July 13, 2005


The Next Battle: Bridging the Great Divide: America and its allies have had different strategies to fight Al Qaeda. But they're starting to close ranks. (Christopher Dickey and Michael Hirsh, 7/18/05, Newsweek)

[T]errorism experts in Europe and the United States agree that more such attacks are coming. Many are expected to look like the ones in London last week or Madrid last year: coordinated bombings against defenseless civilians. Rarer, because they are much harder to organize and execute, will be attacks that attempt the apocalyptic scale of September 11, 2001. Yet someday, analysts believe, one of these terrorist groups will unleash some kind of device with massive killing power. "We will graduate to bacteriological weapons, to chemical weapons," says French terrorism authority Roland Jacquard. "We can't keep living like nothing's happening."

Still, to accept such events as inevitable is to surrender a part of ourselves and our future to the terrorists. To be able to live "like nothing's happening" is, precisely, what most people want. And slowly since 9/11, the governments of the United States and Europe have been feeling their way toward strategies that might eventually achieve that goal. The basic needs are clear: compatible computer systems to speed the passing of actionable intelligence; common legal standards to permit cross-border collaboration; disruption of financial support for terrorist groups; elimination of safe havens; policies aimed at changing the political, social and economic environments that inspire terrorists. But it's only recently that some sort of tentative consensus has begun to develop about how to do all this.

The great divide has been between the Bush administration, which saw itself as fighting a global war after 9/11, and European countries, which continued to see the challenge essentially as one of law enforcement. Washington initially acted as if few traditional rules, or laws, need apply: it would follow an aggressive policy of targeting potential terrorists and stopping them before they could reach American shores. Most recently, the United States has been turning back civilian airliners from Europe when names on the manifests match those put—often with scant proof—on FBI and other watch lists.

Yet since the Abu Ghraib scandals in Iraq, the U.S. Supreme Court has forced the administration to step back from some of its most controversial "wartime" detention practices. Most of the "renditions" of terrorist suspects to countries where they might be tortured date back to 2003 or before. Europeans have resisted some of the more aggressive tactics that American hawks have urged, and for good reason: authorities there cannot afford to alienate more young men from among the millions of Muslims living peacefully across the continent.

One really does wish that folks would listen to Robert Pape and those on the Left--all the Europeans have to do is withdraw their people and the bombings will stop.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 13, 2005 3:28 PM

Reducing the number of governments that are friendly or neutral towards known terror organizations will be helpful, as well, particularly in stopping the flows of money to such organizations.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at July 13, 2005 3:56 PM
« IT'LL TAKE SOME HEAT OFF KARL: | Main | NOW THAT'S GOOD EATS (via Robert "Bucky" Tremblay): »