When twenty volunteers signed on to fly four planes in to targets in the United States, the world was a very different place. The biggest difference was that the powerlessness of so much of the frustrated lower-middle classes of various Muslim states was directed not at the regimes that held them down, but outward at targets - Israel and the United States in particular - that seemed not only to represent the ultimate source of their own frustrated ambitions, but provided possible alternative targets for their rage. With vast networks of internal security and long histories of repression, countries like Algeria, Egypt, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and others provided little outlet for their citizens to protest their treatment. They did, however, provide alternatives, in the policies of Israel and the United States that, they were assured over and over again, were the real source of their frustrations.
The situation just this year is fundamentally different and can be summed up in two words - Tunisia; Egypt. The on-going anti-authoritarian struggles across the Muslim world, and the successful revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have shown the frustrated masses of the Muslim world that change is possible, that they need not settle for the never-ending drudgery of repression and the petty humiliations of local bureaucrats and corrupt soldiers. While I think it misguided, the NATO support of Libyan rebels is showing the Muslim world the West understands their desire for freedom and will support it. While there are still areas where our attitude and policies toward the larger Muslim world could improve, the events of the first third of this year, in and of themselves, represent a sea-change not only in the Muslim world, but in the perception of Muslims around world toward the west in general and the US in particular.
Seen against this background, the calls by Bin Laden and others to continue the struggles against the US no longer have the resonance they once did.
This judgment is not mine alone. I found it here.