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Between the Lines

June 25, 2004

Al-Qaida: who and what it is

Foreign Policy has an excellent background piece on Al-Qaida – what it is and is not, the relative importance (or lack of it) of Osama bin Laden and whether we're making any headway in containing the "lunatic fringe" Islamist mayhem it advocates (link via The Belgravia Dispatch).

Author Jason Burke, chief reporter for The Observer (London) poses a number of assertions and gives clear and illuminating replies. For example:

Al Qaeda Is a Global Terrorist Organization

No. It is less an organization than an ideology. … Today, the structure that was built in Afghanistan has been destroyed, and bin Laden and his associates have scattered or been arrested or killed. There is no longer a central hub for Islamic militancy. But the al-Qaida worldview, or 'al Qaidaism,' is growing stronger every day. This radical internationalist ideology—sustained by anti-Western, anti-Zionist, and anti-Semitic rhetoric—has adherents among many individuals and groups, few of whom are currently linked in any substantial way to bin Laden or those around him. They merely follow his precepts, models, and methods. They act in the style of al-Qaida, but they are only part of al Qaida in the very loosest sense. That's why Israeli intelligence services now prefer the term “jihadi international” instead of “al-Qaida.”

And, sadly, this:

The West Is Winning the War on Terror

Unfortunately, no. The military component of the war on terrorism has had some significant success. A high proportion of those who associated with bin Laden between 1996 and 2001 are now either dead or in prison. … However, if countries are to win the war on terror, they must eradicate enemies without creating new ones. … If Western countries are to succeed, they must marry the hard component of military force to the soft component of cultural appeal. … The objective of Western countries is to eliminate the threat of terror, or at least to manage it in a way that does not seriously impinge on the daily lives of its citizens. Bin Laden's aim is to radicalize and mobilize. He is closer to achieving his goals than the West is to deterring him.

You can read it all here.

Posted by tbrown at 12:21 PM


As the vice president says …

Poor Dick Cheney seems to be getting a bit thin-skinned these days. The Washington Post tells all – and we do mean all – in today's editions (free registration may be required).

Posted by tbrown at 12:19 PM


Trickle-down taxation

Tax cuts, unaccompanied by spending cuts, are really tax shifts, as economist and blogger Brad DeLong reminds us. And in the case of President Bush's tax cuts, they're huge shifts of taxation from those who can afford to pay taxes to those less able to do so.

There's a new study by the Tax Policy Center (funded by the Urban League and the Brookings Institution) which DeLong links to, that attempts to quantify these effects. From a summary of the study:

"We consider two scenarios: one in which each household pays an equal dollar amount to finance the tax cuts and one where each household pays the same share of income. In both cases, more than three-quarters of households end up worse off if the tax cuts are made permanent and financed. In addition, there are large aggregate transfers from the majority of low- and middle-income households to an affluent minority. These results show that, far from simply 'giving people their money back,' making the tax cuts permanent would impose significant losses on tens of millions of American households."

If Americans really do vote on pocketbook issues, this one should be high on their list in November.

Posted by tbrown at 12:18 PM




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