The Two Sides of Anwar al-Awlaki

The al-Awlaki stories continue to fly off the presses at an astounding rate.  (But more on that later).


One of the things I neglected to mention in my earlier post was the different roles that Anwar al-Awlaki plays, which has been pointed out to me by some very smart people.

There are a couple of things at play here.

First, is Awlaki's role within AQAP - the organization that put the bomb on the plane on Christmas Day 2009 and the one responsible for the pair of printer bombs last year.  Awlaki's death is, in my view, not a debilitating blow to the organization.

In fact, I believe that there are individuals still alive and at-large in Yemen who are more of a threat to US national security than al-Awlaki.

I said as much to the Washington Post, which has an unnamed US official pushing back at my interpretation.  (The US also gave al-Awlaki a new title - one he apparently never took for himself, at least not publicly - in death.)

But Awlaki is much more than just a member of AQAP, and this is what makes him dangerous.  He is someone who inspires what are often called lone wolf terrorists in the west.  People such as Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood and the Times Square Bomber.

And this is where Awlaki is more difficult to replace.  The US clearly hopes that he is a unique figure in that no one will step in to fill his role - although I think it is important to note as James Spencer does in the comment on the previous threat - that Awlaki's sermons will outlive him.

It is also unclear to me whether Awlaki pushed these individuals over the edge or whether he just reinforced their ideas.  Put another way, if Awlaki didn't exist would they have still carried out their attacks.

The US by putting Awlaki on the targeted kill list, obviously bet that the answer to that question is no - and that the death of Awlaki will make Americans safer.

As I put earlier I'm not certain about this. 

Tacked on to this argument is that without Awlaki AQAP wouldn't have went after the US, or at least wouldn't have prioritized such attacks as the 2009 and 2010 attempts.  I find this argument strange.

Wihayshi served with bin Laden and was with him on September 11, does anyone really think he needed al-Awlaki to remind him that the US was a target.

According to the arguments put forward by some, Awlaki's death should greatly diminish AQAP's ability and desire to strike at the US.  I'm remain doubtful. 

European wind farms could meet global energy demand, researchers now say

A new study estimated the untapped potential of wind energy across Europe.

Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • A new report calculated how much electricity Europe could generate if it built onshore wind farms on all of its exploitable land.
  • The results indicated that European onshore wind farms could supply the whole world with electricity from now until 2050.
  • Wind farms come with a few complications, but the researchers noted that their study was meant to highlight the untapped potential of the renewable energy source in Europe.
Keep reading Show less

First solar roadway in France turned out to be a 'total disaster'

French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.

Image source: Charly Triballeau / AFP / Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • The French government initially invested in a rural solar roadway in 2016.
  • French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.
  • Solar panel "paved" roadways are proving to be inefficient and too expensive.
Keep reading Show less

New vaccine (for cats) nixes allergic reactions for humans

You want one. Now you may be able to survive one.


Photo credit: Jie Zhao
/ Getty contributor
Technology & Innovation
  • Cats live in a quarter of Western households.
  • Allergies to them are common and can be dangerous.
  • A new approach targets the primary trouble-causing allergen.
Keep reading Show less