Or so says Fawaz Gerges:
Not only is al Qaeda philosophically out of step with the vast majority of Arabs, it is organizationally moribund. Today it comprises roving bands limited to the mountains and valleys of Pakistani tribal areas along the Afghan border, where bin Laden was assumed to be hiding; remote areas in Yemen along the Saudi border; and the wastes of the Sahara and Maghreb. Its actions show a consistent pattern of ineptitude. Its leadership increasingly relies on inexperienced freelancers or unskilled recruits. Al Qaeda peaked with the 9/11 attacks. As soon as they were over, the decline began.
Thomas Hegghammer and Andrew Exum complicate the narrative. But its core is true. And Obama made it happen. When you think of all the crass political mileage George W Bush squeezed out of the wars, while losing them, and compare it with the under-stated but lethal persistence of Obama, you see one core difference between Obama and the GOP: substance and style. Obama is earning the substance. And we know that, when necessary, he can weave it all together with some power. When necessary. And he feels like it.