"May you live in interesting times"
Remember the autumn of 2001? The free world spent months shaken and worried about the future after the horrible attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. We learned more than we ever wanted to about Al Qaeda and its plans for global domination. Fast-forward to 2005, when a Jordanian author reported on Al Qaeda's seven-step plan towards a global caliphate. It started with the attacks on the United States and progressed through a recruitment period. Phase four was scheduled to last from 2010 until 2013. Its objective? Attacks on oil supplies, cyberterrorism against the United States, and an Al Qaeda-led effort to bring down "hated Arabic governments." Well, there's no doubt that "hated Arabic governments" are falling in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and probably several other countries in the very, very short term. But the wave of uprisings certainly doesn't seem to have been instigated by Al Qaeda. However, there's no guarantee that the vacuum of power created by the various overthrows won't, in turn, lead to an increase in the power and influence of radical organizations. In other words, Al Qaeda probably had nothing whatsoever to do with starting the chaos, but there is a very serious risk that the organization will act to benefit from it. At the same time, Western governments appear never to have seriously considered the prospect of an event like this, getting caught completely unprepared for things like a surge of 100,000 refugees leaving Libya. Sadly, we're seeing exactly what happens when we fail to think about and plan for the long term.