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The Al Qaeda Most Americans Know Is Basically a Myth at This Point

The world recently got a good taste of how al Qaeda operatives have a lot in common these days with cubicle-dwelling bureaucrats.

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Droukdel’s memo is an amazing little document, but not in the way AP is making it out to be. They’re pretending it’s as if we got a real secret document from a real opposing power, like the USSR back in the day. It’s nothing like that. Al Qaeda, if it exists at all, is so totally penetrated by now that nothing it does is secret, except from us nobodies in the general population. The people who count in DC, Brussels, Moscow and Beijing get copies of Al Qaeda memos before the troops do. And as for the “strategy” they’re supposed to reveal—there’s more strategy in a Hail Mary pass with a few seconds on the clock.

What the memo really shows is how damn hard it is to play the middle-management compromiser, the squeamish marketing specialist, in an organization that’s defined by going strictly by the Book. In that way it’s got the basis for a great sitcom, with Droukdel as the harassed boss trying to keep a bunch of nutty subordinates in order long enough to get through the day. It’s a hopeless stance he’s taking, and a hilarious one: “Shariah yes, but gradual Shariah, just a little Shariah at a time...” It doesn’t work that way, and you can’t blame the people who rolled into town for being a little severe with the populace, cutting off a few hands or whipping a few unveiled females. They’ve seen most of the people they knew killed off for Jihad, and now this Ace Rothstein of the Jihad is telling them, like de Niro told Pesci, to go easy to “let the bullshit blow over for a while.” And there’s nothing in the Book that allows for that.

It’s an amazing moment in history we’re living in, and even if my life personally isn’t much, I’m glad to be in it. Just imagine, a figurehead middle-management Jihadi executive issuing whiny memos about marketing the Holy War to a mixed bag of Salafist scalawags in Timbuktu, mixing up Mao’s adages about winning the populace with the Quran and focus-group jargon. I just hope Droukdel wasn’t a casualty of the withdrawal, taken out by a French air strike somewhere north of Kidal.

There’ll always be plenty of jihadis and middle managers, but comic talent like his doesn’t come along every day.

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