Time magazine published an article on how Al-Qaeda had failed to cause chaos and infamy after 9/11. It is an excellent article, and I will paraphrase/reproduce it here:
“The 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington — like those that preceded it in East Africa in 1998 and those that followed in London, Madrid, Bali and other places — were tactical successes, in that they managed to kill hundreds of innocents, grab the world’s headlines and briefly dominate the nightmares of Western policy makers.” It was a flawed ‘pursuit of politics by other means’ as Clausewitz wrote two centuries earlier, and in this aspect it failed miserably.
Eight years on, “Bin Laden’s strategy to launch a global Islamist revolution aimed at ending U.S. influence in Muslim countries, overthrowing regimes there allied with Washington, and putting al-Qaeda at the head of a global Islamist insurgency whose objective was to restore the rule of the Islamic Caliphate that had once ruled territory stretching from Moorish Spain through much of Asia” remains an impossible dream.
The flaw was from the start–so repulsive was the mass murder of innocents to ordinary Muslims that most refused to celebrate the attacks, as Bin Laden had hoped they might. By invading Iraq, the Bush Administration did a far more effective job than Bin Laden of weakening U.S. influence in the Muslim world. Yet, even in Iraq, al-Qaeda’s effort to gain control of the resistance failed because its ideology and tactics were so loathsome even to the bulk of the young Sunni insurgents fighting the Americans. In Afghanistan, Bin Laden’s erstwhile cronies, the Taliban, now exists entirely independently of Bin Laden.
Today, of course, al-Qaeda is believed to comprise a couple of hundred desperate men, their core leaders hiding out in Pakistan’s tribal wilds and under constant threat of attack by ever-present U.S. drone aircraft, their vituperative reactions reduced from explosions to videos from its hideouts, many of them directed at the likes of Iran and Hamas. Indeed, their place in Western nightmares and security assessments long-since usurped by such longtime rivals as Iran, Hizballah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. This year’s official threat assessment by the U.S. Directorate of National Intelligence cited the primary security challenge facing the U.S. as the global economic downturn.
Bin Laden imagined that 9/11 would anoint him the head of a resurgent Caliphate in the making, but instead it has reduced him, and his movement, to a life of duck-and-cover in Pakistan’s wild frontier — and a political address otherwise known as oblivion. History marches on without them.