Steven Stanek offers a great article about the implications of Gadahn’s video, “A Call to Arms.” The video, one that I refer to as “revolutionary” in this article fell under the radar of most commentators b/c the false rumors of his capture came out just after.
If you read my blog, then you’ll know that I refer to Gadahn as Al-Qaida’s crash-test dummy. In other words, they wheel him out first to testfire a given theme or argument. Remember, he was the one who ran the John Perkins’s “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” bookclub months before UBL. Everyone focused on the fact that UBL would use the book against it, forgetting that Gadahn had already focus grouped months prior.
Stanek quotes me here:
Mr Gadahn, who is thought to be living in Pakistan, praises Mr Hasan as a “pioneer, a trailblazer and a role-model who has opened a door, lit a path and shown the way forward”. He also praises the small-scale and relatively unsophisticated attacks carried out by Mohammad Bouyeri, who murdered the Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh in 2004, and Aimal Kansi, who shot and killed two CIA employees in 1993.
Although counterterrorism experts believe a shift towards smaller scale operations has been under way for months or even years, Jarret Brachman, the author of Global Jihadism: Theory and Practice and a consultant to the US government on terrorism, said the video message marks the “first official top-down sanctioning of grass-roots operations”.
“In essence, al Qa’eda has just released the hounds,” he said, calling the video “revolutionary”. But, he added, the shift also means more opportunities for the group to be seen as sanctioning “the wrong type of operation”, or those that backfire politically and undercut its support.
Such was the case in 2005 when an Iraqi suicide bomber attacked a wedding in Amman, Jordan, killing dozens and generating a fierce backlash among Jordanians, who referred to the coordinated attacks that day as their country’s “9/11.” That attack was orchestrated by al Qa’eda in Iraq, an affiliated group that was sometimes at odds with centralised al Qa’eda leadership.
“They are allowing their reputation to be used by individuals who may not be vetted or sensitive to the kinds of attacks that really tend to backfire,” Mr Brachman said. “Lone wolves are not often as aware of the broader consequences of their actions, so they can pose a serious management challenge if they make bad decisions out in the field.”