Some quick thoughts on reports Abu Yahya al-Libi has been killed
First, I’ll believe it when al Qaeda acknowledges it.
This of course won’t stop the chest beating celebrating his killing.
And if he has in fact been killed, I wonder if those who think this is a victory (and those supporting the strategy of extrajudicial killings more generally) have given ample thought to the fact that he along with others who have been assassinated were actually a moderating force within a far more virulent current that has taken hold in the milieu. And yes, given his teachings I do note a certain irony in this, but sadly, it’s true.
What is coming next is a generation whose ideological positions are more virulent and who owing to the removal of older figures with clout, are less likely to be amenable to restraining their actions. And contrary to popular belief, actions have been restrained. Attacks have thus far been used strategically rather than indiscriminately. Just take a look at AQ’s history and its documents and this is blatantly clear.
In the years to come, owing to this generation being killed off, this type of restraint will disappear; in fact it is clearly already heading in this direction. A significant part of this change is directly attributable to the counter terrorism strategies being employed today. I’m working on a more detailed, research driven piece on this. But in the meantime, the best way of summing up the consequences of a strategy of killing off leadership instead of using a criminal justice approach lies with what happened in a wildlife sanctuary in South Africa many years ago.
A culling program was implemented to kill off all the older generation elephants owing to overcrowding. Juveniles were spared. However, without the presence of the older elephants they then proceeded to go on rampages, killing other animals and causing such havoc that the rangers thought they’d have to cull them too. Until that is, someone chanced upon the idea of bringing in older elephants from another wildlife park, who ended up bringing the juveniles into line and enforcing discipline, something that had been missing since the cull of the older generation.
Right now you’re probably scoffing at this. Scoff away, because this example has come up time and time again in conversations I’ve had with folks who know this milieu very well because they’ve lived in it. Along with it has been concern expressed for the future, for what will happen when authoritative voices who can restrain the actions of those left and, importantly, those newer folks still seeking to join the cause, no longer exist. When indiscriminate becomes the norm.
So before anyone goes off celebrating another “number” in the death count, it is worthwhile remembering there will be consequences from this short sighted and reactionary path chosen to deal with threat. These consequences will not play out in areas where extrajudicial killings take place, but in indiscriminate attacks in capital cities in the west. I wonder then how those who advocate the current policy plan to deal with this and the implications it will pose for the social contract. But hey, they’re “winning” right????