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Bernard-Henri Lévy

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September 11th, Ten Years Later

Posted: 09/07/11 03:53 PM ET

Ten years later, where, exactly, are we?

Al Qaeda, of course, is not entirely dead.

From the Sahel to Yemen, Nigeria to Uzbekistan and throughout the Caucasus, the metastasis of the terrorist cancer is ongoing.

The Taliban, which make up the greatest reserve army of Afghanistan, are, unfortunately, also gaining ground, thanks to the announced withdrawal of Western forces.

The Pakistani Jihadi groups I investigated in 2002 and 2003, the Jaish-e-Mohamed, Lashkar-e-Toiba and other Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, who had joined forces at the time of Daniel Pearl's murder in order to ensure its success, continue to prosper, not only in the more remote tribal zones of the country, but in Islamabad and Karachi as well.

And nothing says that, at this very moment, as I write these lines, another attack is not in the works, a sort of an anniversary attack, original in style, intended to be equally murderous and planned by a new Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, architect of the 2001 attack on the twin towers of Manhattan.

But it is clear that this is not the predominant tendency, the real one, and if we make an honest assessment of the struggle of the past decade against Al Qaeda and its branches, within the Arab-Muslim world and outside it, we are compelled to state that the assassins, if not routed, have, at the very least, suffered a serious setback.

There's the death of Bin Laden which, whatever they may tell us about the decentralized structure of the organization, with franchises here and there, has dealt them a very harsh blow.

There's the Pakistani question which, I repeat, is far from being resolved but has at last been asked, which is, in a way, the essential thing. What a difference from the Bush years, where they persisted obstinately in treating as an ally State, even a friendly State, the most rogue of all rogue States, the one that harbored the brains of the organization, the base of The Base -- its back-up base, its popular base, its political, ideological, economic and financial base.

There's the work of the great intelligence services, both Western and Arab, of whom one day we'll learn that, hand in hand over the past decade, they have undone a few attempted repeat performances of the tragedy commemorated today in New York and throughout the world, with its almost 3000 victims (including the city's heroic firemen).

There's the Arab-Muslim world, denounced enough as timid, if not downright cowardly, to merit tribute for the sudden awakening that is taking place there today. It began with the Facebookers of Tunis and Cairo, discovering that there was another solution for their country's youth than the terrifying and, actually, complicit showdown between dictatorship and Jihad: what we have come to call the "Arab Spring".

What is this other than, in the most pessimistic of views, reducing Jihadism to the status of an ideology among others, lost among the others, marginalized -- and, even more important, deprived of the aura it enjoyed when it claimed exclusively all the accompanying glamor of radicalism, of audacity, and of a monopoly of opposition against the reigning dictatorships? And it continued, with the rebels of Benghazi discovering, stunned, the face of a West they had been taught from the cradle to believe peopled with bloodsuckers, one that, suddenly, extended a hand, saving them from a predictable massacre and helping them to liberate themselves from a supposedly invincible yoke.

I am convinced that the Libyan war delivered the first and probably fatal blow to this idea of a "clash of civilizations" which, before it was an American idea, was the idea of the God fanatics and, from there on, the terrain, the breeding ground, the cement of their terrorist organizations -- and that is, moreover, why I consider this war, henceforth won, the antithesis of an Iraq War, the contrary of the sort of collective punishment, reprisal, that the American war in Baghdad was intended to be, and that is also why I consider it a decisive historical event.

And then, finally and consequently, there is the fact that the surviving aspect of this Terrorist International increasingly appears, in the very eyes of those it would seduce and recruit, as what it has always been, but in secret: a criminal organization, a gang, most of whose victims, up until now, have been among Muslims themselves, one whose sponsors have never seen Islam as anything but an alibi, an instrument for recruiting and of power, a cover -- shame on them! And this new lucidity represents a decisive step forward, for a gang, however powerful, can no longer claim the magical status of a Great Organization offering gullible people, drugged into submission, a plan for an alternative civilization.

I am not saying the match is over. But I am saying that its nature has been transformed. And that we -- the moderates of the Arab-Muslim world allied with the West -- have the means and, from now on, the courage to conduct this battle, this operation of planetary policing that involves isolating, again and again, the last bases of terror.

Al Qaeda has lost.