This is one of the more bizarre theories we’ve heard in a while. Leah Farrall argues that the US is killing al Qaeda leaders who “were actually a moderating force” within the terror group:
And if he [Abu Yahya al Libi] has in fact been killed, I wonder if those who think this is a victory (and those supporting the strategy of extrajudicial killings more generally) have given ample thought to the fact that he along with others who have been assassinated were actually a moderating force within a far more virulent current that has taken hold in the milieu. And yes, given his teachings I do note a certain irony in this, but sadly, it’s true.
What is coming next is a generation whose ideological positions are more virulent and who owing to the removal of older figures with clout, are less likely to be amenable to restraining their actions. And contrary to popular belief, actions have been restrained. Attacks have thus far been used strategically rather than indiscriminately. Just take a look at AQ’s history and its documents and this is blatantly clear.
Yes, you read that correctly, Farrall believes that Abu Yahya al Libi, and other unnamed al Qaeda leaders killed by the US, “were actually a moderating force” because they sought to restrain indiscriminate violence. Sadly, this is what passes for intelligent analysis in some segments of the counterterrorism community.
Will McCants is dead on in his criticism of Farrall’s “argument.” He summed it up well in this Tweet:
being judicious in choosing physical targets is not “discriminating” in a way that should persuade USG to stop going after AQSL
That’s about all that needs to be said in response. We’ll keep you up to date on the next senior al Qaeda “moderate” killed in a drone strike.