Egypt & Libya Retrospective: Was it an al Qaeda Attack? Where’s the Arab Spring?

Two looks back this morning –

A year and a half back, I got some awesome hate e-mail based on my comments about the “Revolutions” of the Arab Spring where I questioned the level of democracy that would emerge from the wonderful uprisings taking hold in Egypt and Libya. The Morsi regime in Egypt and the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo have made me look back to what I was writing about with regards to Egypt. (See this post “The Weakness of Twitter Revolts“)

I have lots of questions for the Facebook Revolution this morning: Where are you? I thought this was supposed to be about freedom, democracy, taking steps forward with a country oppressed by a dictator. Instead, the social media wave that supposedly brought the revolution in the beginning may in fact be a barrier to progress for pro-democracy groups. Instead of taking to the streets in mass the way the Muslim Brotherhood has, you’ve retreated to the comfort of your computer hoping to tweet a better future. Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Next Revolution Will Not be Tweeted” argument, shunned in the days of the Arab Spring, is starting to look a lot stronger over time. Overall, I’m still more hopeful for Libya – that fought for and won will be cherished and defended.

As Geoff Porter pointed out in my earlier post this morning, one of the groups potentially responsible for the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi is called “Ansar al Sharia”. Ahh, a familiar name. So was the attack on the U.S. Ambassador an “al Qaeda” attack?

For those that missed the debate a couple months back, I will re-post the question this morning “Who should we call al Qaeda?” (See below) Feel free to cast your vote and you should be able to see the results after you vote. For the summary of the first round of voting see this post and for the resulting discussion just a few weeks back see this post. Here’s the question for those that haven’t seen it several weeks back.

update as of 0900:
I’ve already gotten some confused comments about my stance in the post. My conclusion is this, I’m a fan of the Arab Spring and believe democracy in the Middle East is a good thing. But can the West have the stomach to see it through? Can the U.S. identify and seek its real national security interests in each of the weak democracies while remaining true to its values? I only say this as I believe it will be weak democracies, not failed states, that will present us the most troubling terrorist threats in the near future. Mali, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia will struggle with terrorist groups and unlike in places like Somalia, the U.S. will not have the latitude to directly intervene.

“In the hypothetical scenario described below, would you call the following group “al Qaeda” or an “al Qaeda affiliate”?  A simple yes or no answer.  After you vote, you’ll see the results of everyone that chimed in.
Would you consider the following hypothetical group of armed men to be “al Qaeda?”

  • A group of heavily armed men occupy a remote area in an African/Middle Eastern/South Asian country.
  • 95% or more of the groups’ members are local people from the country where the terror group resides.
  • The group publicly states their intent to institute governance by Sharia law.
  • 2-3% of the group’s members served as foreign fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan after 2001 fighting in coordination with al Qaeda, the Taliban or al Qaeda in Iraq.
  • The group calls itself “Ansar al (fill in the blank)” or “Lashkar e (fill in the blank)” but don’t mention al Qaeda in their name.
  • Some of the groups’ spokesmen, at some point in the past, have publicly praised Osama Bin Laden.
  • It is completely unclear whether any of the group’s members have publicly declared bay’a (allegiance) to Ayman al-Zawahiri.
  • The group records videos of its attacks.  At times, these videos show up on jihadi web forums.  At times, these videos randomly show up on YouTube.
  • The group’s funding streams remain unclear.  News reports of unknown reliability claim the group gets some funding from kidnapping & local extortion and some from Persian Gulf donations.


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