The Arab Revolts of 2011 represent a total repudiation of al Qaeda's founding ideology. For 20 years, al Qaeda has said that the regimes of the Arab World are nasty dictatorships and that the only way to overthrow them is to support al Qaeda and its terrorism.
And then, in a few weeks, the people of the Arab World have overturned two despotic governments by means of non-violent demonstrations and they have begun a process of reform and revolution that will alter the basic bargain between the ruler and ruled in the Middle East.
There really is no hankering in the Middle East for a return to the 7th Century – only a desire for jobs, pluralism, freedom and good government.
Al Qaeda has embraced violence precisely because it has no political strength or strategy. It cannot bring a million people into Tahrir Square to demand the ouster of Mubarak, so it hopes to shock and awe people by spectacular acts of violence.
Let's look at the facts:
1. Since 9-11, al Qaeda has been unable to launch a single attack in the United States. Small groups of people inspired by it have managed a few smaller attacks in cities in the Middle East and Europe.
2. Most terrorism is now the product of lone, would-be suicide bombers rather than an organized movement with a central figure or central organization.
4. If the Arab World becomes more democratic, those numbers will continue to fall. In Iraq, for instance, support for political violence is tiny – lower than it is in the United States.
So can we all take a deep breath, stop cowering in fear of an impending caliphate, and put problem of Islamic terrorism in perspective? It's real, but it's not going to take over the world anytime soon.