In a post on how the Caliphascists are playing with fire there is the observation that in the Middle East, the gangs that win are the ones that get recruits. I agree with the over comments in the post that while the actual suicide attackers may be insane, those who support, organize and fund them are not. It is those people who are maleable with the right incentive structure.
Of various incentives, the first one mentioned above is probably the most significant for our current enemies, the prospect of victory. Al Qaeda wasn’t founded because of victory but it was able to grow and recruit because of where perceived as victories for itself and its ideology. What will be interesting to watch now is when the curve of decay hits Al Qaeda and its philosophical allies. I expect that the recruitment curve will be initially be up because Iraq will be viewed as a temporary setback and an opportunity to bleed the Americans as the Soviets were bled in Afghanistan. But not so eventually it will become clear that it’s not the Americans who are being washed away by the tides of conflict. What happens then? The Al Qaeda core could last for decades but without external support and recruits they will be become irrelevant. How fast this occurs will indicate a lot about the future path of the Middle East.