The Western media has been consumed with the failed attempt by Farouk Abdulmutallab to detonate chemical explosives on a Northwestern flight to Detroit on Christmas. Who is he? What is his connection to Yemen? What will he mean for terrorism? What will he mean for airport security? Amid all the discussion over Abdulmutallab's act, Foreign Policy's ever-skeptical Marc Lynch notices who's not discussing the attack: Arabs. On his daily scour of Arab media, he finds that barely anyone cares about the foiled attack on Americans.
The Arab media's indifference to the story speaks to a vitally important trend. Al-Qaeda's attempted acts of terrorism simply no longer carry the kind of persuasive political force with mass Arab or Muslim publics which they may have commanded in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Even as the microscopically small radicalized and mobilized base continues to plot and even to thrive in its isolated pockets, it has largely lost its ability to break out into mainstream public appeal. I doubt this would have been any different even had the plot been successful -- more attention and coverage, to be sure, but not sympathy or translation into political support. It is just too far gone to resonate with Arab or Muslim publics at this point.
While everyone -- including us -- was focusing on the details of the case, Lynch took a step to survey what no one else thought to look at: how the attack fits within the "war on terror" and the once deep cultural antagonism between the West and Middle East. If he's right that Arabs don't care about possibly-al-Qaeda-linked terrorism against the United States, then popular Arabic passion for war on the west have dimmed considerably.
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