The U.S. attempt to take out radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen offers a peerless illustration of a zero-sum transaction:
In the first strike, the U.S. fired three rockets at a pickup truck in which Mr. Awlaki and a Saudi national and suspected al Qaeda member were traveling outside the village of Jahwa, located some 20 miles away from the Shebwa provincial capital, said local residents and the Yemeni security official. Those missiles didn’t hit their target.
Two Yemeni brothers, who were known by local residents for giving shelter to al Qaeda militants, rushed to the scene of the attack. Mr. Awlaki switched vehicles with them, leaving the two Yemenis in the pickup. A single drone then hit the pickup truck, killing the Yemenis inside.
Mr. Awlaki escaped in the other vehicle along with the Saudi.
Raw deal for the Yemeni brothers. But in a way it’s a microcosmic example of what support for jihad means. Some charismatic egomaniac pontificates on the evils of the Great Satan, sets some (usually failed) strike in motion against same, and then retires to his mansion while you dodge American bullets. Or in this case, leaves in your car while you fail to dodge American missiles in his. Jihad masterminding has its perks, but jihad servitude is always a bum deal. It only looks deceptively appealing to those who are otherwise consigned to live under the dictator’s boot. Which is why pursuit of an American freedom agenda is a pragmatic, not idealistic, endeavor.