The authors field of research centers on terrorism. In this commentary, he points up the problematic role Western European governments and public opinion have played in the war on terrorism.Ed.
All the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks had some direct link with Western Europe: the leader, Mohammed Atta, and the other three pilots were all linked to an Al Qaeda cell in Hamburg; and the alleged twentieth hijacker, Zakarias Moussaoui, is a French citizen recruited in London. Since September, authorities in Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Bosnia have arrested over 100 Al Qaeda operatives or recruitscompared with less than a handful caught in the United States.
An in-depth analysis of European reactions, statements, and media comments since September 11 suggests that there is only limited understanding of the causes of this terrorism or why the terrorists have found Europe to be a hospitable environment. More important, there is little if any realization in Europe politically and culturally (as distinct from among the intelligence communities) of why these terrorists are a threat to Europe. Ultimately, the whole issue is perceived of as an American problem. (Except, of course, that the EU and America's NATO allies claim a political right to be consulted on the nature and scope of the war on terrorism and a moral rightindeed an obligationto criticize the United States' conduct of that war and its treatment of captured terrorists.)
On February 6, French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine commented on Washington's "simplicity" for centering its foreign policy on the issue of international terrorism. This is of course from a country where anti-Americanism is a national pastime. But there are also divisions between the U. S. and Europe on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Witness the widespread pro-Palestinian and often anti-U. S. demonstrations from Stockholm to Milan. With some laudable dissenters (Spain, Denmark, and Italy), the EU also refuses to acknowledge such terrorist groups as the Turkish PKK for what they are: responsible for mass murder in Turkey, a European country, NATO ally, and candidate for EU membership.
All of this raises the basic issue of the balance between the allies' rights and responsibilities within the alliance, and here the asymmetry is enormous. While Britain did provide useful military help in the Afghan campaign and Prime Minister Blair has been Washington's staunchest supporter, more often than not he had to do so against resistance from members of his own Labour Party, including cabinet colleagues. Germany found it enormously difficult to dispatch even a few dozen soldiers to Afghanistan, France needed months to deploy its aircraft carrier to the operational area; and Italy and Spain were both late and largely irrelevant in sending small forces to Afghanistan. In fact, they contributed fewer troops than Australia or even Canada.
But these facts are, in the short term, less important than the more immediate problem of the extensive linkages between international Islamic terrorism and Western Europe. Of the four elements required for the success of an organization like Al Qaedarecruitment, funding, logistics and planning, and trainingall but one, training, is best obtained in Europe. Basic training was largely performed in countries such as Afghanistan and Sudan, but top-level terroristsi.e., the pilots of September 11were trained in Europe and the United States.
Not surprisingly then, terrorists recruited in Englandsome Britons, some French or Spaniardswere to be found in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Chechnya, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Kosovo. Even French antiterrorist experts talk about "Londonistan," and there is a connection between one of the worst Islamic terrorists from Britain with the London School of Economics, a center of anticapitalist, anti-Western miseducation for almost a century.
Soon the United States will be asking various European allies to extradite arrested Al Qaeda operatives. Then, if the current European legal practice, elite reactions, and comments on the treatment of the Guantanamo Bay detainees are any indication, the American public will have a shock. In Europe, Islamic terrorists, recruiters, and trainers are seldom seen or legally treated as criminals, unless they murder French, German, or British citizens. Even then, the punishment is very light. Kaplan is in jail with a four-year sentence for conspiracy to murder a rival imam in Germanynot for conspiracy for mass murder in Turkey, or for trying to destroy the only democratic system in a Muslim Middle Eastern country. AI has already demanded, unsuccessfully, the Bosnian government not to extradite six alleged Islamic terrorists linked to Al Qaeda by U. S. intelligence, because in its wisdom they could not receive a fair trial in the United States. For AI, a fair trial is one where the prosecutors cannot request the death penalty. In AI's judgment, this puts the U. S. legal system in the same category as those of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. And this is the concept shared by most European elites.
FUNDING AND LOGISTICS.
WHAT EUROPE MUST DO