“Al Qaeda,” the New Brand Name? Secretary Clinton’s testimony…What is “Al Qaeda” these days, to it, to us?

There seems little doubt that the original Al Qaeda” organization, based in Afghanistan and led by Osama Bin Laden, has been “decimated,” to use her term.  Our enemy in Afghanistan and Pakistan appears to be the Taliban and the Haqanni Network.  Yet reports often refer to one or both “Islamic militants” and “Al Qaeda” as if they are two different groups, the latter in some sense more dangerous to us than the former.

Yesterday in her Senate testimony Secretary Clinton referred to Al Qaeda as “a brand,” saying that some groups using that name included people who were trained in Afghanistan by the now decimated organization.  She went on to refer to use of the name to recruit adherents and used the term “affiliated with Al Qaeda” to describe other groups of Islamic militants.  She pointed to yet other groups that do not use that designation.

Is there any meaning left in the term Al Qaeda that distinguishes these people from Islamic militants from a public perspective?  (I can see why intelligence agencies might make some distinctions particularly to understanding the biographies and training of those individuals who have migrated from Afghanistan.)

I raise this question because the term is still such a “hot button.”  It seems to me that officials and the media use it to heighten the sense of threat, even as it seems to be losing its ability to be more of a threat than any other militant group.

In my quest to cool hot buttons, if they have no real heat, I raise the question, what is Al Qaeda?  What does that term mean now?

Why shouldn’t Iran get the bomb…or why wouldn’t it…Am I the only one?

There is some reason to believe that our policies on nuclear agreements and proliferation of nuclear capabilities for energy and possibly warfare at some point, are recognizing the obvious, however sad the reality may be.

From the Wall Street Journal, January 25, 2012 (emphasis added):

“The Obama administration in 2009 signed a nuclear-cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates that bound the Arab country not to enrich uranium domestically or reprocess spent plutonium fuel, the two technologies that can be used to produce atomic weapons.

[USNUKE] Yonhap News Agency/European Pressphoto AgencyWorkers in Ulsan, South Korea, applaud the installation of the South Korean-built reactor core in July 2010.

President Barack Obama cited the U.A.E. agreement as the “gold standard” for future nuclear-cooperation pacts. Washington has used the deal to press Iran over its nuclear program, arguing that Tehran should follow the Emirates and rely on the international market for nuclear fuel.

U.S. officials involved in the policy review said the Obama administration concluded that most countries wouldn’t be willing to follow the U.A.E. model, and that insisting on it would hurt American interests.

They said Washington risked losing business for American companies seeking to build nuclear reactors overseas, and could greatly diminish its ability to influence the nonproliferation policies of developing countries.

I know why many countries in addition to the US don’t want Iran to get the bomb and see it as a threat to their security.  What I don’t know is how all these pronouncements about how it cannot be allowed to get the bomb have any meaning.

Absent going to war with it, a security-threatening step not taken when India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea and, much earlier, the Soviet Union, got the bomb and in part because all the named countries and the US have it, the argument for why Iran should not get it is far from obvious.

Iran, for better or worse, is the place where conclusions about what will adequately defend it from aggression or prepare it for pre-emptive war is to be made.  It may want it for the latter purpose: to wage aggressive war against its perceived enemies but it is far from clear to me why it shouldn’t prepare for its plans, aggressive or defensive, as it chooses, if the other nuclear powers have done so.

What possible activity, especially long-term activity, short of war (which, although the US seems at times to forget its own experience, is a “long-term activity”, extending beyond the engagement of troops), can stop Iran?  Agreements, inspections, and embargoes may delay the process or make it necessary for Iran to be more covert about how it secures atomic weapons but all are delaying tactics.

It looks to me like Iran will have nuclear weapons no matter what the rest of us want.  I suspect that even after “regime change” any new regime would feel obliged to continue the process of securing them, just to show it was independent and not subject to Israel and the West.

Don’t hesitate to explain where you think I misunderstand this issue.

Call the White House TODAY about the Patriot Act extensions…

Call 202-456-1111 between 9:00 and 5:00ET and ask to speak to someone working on renewal of the Patriot Act.  If the line is busy, please keep trying.  When you speak to someone, urge them to have the president veto the provisions coming to him and to take additional steps to revise the act in light of ten years of experience to restore rights the Act usurped in the first heat of 9/11.  Whatever modifications in procedures may be needed to confront our enemies, ten years experience is enough to allow for the crafting of something more fitting and more like a scalpel than the axe that the current Patriot Act is as used against enemies and citizens.  Ask the person to use the Bill of Rights as a guide for new legislation.