The new Al Qaeda: causes and consequences
According to this AP article, terrorism experts have declared that the old Al Qaeda is morphing into a new entity, one that is less centralized and relies on homegrown malcontents:
These experts, who include a pioneer in personality profiling, say al-Qaida, always loosely knit, is mutating into satellites that attract local operatives bound by disenchantment with the Western societies in which they grew up. It is no longer a hierarchy with Osama bin Laden calling the shots, they say.
"Al-Qaida version 1.0 is functionally dead," said Jerrold Post, a founding director of the CIA's Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior. "Al-Qaida version 2.0 is almost more an ideology. ... It's an adaptive organization responding to a crisis."...
With its founding fathers in hiding, and dozens of key operatives under watch, al-Qaida has changed. No longer considered capable of large transnational attacks, it is taking advantage of people who don't have to cross borders, receive cash from abroad or engage in other international transactions that might alert authorities, said Brian Jenkins, a senior adviser to the president of the Rand Corp.
"We are now dealing with many little al-Qaidas with the potential of neighborhood al-Qaidas," Jenkins said. "They may not be able to carry out specialized operations ... but they can still operate at a lethal level."...
Somehow the image of the broomsticks in "Fantasia" comes to mind.
But here is the part that really caught my eye:
The new al-Qaida is finding fertile ground for recruits, particularly among the children of Europe's immigrants, Post said.
"Diaspora communities are the main resources for this global jihad," Post told The Associated Press. "(Their families) left for a better life, but they really have not been able to fully integrate with the recipient societies that they have immigrated to."
Unlike the United States, where immigrants usually come to stay, many of Europe's Muslims came to make money, then return home, said Olivier Roy, the French author of "Globalized Islam." Because of this and other factors, it has taken them longer to assimilate — adding to their sense of alienation.
"The second generation in America has been taken into the American mainstream, while in Europe there is a tendency to lag behind in social mobility," Roy said.
So, the US is doing something right compared to Europe? The promise of America is not an empty one, after all? Our relative openness and tolerance may mean that we will reap the benefit in practical ways, too, by having a smaller pool of angry Moslem residents and citizens from which the terrorists can draw their new footsoldiers.
This is not to say that it can't happen here. Of course it can; that much is obvious. But this news still seems to be a marginally encouraging sign in terms of the US, and an extremely discouraging and troubling one in terms of Europe.
A personal note: I traveled to England for the first time in 1978. I was looking forward to it, and mostly it was a great trip. But over and over while I was there I noticed a level of racial and ethnic anger that was extraordinary.
Up until that time, I had lived almost all of my life in large cities that were racially and ethnically mixed--mostly New York, but with lengthy stints in Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago. But never in all those years had I seen anything remotely approaching the ethnic strife I noticed almost immediately during my English stay. Almost every day I was there I witnessed some racially charged incident/altercation--on the streets, in shops, and particularly on the underground. A great deal of screaming, carrying on, and just plain rudeness was glimpsed almost every time I went out, and these didn't seem to be minor incidents, either.
The level of anger felt almost dangerously high. It was a tremendous contrast to the image I had held of England prior to my visit, and I didn't know what to make of it at the time. But I noted it. In retrospect, I think it was the result of this relative lack of assimilation and opportunity, both in England and elsewhere in Europe (I don't have any personal experience of what it's been like there more recently, since I haven't been back to England since).
So, perhaps (note my caution) this explains at least part of the reason that the US has not experienced a major terror attack since 9/11. If Al Qaeda is no longer a hierarchical global organization intent on spectacular attacks, and Europe is now the place where members are best recruited, and the international cooperation of authorities to curb the free international movement of terrorist suspects has improved to the point where such mobility is impeded--well then, it would stand to reason attacks in Europe would be easier at the moment than attacks here.
Note also that, in the quotes I cited, terrorism expert Jerrold Post mentions that the families of these new recruits left their original countries "for a better life." That certainly is true economically speaking. But it's clear from the next paragraph, which states they come to make money and then go home, that part of the assimilation problem is that the immigrants in question are not looking to assimilate, or even to stay for long. They are looking to get what they can, keep their culture and belief system intact, and then leave with their earnings and return to their original countries.
People who emigrate with that sort of attitude assimilate only in spite of themselves, not because they are trying to. Of course, if their children are well integrated into the mainstream of society, it's the children who usually end up assimilating, whether the parents like it or not. But in this case, sometimes it's the children who are failing to assimilate and are becoming the new "neighborhood" Al Qaeda members.
One more thing: Post is quoted as saying, "Diaspora communities are the main resources for this global jihad." An ironic, although common, use of the word "diaspora;" here is the actual derivation and definition of the term.