Since bin Laden declared war against the United States in 1996, al-Qaeda's main goals have included the destruction of the Arab world's tyranniesThe falls of these dictators, particularly in Egypt "amounts to an enormous strategic step forward for al-Qaeda," that comes with "virtually no investment of manpower or money by the terrorist network." As I've pointed out myself, the idea that these tyrannies are going to be replaced by liberal democracies is based primarily on wishful thinking.
the role of Islamist groups will become larger - and over time perhaps dominant - if only because the populations in play are almost entirely Muslim and because Islamist groups have the most effective nationwide infrastructures to replace the old guard. ... it will be easier for media-savvy Islamist groups - whether peaceful or militant - to proselytize, publish and foment without immediate threat of arrest and incarceration. ...Scheuer also notes that large numbers of militant Islamists have now been released from prison.
In Egypt alone, the news media are reporting that at least 17,000 prisoners have been freed. Many of those released are not thieves and murderers, but Islamist firebrands that the regimes had jailed to protect their internal security ... al-Qaeda and like-minded groups are now being replenished by a steady flow of pious, veteran mujaheddin, each of whom will never forget that U.S. and other Western funds helped keep them jailed by Arab tyrants.Scheuer's argument is much more convincing and grounded in reality than the naivete and wishful thinking that prevails across most of the political spectrum in the West. I largely agree with him particularly in the case of Egypt. He is correct that these tyrants were doing much of our dirty work for us, killing and imprisoning radical Islamists while keeing a lid tamped down on broad-based popular Islamism. Where his argument is weakest, in my opinion, is that he generalizes across multiple countries. Egypt, Libya and Tunisia are not the same, and sharply different conditions prevail. Ultimately though, his analysis is just another prediction that we will have to wait on events to confirm or falsify. Hopefully he's wrong. But I fear he will be more accurate than not.