This article was published in Q-News April 2004 [England], The Daily Times [Pakistan] April 14, 2004, The Globalist, Muslim Observer and Minaret [USA], CBC Canada.
Most recently we have seen two examples of Al Qaeda’s political acumen. Their attack in Spain was so well timed that it swung the elections in favor of the anti-war socialist party.
The second instance of Al Qaeda’s political smarts is the recent incessant attacks against soft targets in Iraq and on American troops to underscore the absence of security and stability in Iraq. It probably prevented President George W Bush from having another ‘top gun’ electoral campaign moment on the anniversary of the Iraq invasion.
These attacks have sent the message to the world that America’s invasion of Iraq has increased terrorism not decreased it. Instead of making the world a safer place, America has now endangered its allies as the attacks on Spain and Turkey suggest.
Al Qaeda not only seems to understand the nature of politics and media in democratic societies but also knows how to work the system to gain strategic advantages.
It would be naïve to assume that Al Qaeda will not vote in the coming American elections in November 2004. The issue that we must ponder is how it’s going to cast its ballot? To understand how Al Qaeda will vote, we must try to figure out whom it will prefer in the White House, Bush or Kerry?
If John Kerry wins in November he will probably make the following changes in American foreign policy:
1. He will roll back American unilateralism and seek more international cooperation from Europe, South Asia, Middle East and the UN. Instead of a coalition of the coerced, Kerry will seek a truly international coalition. Coalitions built through a multilateral process will present fewer fissures in the anti-terror campaign for Al Qaeda to exploit.
2. Most probably John Kerry will be interested in reducing rather than expanding the scope and objectives of counter-terrorism. Neocon goals such as reshaping the Middle East, reforming Islam, reconstituting the United States defense doctrines and redefining old Europe, will be abandoned and under Kerry the US will concentrate more on eliminating Al Qaeda and associates than anything else.
3. Much of soft anti-Americanism worldwide is a result of anti-Bushism. Regardless of what Americans think, most of the world finds President Bush uncouth, obnoxious, arrogant, crude and a bully. His defeat itself will reduce anti-Americanism globally and will increase American prospects for victory in this war on terror.
Will Al Qaeda be happy with these developments? I doubt it. Anti-Bushism has helped them divide the world and the growing anger in the Muslim world as a result of George Bush’s policies has helped them gain recruits, clones and support. If Bush loses in November they will lose an important asset. Al Qaeda will become the sole target of US energies and surely that must be a disturbing thought to even those who relish the idea of dying while fighting America.
If George W Bush wins in spite of a terrible economy and millions of job losses:
1. He might interpret the victory as an endorsement of his anti-terror strategy and probably continue to expand the scope and objectives of his war on terror. Perhaps regime changes in Iran, Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia may be back on the ‘to do’ list. It is possible that Spain may also figure on the list of regime changes.
2. It is also possible that many European and Middle Eastern states may stop cooperating with the US. Already many nations resent President Bush’s policies and style, they may begin to actively oppose his global agenda. The easiest way to do so is to withdraw from the coalition and call for more UN participation. We might see more and more nations following Spain’s example and disengaging from the American bandwagon.
All of the above will help Al Qaeda pursue its strategic goals: undermine the West, hurt Americans and American interests, destabilize politics and economies in South Asia and the Middle East and cement the growing cleavages between the US and Europe and the US and the Muslim World.
It is in Al Qaeda’s interest that President Bush stays in the White House. Thus at the moment they are anti-American but Pro-Bush. Come November they will vote for Bush. How you may ask?
Fear is the key. If the American voters feel reasonably secure on the terrorism issue then they will focus on economy, unemployment and on cultural issues such as the gay marriage controversy.
If at the time of the elections the priorities of American voters are:
(1) Economy, (2) Culture, and then (3) Security, or
(1)Economy, (2) Security and (3) Culture, John Kerry will probably win.
However if by November the voter is either thinking:
(1) Security, (2) Culture and then (3) Economy, Bush will win with a landslide and if the voter is thinking:
(1) Security, (2) Economy and (3) Culture, Bush may win narrowly.
Al Qaeda can make security a more pressing issue than economy by increasing their activities and even by targeting America again. Karl Rove, the president’s political guru will probably work to ensure that culture continues to figure in the American voter’s mind.
But if Bin Laden and Al Zawahiri are both arrested/killed soon, then security will be out of the reckoning and Kerry will win unless new jobs are created in hurry.
As we approach November, Bin Laden and his associates will increase the frequency and intensity of their attacks to ensure that George W Bush Wins. Al Qaeda will be determined to make security a bigger issue than economy so the worse the economy gets the worse terrorism we are likely to see.