Bahrain ordered a crackdown on protesters, ignoring American exhortations to negotiate with the demonstrators. President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen returned to his country despite President Obama’s demand that he step aside. Egypt’s military rulers rejected U.S. requests to lift a hated emergency law and to free a Jewish-American law student accused of spying. Iraq rebuffed an offer to extend the American troop presence and proclaimed support for Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad. Israel continues to build settlements in the West Bank. “People in the region recognize that we’re not as dominant a power as we thought we were, that we were just as surprised by the Arab Spring as they were … and that we are, if anything, less capable of directing where things go from here than the indigenous peoples and governments,” says Gordon Adams, a foreign-policy professor at American University.
This is a bright side because it undermines al Qaeda's appeal to the Arab masses. Remember that al Qaeda painted us as the ultimate power behind the thrones that oppressed them. Striking us at home on 9/11 was merely step one in the multi-step vision that ended with isolated Arab regimes deprived of American support (because we were driven from the region) falling to al Qaeda-led or -inspired revolutions. Plus, al Qaeda showed they are murderous bastards in Iraq and elsewhere (and worse--losing bastards), and the Arab Spring shows that revolts don't need al Qaeda to strike down tyrants.
Al Qaeda hoped for an Islamist Spring. They got an Arab Spring. Now, naturally the jihadis hope to hijack the spirit of revolt. But if we continue to stay involved rather than being driven from the region, we can defeat the jihadis here, too. Work the problem rather than despair that the Vermont Chapter of the League of Women voters didn't run the revolutions.
Revolutions are messy. Make the mess fall on the jihadis.