GOOD NEWS AND BAD FROM LONDON….On Sunday, the London Times featured a “leaked” dossier from the British government that drew attention to the not-very-startling news that extremist Muslims are actively recruiting members in Britain. The number “engaged in” or “supporting” terrorist activity “is extremely small and estimated at less than 1%.” However, the dossier also highlighted the following warning:
A network of ?extremist recruiters? is circulating on campuses targeting people with ?technical and professional qualifications?, particularly engineering and IT degrees.
….The confidential assessment, covering more than 100 pages of letters, papers and other documents, forms the basis of the government?s counter-terrorism strategy, codenamed Operation Contest.
….The plan behind Operation Contest has been to win over Muslim ?hearts and minds? with policy initiatives including anti-religious discrimination laws. A meeting of Contest officials this week is expected to consider a radical overhaul of the strategy following the London attacks.
Fareed Zakaria, conversely, doesn’t seem to think the British need to radically overhaul their strategy at all. Quite the contrary. After noting that the London stock market barely even responded to last week’s attack and that major Muslim groups throughout Britain, even fundamentalist groups, “unambiguously denounced the bombings,” he praises the British response:
There will always be some number of unconverted jihadists, who either out of depravity or conviction seek to do evil. If 99.99 percent of the Arab world rejects terrorism, that still leaves 20,000 people to worry about. If 99.9 percent of the Muslim world is against the terrorists, there’s 1 million people out there who are dangerous. And the technologies of destruction ensure that they will, on occasion, be successful.
….Real victory is not about preventing all attacks everywhere. No one can guarantee that. It’s really about preventing the worst kinds of attacks, and responding well to others. And on this score, America remains woefully unprepared. “The British attacks failed because Britain has excellent response systems and its people are well prepared on how to respond. America has neither advantage today,” says Stephen Flynn, a homeland-security expert and author of America the Vulnerable: How Our Government Is Failing to Protect Us From Terrorism. “We need good education and training for transit workers and citizens, good communication mechanisms among government agencies and the people, and most important, a good public-health infrastructure.” We have little of this today. In the years after 9/11 we have wasted much time, effort and money on other priorities rather than engaging in the massive investment in the systems of response that we need. Our leaders remain unwilling to speak honestly about the world we live in and to help people develop the mentality of response that is essential to prevailing.
We’ll never eliminate terrorism completely from the world, but we can come close by reducing its support in the Muslim world, learning how to respond better when attacks do happen, and concentrating on counterproliferation programs to keep the worst weapons out of terrorist hands. It’s too bad that the Bush administration doesn’t seem very interested in any of these things.