The Egyptian President has asked President Obama for the release of the Blind Sheik, in prison since his conviction in the first World Trade Center bombing. The Blind Sheik is a rampant, radicalized, Salafist Muslim Cleric. He is a respected, revered leader of the ‘blow it up’ crowd; after all he was the first to go after the towers. I remain unaware of a “hell no” Presidential response. There are messages everywhere, very few of them comforting! President Obama’s most recent reply was to the Algerian situation, he said; In the coming days, we will remain in close touch with the government of Algeria to gain a fuller understanding of what took place so that we can work together to prevent tragedies like this in the future.” That should strike fear in the hearts of Jihads. This is a clear message of equivocation.
The request from President Morsi was a message as well, understood nearly everywhere, save the United States. It was not a specific message, it was a “hey, someone, anyone; can I get some help here; a little violence maybe, perhaps a few hostages; Buehler ….. Buehler, anyone?” Come on guys, nothing like a few hostages to create a little pressure and put us in the news”.
Presto! Algeria is now on the hot map. First, the attackers said it was about French involvement in Mali, impossible to put that operation together as quickly as that. No, no, now it’s about the Blind Sheik, we want the Blind Sheik! What makes them think this is possible? The answer is simple, messages. When our Egyptian Embassy was under attack, we apologized for a video. When the Benghazi Consulate was attacked, nothing happened; the only suspect in those murders was released this week. Egyptian Christians are under relentless attack, no firm response from President Morsi and no condemnation from the White House. In response to massive Syrian bloodshed nothing beyond standard politically correct rhetoric. Rockets into Israel; issue warnings of caution to the Israelis. The message to Jihadists is clear from their point of view. The message to bandits using Jihadism as a cover is the same. Don’t worry, be happy!
There are other messages as well. Algeria went operational with no communication to allies and friends. Offers of help were rejected. That, as well, is a message; “stay the Hell out, you’re more trouble than you’re worth, we’ll deal with it”. “We may not deal with it well but that’s not your problem!” “We don’t want your help; we don’t want your advice and most of all we don’t want your soldiers on our soil; bad timing, no good can come of it!” Western influence absent the courage to attack those that attack you is no influence at all.
It is true that a U.S. or Western response will motivate Jihadists, especially true when there is no strong message followed by retaliatory action. However, the absence of response also generates consequences. The simple fact is that Jihadists are unafraid of retaliation.
We have, to appearances, chosen to view global Jihadism through a prism of fear, fear that action will motivate yet more Jihadism; it was the fundamental argument against Gitmo; “close it down or we’ll get more”. Well, we have gotten more; Gitmo has nothing to do with it. If it wasn’t Gitmo it surly would have been something else. After all, we’ll always have Israel, Christianity and Western values; that’s plenty.
The arc of North Africa from Mali in the West, across the Mediterranean costal countries to Kenya in the East faces major movements supported by Jihadist Ideology. It’s not just the Middle East anymore! Many of these countries are relatively new energy producers. Amidst the violence and incident specific analysis it has always been a part of the al Qaeda strategy to cripple the West economically, perhaps the fledgling energy industry in these countries has something to do with it.
In play as well and fundamental to what we will see in the short term is the ever growing number of Islamist dominated potential state sponsors of Islamist mischief: Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia, Somalia and Sudan. Coming soon to a Jihadist near you: Tunisia, Libya, and Syria and, eventually, Jordan.
Failing to understand the message that would be sent by returning the Blind Sheik is ignorance of the first degree. Failing to understand President Morsi’s unrepentant request for the Blind Sheik is equally so.