Today, Anwar al-Awlaki met his end, thanks to a well-directed Hellfire missile fired from a CIA drone in Yemen.  I'm sure his parents will miss him, but probably not very many outside of the ever-dwindling terrorist community.  This follows the termination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan this May.

 

By chance, on Wednesday I was teaching my undergraduate American Foreign Policy class at La Roche College, when a student asked me a very good question: When do you think that the Global War on Terror is going to end?  Even a day before al-Awlaki's death, I had to answer that it very well could be in the process of winding down now.  Not to be too overconfident of either the outcome or the pace of the conflict's resolution, but I believe that when history looks back, say fifty or a hundred years from now, it will be apparent that the tide was already turning as early as 2009.

 

But 2010 and 2011 things were not going well for al Qaeda.  The London terrorist attacks of 2005 were fading in the past, and in fact the movement had made a major, successful attack on the West in years.  Lone wolves were a problem, as in the Fort Hood atrocity, but organized, prepared, group attacks far less so.  Then came a series of major losses, with bin Laden and al-Awlaki at the top of the list.

 

Another blow came from within the Arab world itself, with the revolutions of the last year.  The successful ones in Egypt, Tunisia, and most recently Libya, were more about local corruption and lack of government legitimacy than a determination to install Islamist regimes in place of existing dictators.  Thus when Arab peoples took it upon themselves to fight for political change, the Islamist vision of Osama bin Laden was not part of the agenda.

 

I do not see the end as just around the corner; more probably it is years away.  But the end of the Global War on Terror could be closer than its beginning.

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Comment by Michael "Sudsy" Sutherland on October 4, 2011 at 12:34am
The optimist in me hopes you are right.  The realist sees a longer, bitter, struggle still ahead with the 'Arab Spring' still in its early stages.  We've yet see if Egypt and other nations avoid the pitfalls of what occurred in Iran during the 1970's...  But if the intensity of the conflict reveals anything (or more specifically the lack of news that means that people aren't dying as often...) I think we certainly are over the 'hump' when it comes to Al-Qaeda.  There is little that the US military can do for either Afghanistan or Iraq (beyond basic security and training of their military forces); both are at the point in which the their local leaders can do more for their people, and if any involvement happens outside the borders it'll be the diplomats.
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on October 1, 2011 at 11:04pm

Here's some commentary from the National Post in Canada, one of my favorite news sources:

 

With the death of Awlaki, Al-Qaeda nears its tipping point

Comment by Jim Werbaneth on October 1, 2011 at 9:54am

I'll have to read that once I get down through the big pile of books on my "must read" list.  On that though, I suspect that Friedman might have a point there.  After all, the London bombings were in 2005 and the Madrid train bombings in 2004.  Most everything that al Qaeda has tried since them against the United States, Europe and Australia has been a failure.

Comment by Chris Gammon on October 1, 2011 at 2:28am
According to George Friedman in "The Next 100 years: A Forecast for the 21st Century", we beat them long ago, and the rest is just fiddling around.

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