It’s hard to observe Washington without concluding that it fosters a political culture in which stupidity — or at least feigned stupidity — is a prerequisite of success. Pity the politician who might be so naive as to imagine that the appearance of intelligence would boost his or her political fortunes.
It has thus been painfully predictable that as murmurs of an al Qaeda presence on the front lines in Libya have gained wider currency, the only response would be fear and caution. Thus the New York Times reports:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who pushed the president to intervene in Libya, was described by an administration official on Thursday as supremely cautious about arming the rebels “because of the unknowns” about who they were and whether they might have links to Al Qaeda.
Ring all the alarm bells — links to al Qaeda — God forbid the political penalty for venturing anywhere near there!
But here’s a radical idea: what if links to al Qaeda in Libya turned out to be a good thing?
A report in the Wall Street Journal says that Abdel Hakim al-Hasady, an influential Islamic preacher and high-school teacher who spent five years at a training camp in eastern Afghanistan, now oversees the recruitment, training and deployment of about 300 rebel fighters from the eastern Libyan town of Darna.
Islamist leaders and their contingent of followers represent a relatively small minority within the rebel cause. They have served the rebels’ secular leadership with little friction. Their discipline and fighting experience is badly needed by the rebels’ ragtag army.
Among his followers, Mr. Hasady has the reputation of a trained warrior who stood fearlessly at the front ranks of young protesters during the first days of the uprising.
And his discourse has become dramatically more pro-American, now that he stands in alliance with the West in a battle against Col. Gadhafi.
“Our view is starting to change of the U.S.,” said Mr. Hasady. “If we hated the Americans 100%, today it is less than 50%. They have started to redeem themselves for their past mistakes by helping us to preserve the blood of our children.”
Mr. Hasady also offered a reconsideration of his past approach. “No Islamist revolution has ever succeeded. Only when the whole population was included did we succeed, and that means a more inclusive ideology.”