My first take on this debate is that the folks arguing that AQ is stronger confuse opportunity with strength. Yes, there are all kinds of events/processes/dynamics that are opening the window for AQ--more opportunity:
- 9/11 fatigue--countries and populations are tired of being alert and spending heaps of resources and energy on fighting terrorism. Much of this is actually quite appropriate as the over-reactions have probably been less than helpful.
- Arab Spring and other dynamics have reduced state capacity to fight terrorism. Feeble democracies may not be energetic or competent when it comes to chasing terrorism, when compared to the autocracies that they replaced. And autocracies focused on political opposition may take their eyes off of the terrorism effort. Of course, weak democracies may cause fewer folks to seek extremist solutions like joining terrorist groups that promise to kill their new adherents via suicide terrorism.
- The fiscal crises and Great Recession mean that the advanced democracies have less money to dedicate to the CT battle. On the other hand, with fiscal restraints, perhaps less money will be wasted? Sorry, forget my foolish optimism.
- Pre-9/11 AQ had a very useful base in Afghanistan and had cells in Germany and elsewhere that were quite useful, as we realized during the 9/11 investigation.
- Somalia now vs Somalia 1998? Pretty much the same in terms of haven for terrorists, with more US drones/SOF attacks now.
- Antagonized Muslim world for past ten years with realization that AQ kills more Muslims than anyone else.
- Democratic alternative seems to work, at least thus far in North Africa.
- Bin Laden is still dead as are most folks who have been appointed #3 in AQ. Lots of lost principals and agents, which means less preferred folks are now in key spots. If they had been preferred, many of them would have had top spots before. This does not bode well for command and control.
- a decade of antagonizing Muslim world, death of leader and 47 #3's, more unity in anti-AQ fight, lost base in A-stan hurts 1/2