Five Best Tuesday Columns

On the future of al Qaeda, Pakistan and terrorism, and the benefits of school vouchers

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Ali Soufan on Why This Matters to Al Qaeda  "To the Qaeda members I interrogated at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere in the aftermath of 9/11," writes former FBI Special Agent Ali Soufan, "Osama bin Laden was never just the founder and leader of the group, but also an idea. He embodied the belief that their version of Islam was correct, that terrorism was the right weapon, and that they would ultimately be victorious." But not only that, Soufan explains at The New York Times: he was "also was central to the group's fund-raising and recruiting success. Without him, al Qaeda will find itself short on cash--and members." Soufan predicts that the fault line between Egyptian and Gulf Arab al Qaeda members will grow and cause disorganization if an Egyptian takes over. Still, he warns, "They will try to carry out operations to prove Al Qaeda's continuing relevance. And with al Qaeda on the decline, regional groups that had aligned themselves with the network may return to operating independently, making them harder to monitor and hence deadlier." America's refusal to abandon its values and do right by those killed at the hands of al Qaeda "will bury the Bin Laden idea with him."

Adam Hoschschild Connects World War I and Iraq  In today's Los Angeles Times, Adam Hoschschild, writes that "the eerie thing about studying World War I is the way you can't help but be reminded of today's headlines," arguing the similarities between the way that war and the Iraq war started--the leaders of the U.S. and Austria using an unrelated attack as an excuse to carry out what they'd been plotting all along, and both predicting "a swift victory" without anticipating inevitable setbacks. The death and destruction caused by WWI, Hoschschild argues, was not worth it, and he predicts that we'll feel the same way about Iraq someday. "Today's high-flown war rhetoric naturally cites only the most noble of goals: stopping terrorists, eliminating weapons of mass destruction, spreading democracy and protecting women from the Taliban. But beneath the flowery words, national self-interest is as powerful as it was almost 100 years ago."

Ahmed Rashid on Post-bin Laden Opportunities  The post-9/11 years saw the disorganization of al Qaeda and the changing of bin Laden's role from leader to symbol of the rapidly spreading "idea of death and martyrdom and taking as many unbelievers with you as possible," writes Ahmed Rashid at the Financial Times. Rashid predicts that bin Laden's "legacy will overshadow the Muslim world for a generation," and that his followers "in coming days will carry out revenge attacks around the world." But, he argues, his death also brings opportunities for a new relationship between the West and the Muslim world. A settlement between Israel and the Palestinians must be made, and bin Laden will no longer stand as a barrier between the U.S., Kabul, and the Taliban--once funded by bin Laden. This is an opportunity for Pakistan to reject its recent veering towards extremism. "Extremism's heroes are dead or dying and its ideology bankrupt," he argues. "This is a watershed moment. The question is can the west and the Muslim world grasp it?"

Jason Riley on the Politics of School Vouchers  Jason Riley argues for the benefits of private school vouchers in The Wall Street Journal today. "Mr. Obama says he wants to help all students--not just the lucky few who receive vouchers. But that's an argument for offering more vouchers to those in need, not for reducing school choice," he insists. "Policies ought to be weighed against available alternatives, not some unattainable ideal. The alternative to a voucher for families in D.C. ghettos and elsewhere is too often a substandard public school." He notes new D.C. numbers showing vastly better graduation rates in voucher programs, and adds that voucher programs have proven successful in other places as well. "The reality is that Mr. Obama's opposition to school vouchers has to do with Democratic politics, not the available evidence on whether they improve outcomes for disadvantaged kids," he suggests.

Asif Ali Zardari on Pakistan's Commitment Against Terrorism  Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan, takes to The Washington Post today to express his country's "satisfaction that the source of the greatest evil of the new millenium has been silenced and his victims given justice." He notes the cooperation between Pakistan and the U.S. aided in Sunday night's takedown. Pakistan has suffered greatly at the hands of terrorists. He points out that his wife was one of bin Laden's victims, and denounces theories that Pakistan in any way protected bin Laden and other terrorists and that his country's people and institutions are not united. He vows not to be intimidated by the Taliban's threats against him and his government in the wake of bin Laden's death, and for Pakistan to "become everything that al Qaeda and the Taliban most fear--a vision of modern Islamic future."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.