Commentary Magazine


Al-Qaeda’s Beating the U.S. to the Arab Spring

Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s leader, has released a new video. In it, Zawahiri covers the usual ground about destroying America, the “criminal country which has spread corruption in the world.” But he also offers some tactical analysis regarding the Arab Spring: “In Tunisia and Egypt, opportunities for preaching have been opened and only God knows until when these opportunities will last,” he said. “Therefore, the Muslims and the mujahedeen should benefit and take advantage of them to reveal the truth.”

In exploiting the Arab Spring, Zawahiri is far ahead of the thinking of our own leaders. While Barack Obama is content to say things like “The future of Egypt will be determined by its people” and hope for the best, our enemies recognize an urgent opportunity in these popular revolts. Arab autocracy kept the same lid on both jihadist and democratic aspirations, but only proponents of the former are capitalizing on their new circumstances. Coercive Gulf money is pouring into Egypt by the billions; regional Islamists, too, are heading in to stake a claim in the country’s future; and, yet, Obama clings to the doctrine of American Butt-Outism. The war on terror remains fundamentally a battle of ideas. And in that battle, as in our actual fights, only our side has determined that it’s time to stop.