July 25, 2005

Myth-Busting

I was reading Irwin Stelzer's Letter from Londonistan (at the suggestion of JVL at Galley Slaves), and realized that this statement early in the piece was speaking to me:

...it is important to scotch the myth that Britain and America have similar and equally effective responses to the terrorist attacks they have suffered. The hard fact is that America has decided that it is engaged in a war, while Britain has decided that it is confronted with what the leader of the Tory party (historically the foreign policy tough guys) calls a "criminal conspiracy" and the Economist calls a "'war on terror,'" complete with quotation marks. Put differently, 7/7 has evoked a policy response very different from 9/11.

All we heard in our media after 7/7 was how the stoic Brits insisted on getting on with their daily routines, not about to let the bombers keep them from their after-work pint or their morning tea. And I'm sure that the average person did respond in this way. Some with stoicism, some with anger, some with heroism, most with determination to carry on and not to let the terror succeed in its purpose. But Stelzer's piece is about the British government response, not that of the man-on-the-street. What I hadn't really grasped is the extent to which forces of multiculturalism have made the government impotent to act as if it is at war, or even to admit the existence of such a thing.

I suppose the differences in the responses to terror between the U.S. and Britain, as expressed in government policies, would be easier to understand if we could imagine that the 9/11 hijackers had been U.S. citizens living and working in Topeka.

One reason for the widely different responses is that America was attacked by foreigners, whereas Brits were horrified to learn that they had been attacked by fellow citizens. Americans know it is "us" against "them," whereas Brits know that "they" are also "us."

But the differences aren't all governmental, they're cultural...


British culture now dictates a confused response to terrorists. Start with the unwillingness of the majority of the British people to recognize that they are indeed in a war. The flak-jacketed, heavily armed men and women lining my road to Heathrow last week were cops, not troops. America is at war, Britain is playing cops and criminals. These are very different things, with important implications for policy...

...As if the decision to treat terror as a criminal matter did not place a large enough impediment in the path of the security forces, we have the infatuation of the British establishment with multiculturalism, and the pride with which its members and the left-wing press point out that 300 languages (soberer sources put the number at half that) are spoken in London.

The consequences of this equation of multiculturalism with the virtue of tolerance began with a refusal of the Blair government to get control of Britain's borders. As a result, there are hundreds of thousands--no one, including the government, knows for sure just how many--of illegal immigrants roaming around Britain. And many of these are not at all like the Mexicans who come to America to find work. They are attracted by the generous welfare payments to which they seem to have immediate and unrestricted access, and in many cases by the freedom to preach jihad.

Read it all, and while you're at it, check out this article by Daniel Pipes in The Australian a few days ago. Speaking of myth-busting, Pipes shoots down the common (I think) American perception that the British are tough on terror while the French are soft, "surrender-monkeys" where terrorists are concerned. Again it's the difference between what the society's elites think about such things and what the government actually does about them that may be the source of the misperception;

Thanks to the war in Iraq, much of the world sees the British Government as resolute and tough, the French one as appeasing and weak. But in another war, the one against terrorism and radical Islam, the reverse is true: France is the most stalwart nation in the West, even more so than the US, while Great Britain is the very most hapless...

Counterterrorism specialists disdain the British. Roger Cressey calls London "easily the most important jihadist hub in Western Europe". Steven Simon dismisses the British capital as "the Star Wars bar scene" of Islamic radicals. More brutally, an intelligence official said of last week's attacks: "The terrorists have come home. It is payback time for...an irresponsible policy."

While London hosts terrorists, Paris hosts a top-secret counterterrorism centre, code-named Alliance Base, whose existence was just revealed by The Washington Post. At the centre, six major Western governments since 2002 share intelligence and run counterterrorism operations (the latter makes it unique).

More broadly, President Jacques Chirac instructed French intelligence agencies just days after 9/11 to share terrorism data with their US counterparts "as if they were your own service". This co-operation is working: former acting CIA director John McLaughlin calls this bilateral intelligence tie "one of the best in the world". The British may have a special relationship with Washington in Iraq, but the French have one in the war on terror.

France accords terrorist suspects fewer rights than any other Western state, permitting interrogation without a lawyer, lengthy pre-trial incarcerations, and evidence acquired under dubious circumstances. Were he a terrorism suspect, says Evan Kohlmann, author of Al-Qaida's Jihad in Europe, he "would least like to be held under" the French system.

Sorry about that "surrender monkey" crack, monsieur.

Posted by dan at July 25, 2005 11:32 AM