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Assignment 2: Discussion—Comparison of Editorials

In this assignment, you will identify and explore your intuitive critical-thinking strategies. It is the starting point to developing the skills to analyze information critically.

Research methods of identifying strong and weak arguments using your textbook and the Argosy University online library resources. Be sure to cover the following:

  • Identify premises and conclusions
  • Discuss whether or not an inference is warranted
  • Determine whether arguments utilize inductive or deductive reasoning

For this assignment, your facilitator will assign you one of the following debates:

  • Debate 1: Should the “Ashley X” treatments have been permitted?
  • Debate 2: Is Osama Bin Laden’s death a decisive blow to Al Qaeda or an unmitigated victory against terrorism?

Each debate has two sets of articles for review. Your facilitator will assign you one of these sets.

Each set has two articles with two varying, but important, perspectives on the same subject. Be sure to read both articles in the set.

 

Debate 2

These pairs of articles focus on the subject of Osama Bin Laden’s death and the alleged implications his death are expected to have on matters of future Al Qaeda activity and international safety.

Set A

THE United States needed to eliminate Osama bin Laden to fulfill our sense of justice and, to a lesser extent, to end the myth of his invincibility. But dropping Bin Laden's corpse in the sea does not end the terrorist threat, nor does it remove the ideological motivation of Al Qaeda's supporters.

Often forgotten amid the ugly violence of Al Qaeda's attacks was that the terrorists' declared goal was to replace existing governments in the Muslim world with religiously pure Islamist states and eventually restore an Islamic caliphate. High on Al Qaeda's list of targets was Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak. The protesters of Tahrir Square succeeded in removing him without terrorism and without Al Qaeda.

Thus, even before Bin Laden's death, analysts had begun to argue that Al Qaeda was rapidly becoming irrelevant. With Bin Laden's death, it is even more tempting to think that the era of Al Qaeda is over.

But such rejoicing would be premature. To many Islamist ideologues, the Arab Spring simply represents the removal of obstacles that stood in the way of establishing the caliphate. Their goal has not changed, nor has their willingness to use terrorism.

In the months ahead, Bin Laden's death may encourage Al Qaeda to stage an attack to counter the impression that it is out of business. The more significant threat, however, will come from Al Qaeda's local affiliates. Bin Laden and his deputies designed Al Qaeda as a network of affiliated groups that could operate largely independently to attack America, Europe and secular governments in the Middle East in order to establish fundamentalist regimes. Once in place, the network no longer needed Bin Laden and, in fact, has been proceeding with minimal direction from him for several years.

The affiliates that Bin Laden helped to create, including Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Al Shabab in Somalia, are still recruiting and financing terrorists and training them for attacks. Neither the events of Tahrir Square nor the raid on Bin Laden's hideout is likely to significantly diminish the appeal of Islamist extremism to those who have been receptive to it.

In many Muslim societies, there remains a radical stratum born of a sense of victimization by the West, fueled by inefficient and corrupt governments, and carried forward by an enormous youth population. Al Qaeda was and is simply a pressure valve, an early form of connective social media that allowed young, militant jihadists fed up with the West and their own governments to organize and vent their anger.

Believing that their religion requires them to act violently against nonbelievers in the West and impure, apostate Muslim elites, the Islamist extremists will not be stopped by the elimination of Al Qaeda's leader or even by the eradication of Al Qaeda itself. They will continue their struggle, refusing to renounce violence or accept more democratic, less corrupt regimes as a substitute for the caliphate.

Just because we do not always know the identities of their leaders or see a named and hierarchical organization does not mean that Islamist extremists are not working hard to seize the fruits of the Arab Spring. The challenge for the United States is not merely to take advantage of the intelligence gained in the Pakistan raid to further erode Al Qaeda, but to assist moderate Muslims in creating a counterweight to violent extremism, with both an appealingly articulated ideology and an effective organizational structure.

The government that was overthrown in Egypt was corrupt and feckless, as are the regimes now under siege in Libya, Syria and Yemen, but the groups poised to take advantage of the upheaval in those countries include many who share Bin Laden's vision for repressive religious rule. Similar situations exist in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Moderate, tolerant and even some secular groups exist, but they often do not have a comprehensive alternative vision, know how to communicate it or have the organizational skills to promote it. American and European experts can assist them in building politically viable organizations, but to succeed these new groups must be homegrown and tap into the Arab and Islamic traditions that speak to many Muslim youth.

