy and actually doable. He capsulizes this in his address at West Point thus: "a new beginning ... that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity." Yes, indeed, yes, we can. I don't know about you.

The Next Afghanistan?
May 06, 2009

I am sweating through my abaya as I drive to meet the sheik. It is a hot afternoon in Sana'a, and the sun beats down through an arid blue sky. Wispy pink and blue plastic bags that earlier held an afternoon's worth of the narcotic qat leaf float over the congested streets like kites, and children run up to cars paused at intersections, hawking everything from full flatware sets to the tiny perfume samples one might rip from an ad in a fashion magazine. The university I'm heading for sits on a hillside on the outskirts of town, on land donated by the government in the 1990s.