Interesting article on the confusion concerning the numbers of al-Qaeda terrorists around the world, brought to us by Spiked.

It doesn’t seem it is possible to talk about al-Qaeda without bringing up a question that just puzzles me. For a terrorist group with supposedly well-established political aims and members all over the world, doesn’t al-Qaeda seem far more murderous than strategic? In other words, do they really have a plan of how any of their horrific acts are going to accomplish what they say they want? For instance:

  • How do they plan to bring down the House of Saud without directly attacking it, either politically (through assassination or open rebellion) or economically (destroying the oil infrastructure)? Even with car bombings, you hear very little about the Saudi populace being panicked or resentful of their leaders (probably because recent bombings seem aimed towards foreigners). Is there some kind of deal with the Saudi government, or is al-Qaeda actually that weak inside Saudi Arabia right now?
  • Aside from assaulting civilians, transportation systems, and global symbols in big attacks, I wonder why al-Qaeda hasn’t started attacking the West in “smaller” ways. While the world has changed for a lot of Americans, most don’t think about terrorism in their daily lives, as opposed to Israelis, who suffer through it every day. Could it be that even in an open country, al-Qaeda’s assets are too limited to carry out a continual war of terror, or is it primarily due to the preference of the organization’s top personalities?

Obviously, al-Qaeda has had a huge impact on millions of people, and a highly personal impact on hundreds of thousands. However, we continue to talk about the organization using metaphors of multi-national corporation, apocalyptic cult, Islamic revolutionaries, or SPECTRE-like entity, but I wonder whether those fit what al-Qaeda actually does. It’s worth some more thought.