Moreover, without investment to create jobs, new governments in these countries will fail under the weight of youth unemployment. Unless corruption is replaced with efficiency, investment will either not materialize or be wasted.

Without alternative movements with vision, appeal, and the ability to deliver change, existing organized extremist groups will fill the void. And despite his death, Bin Laden's goal may yet be achieved.

 

 

AuthorAffiliation

RICHARD A. CLARKE Richard A. Clarke, the counterterrorism coordinator at the National Security Council from 1993 to 2001, is the author of "Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror."

 

Word count: 784
 
 

TO the Qaeda members I interrogated at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere in the aftermath of 9/11, Osama bin Laden was never just the founder and leader of the group, but also an idea. He embodied the belief that their version of Islam was correct, that terrorism was the right weapon, and that they would ultimately be victorious. Bin Laden's death did not kill that idea, but did deal it a mortal blow.

The immediate reaction of Al Qaeda members to Bin Laden's death will be to celebrate his martyrdom. The group's ideology champions death for the cause: Songs are composed, videos made and training camps named in honor of dead fighters. Bin Laden's deputies will try to energize people by turning him into a Che Guevara-like figure for Al Qaeda -- a more effective propaganda tool dead than alive.

But it won't take long for Al Qaeda to begin wishing that Bin Laden wasn't dead. He not only was the embodiment of Al Qaeda's ideology, but also was central to the group's fund-raising and recruiting successes. Without him, Al Qaeda will find itself short on cash -- and members.

Bin Laden's fund-raising (especially through his connections to fellow wealthy Saudis) and his personal story (his decision to give up a life of luxury and ease to fight in a holy war) had brought him to prominence during the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan and later secured his position as Al Qaeda's leader.

He further cultivated that image by trying to model his ascetic life on that of the Prophet Muhammad -- by dressing similarly and encouraging his followers to ascribe divine powers to him. Bin Laden regularly hinted at this when discussing Al Qaeda's strikes against America and his ability to withstand Washington's wrath.

Not only has Al Qaeda lost its best recruiter and fund-raiser, but no one in the organization can come close to filling that void. Bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, who will probably try to take over, is a divisive figure. His personality and leadership style alienate many, he lacks Bin Laden's charisma and connections and his Egyptian nationality is a major mark against him.

Indeed, one of the earliest things I discovered from interrogating Qaeda members in Afghanistan and Yemen as well as Guantanamo was the group's internal divisions; the most severe is the rivalry between the Egyptians and members hailing from the Arabian Peninsula. (Even soccer games pit Egyptians against Persian Gulf Arabs.) While Egyptians typically travel to the Gulf to work for Arabs there, in Al Qaeda, Egyptians have traditionally held most of the senior positions.

It was only the knowledge that they were ultimately following Bin Laden -- a Saudi of Yemeni origin, and therefore one of their own -- that kept non-Egyptian members in line. Now, unless a non-Egyptian takes over, the group is likely to splinter into subgroups. Someone like Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American who is a leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is a likely rival to Mr. Zawahri.

Bin Laden was adept at convincing smaller, regional terrorist groups that allying with Al Qaeda and focusing on America were the best ways to topple corrupt regimes at home. But many of his supporters grew increasingly distressed by Al Qaeda's attacks in the last few years -- which have killed mostly Muslims -- and came to realize that Bin Laden had no long-term political program aside from nihilism and death.

The Arab Spring, during which ordinary people in countries like Tunisia and Egypt overthrew their governments, proved that contrary to Al Qaeda's narrative, hated rulers could be toppled peacefully without attacking America. Indeed, protesters in many cases saw Washington supporting their efforts, further undermining Al Qaeda's claims.

But we cannot rest on our laurels. Most of Al Qaeda's leadership council members are still at large, and they command their own followers. They will try to carry out operations to prove Al Qaeda's continuing relevance. And with Al Qaeda on the decline, regional groups that had aligned themselves with the network may return to operating independently, making them harder to monitor and hence deadlier.

Investigations, intelligence and military successes are only half the battle. The other half is in the arena of ideas, and countering the rhetoric and methods that extremists use to recruit. We can keep killing and arresting terrorists, but if new ones are recruited, our war will never end.

Our greatest tool, we must remember, is America itself. We have suffered a great deal at the hands of Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, and we will never forget those killed in attacks like the 1998 bombings on United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the 2000 attack on the Navy destroyer Cole, 9/11 and the service members killed since then in the war against Al Qaeda.

