Wednesday, April 12, 2006

THINKING GLOBAL

Fred Kempe, at the WSJ says:

The Bush administration has quietly opened what senior officials consider a third front in a global campaign against Islamist extremism, this one aimed at the rising threat from Europe.

The first post-Sept. 11 front was al Qaeda terrorists themselves and their supporters, prompting a war in Afghanistan and a host of international counterterrorist actions. Next came efforts to get at terrorist roots by promoting democratic change across the broader Middle East.

Senior Bush administration officials, following terrorist attacks in Madrid and London and galvanized by Muslim mass protests over Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed, have concluded that Europe's alienated Muslim minorities not only endanger Europe's social cohesion but pose an increasing American security threat. Short term, these officials worry that a potential terrorist bearing a European passport may travel visa-free to the U.S. and slip through post-2001 controls. Longer term, they fear that growing, radicalized communities within allied European states could form ever-larger support groups, recruiting grounds and launching pads for extremism.

Wetchard, at Belmont Club, points out the problem with doing this:

If developing "norms that challenge and expose extremist thought" are a prerequisite to challenging Islamic extremism then the road will be long and hard. Intellectual challenges to radical Islamism have largely been the effort of outcast intellectuals like Oriana Fallaci, Bat Y'eor, Hirsi Ali and others like them. They live in a shadow world, "scorned by the academic establishment for their politically incorrect views", as Bruce Bawer puts it; and literally on the run. Fallaci in fact, has been ordered to stand trial for "defaming Islam" in her native Italy. Hirsi Ali leads a precarious existence under round-the-clock protection from the Dutch government. On the other hand, as Bawer also notes, European intellectuals like Timothy Garton Ash who argue for submission, who say that "for this increasingly Muslim Europe to define itself against Islam would be ridiculous and suicidal" are free to move, speak and publish. Ash is a professor at "Oxford, where he directs the European Studies Centre, and is a fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution. He is considered a world-class expert on Europe and its future, and he refers frequently in his book to his participation in glamorous-sounding international conferences on weighty topics. In short, he is at the heart of the European academic elite". Islam's intellectual challengers live a fugitive existence while its defenders move in a celebrity world. If challenging Islamic extremism intellectually is a necessity then the enterprise has gotten off to a bad start.

In fact, there nothing remotely approaching a consensus in Western politics on the need to fight totalitarian Islamism physically or intellectually. Even in America Iraq has become the "unnecessary war"; Guantanamo Bay the unnecessary prison. Wiretapping Al-Qaeda, worrying about the Iranian nuclear weapons program, even building a border fence are all unnecessary acts. And they are superfluous precisely because the notion of opposing radical Islamism is itself an unnecessary idea, inexpressible even as a cartoon. The problem with opening a Third Front in Europe is that the cart may have come before the horse. The truth may set you free, but first you must have truth.

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