Many terrorists whom I interrogated told me they expected America to ultimately fold. What they didn't understand is that as powerful as the Bin Laden idea was to them, America's values and liberties are even greater to us. Effectively conveying this will bury the Bin Laden idea with him.

 

AuthorAffiliation

ALI H. SOUFAN Ali H. Soufan, an F.B.I. special agent from 1997 to 2005, interrogated Qaeda detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

Illustration

Drawing (Drawing by James Victore)

Word count: 875

Copyright New York Times Company May 3, 2011

 

Set B

 
 

THE United States needed to eliminate Osama bin Laden to fulfill our sense of justice and, to a lesser extent, to end the myth of his invincibility. But dropping Bin Laden's corpse in the sea does not end the terrorist threat, nor does it remove the ideological motivation of Al Qaeda's supporters.

Often forgotten amid the ugly violence of Al Qaeda's attacks was that the terrorists' declared goal was to replace existing governments in the Muslim world with religiously pure Islamist states and eventually restore an Islamic caliphate. High on Al Qaeda's list of targets was Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak. The protesters of Tahrir Square succeeded in removing him without terrorism and without Al Qaeda.

Thus, even before Bin Laden's death, analysts had begun to argue that Al Qaeda was rapidly becoming irrelevant. With Bin Laden's death, it is even more tempting to think that the era of Al Qaeda is over.

But such rejoicing would be premature. To many Islamist ideologues, the Arab Spring simply represents the removal of obstacles that stood in the way of establishing the caliphate. Their goal has not changed, nor has their willingness to use terrorism.

In the months ahead, Bin Laden's death may encourage Al Qaeda to stage an attack to counter the impression that it is out of business. The more significant threat, however, will come from Al Qaeda's local affiliates. Bin Laden and his deputies designed Al Qaeda as a network of affiliated groups that could operate largely independently to attack America, Europe and secular governments in the Middle East in order to establish fundamentalist regimes. Once in place, the network no longer needed Bin Laden and, in fact, has been proceeding with minimal direction from him for several years.

The affiliates that Bin Laden helped to create, including Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Al Shabab in Somalia, are still recruiting and financing terrorists and training them for attacks. Neither the events of Tahrir Square nor the raid on Bin Laden's hideout is likely to significantly diminish the appeal of Islamist extremism to those who have been receptive to it.

In many Muslim societies, there remains a radical stratum born of a sense of victimization by the West, fueled by inefficient and corrupt governments, and carried forward by an enormous youth population. Al Qaeda was and is simply a pressure valve, an early form of connective social media that allowed young, militant jihadists fed up with the West and their own governments to organize and vent their anger.

Believing that their religion requires them to act violently against nonbelievers in the West and impure, apostate Muslim elites, the Islamist extremists will not be stopped by the elimination of Al Qaeda's leader or even by the eradication of Al Qaeda itself. They will continue their struggle, refusing to renounce violence or accept more democratic, less corrupt regimes as a substitute for the caliphate.

Just because we do not always know the identities of their leaders or see a named and hierarchical organization does not mean that Islamist extremists are not working hard to seize the fruits of the Arab Spring. The challenge for the United States is not merely to take advantage of the intelligence gained in the Pakistan raid to further erode Al Qaeda, but to assist moderate Muslims in creating a counterweight to violent extremism, with both an appealingly articulated ideology and an effective organizational structure.

The government that was overthrown in Egypt was corrupt and feckless, as are the regimes now under siege in Libya, Syria and Yemen, but the groups poised to take advantage of the upheaval in those countries include many who share Bin Laden's vision for repressive religious rule. Similar situations exist in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Moderate, tolerant and even some secular groups exist, but they often do not have a comprehensive alternative vision, know how to communicate it or have the organizational skills to promote it. American and European experts can assist them in building politically viable organizations, but to succeed these new groups must be homegrown and tap into the Arab and Islamic traditions that speak to many Muslim youth.

Moreover, without investment to create jobs, new governments in these countries will fail under the weight of youth unemployment. Unless corruption is replaced with efficiency, investment will either not materialize or be wasted.

Without alternative movements with vision, appeal, and the ability to deliver change, existing organized extremist groups will fill the void. And despite his death, Bin Laden's goal may yet be achieved.

 

 

AuthorAffiliation

RICHARD A. CLARKE Richard A. Clarke, the counterterrorism coordinator at the National Security Council from 1993 to 2001, is the author of "Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror."

Word count: 784

Copyright New York Times Company May 3, 2011

To give the devil his awful due, Osama bin Laden was the greatest terrorist of the modern age. He took what had been disparate, disorganized terrorist groups and reshaped them into a disciplined and immensely ambitious organization, Al Qaeda, with the singular goal of waging jihad on the West in general and the United States in particular. Its terrorist prowess was never more evident than on that horrible day of Sept. 11, 2001.

Now that Bin Laden is dead, the most pressing question we need to ask is: Will his death make a difference? It is, of course, symbolically important that the United States hunted down the man responsible for the 9/11 attacks. And it will have political ramifications for President Obama, which I leave to others to debate.

But the thing that matters most right now is whether the world today is safer than it was on Sunday, when Bin Laden was still among the living. Though it is not an easy question to answer, it seems to me that there are four areas where it ought to be asked:

THE ARAB SPRING The commentariat was quick to note the delicious irony that Bin Laden's death coincided with the citizen uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere. The Arab Spring has shown that millions of Muslims have zero interest in the hard-line theocracy favored by Al Qaeda. What they yearn for instead is freedom and democracy. Bin Laden's death merely put an exclamation point on the fact that his influence in the region had diminished considerably in the decade since 9/11.

But Lawrence Wright, the author of "The Looming Tower," a Pulitzer-Prize winning book about Al Qaeda, goes a step further. He's convinced that Bin Laden's death could help prevent the Arab Spring from sputtering out.

"As long as he was around, he created an alternative narrative," said Wright. "When the moment comes that the democratic movement falters -- and there always is such a moment -- Al Qaeda could say: We told you so. The fact that he is gone makes it more likely for the Arab Spring to complete its reformation cycle."

THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN Ever since he came into office, President Obama has insisted that our presence in Afghanistan was directly related to the ongoing threat from Al Qaeda. Ten years in, though, the war has no end in sight and dwindling public support. Liberal groups like the Brave New Foundation are already saying that Bin Laden's death has "ended the rationale" for the war.

It's not just liberals, either. James Lindsay, a senior vice president of that establishment bulwark Council on Foreign Relations, wrote that the president could use Bin Laden's death to say that America's "goal has been achieved" -- and use it as an excuse to wind down the war. Whether the president will take such a step is unclear. But it's now at least feasible.

TERRORISM ITSELFMichael Nacht, a former Defense Department official who now teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, believes that Bin Laden's death will diminish the terrorist threat to the United States. Nacht compared terrorism in the Bin Laden era to a "fatal disease." Now, he says, it's more like a chronic illness: "It can still cause you trouble, but it's not a mortal theat."

But this may turn out to be wishful thinking. The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that at the time of the 9/11 attacks, Al Qaeda had maybe 200 members; today, it is vaster and "more far-reaching than before the U.S. sought to take it down." Independent offshoots have sprung up in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. New terrorist leaders include Nasir al-Wahishi, who leads Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric who has been involved in several terrorist plots, including the attempt to blow up a plane on Christmas Day in 2009. Although America does a much better job of rooting out planned attacks, the threat remains very real, with or without Bin Laden.

RELATIONS WITH THE MUSLIM WORLD Let's face it: Much of the Muslim world today is deeply distrustful of anything America does. For this, certainly, a good portion of the blame goes to the misguided invasion of Iraq and its aftermath -- which, in turn, was a response to 9/11 and Bin Laden. In that sense, America played right into Bin Laden's hands.

The clock can't be turned back just because he's dead. The distrust remains strong. A friend who recently returned from Turkey -- a Muslim country that is ostensibly a close ally -- told me that the Turkish media were united in their virulent opposition to NATO's actions in Libya, even though those actions were intended to prevent a cruel dictator from killing his own people.

"The image of Westerners dropping bombs on Muslims is very hard for Muslims to accept," he said.

One hopes that this is not Bin Laden's enduring legacy. But that's something only we can fix.

 

 

Word count: 829

Copyright New York Times Company May 3, 2011

 

 

 

Respond to the following:

  • Identify and explain the strongest argument in each article.

Or

  • Identify and explain the weakest argument in each article.

Give reasons and examples from your research in support of your response.

Your initial response should be about 300–400 words in length, with at least one reference cited in APA format.

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