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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Most of Europe still doesn't get it

In today's Washington Post, Anne Appelbaum looks at last week's cancellation of the opera Idomeneo in Berlin, for fear of Muslim reaction to its final scene where the severed head of Muhammed is brought on stage. Applebaum sees the cancellation in the context of Germany's (and other European countries') failure to grasp that they are living under the threat of terrorism.
In truth, the fact that Germany still hasn't experienced a Madrid- or London-style bombing is thanks to good luck, not good planning. As recently as July, German police discovered two unexploded -- because of poor design -- suitcase bombs on a train.

That Germany contains the kinds of radicals who could and would carry out such a threat is beyond doubt: Mohamed Atta, leader of the Sept. 11 hijackers, studied in Hamburg. That Germans don't want to think about this is beyond dispute, too: More than 80 percent have told pollsters that they don't feel personally threatened by terrorism at all.

I don't know how many Americans feel personally threatened, but in Washington and New York, along with major state capitals, political leaders start with the assumption that such a threat is real. For better or for worse, after Sept. 11 we created a Department of Homeland Security, hired new people and built a lot of ugly fences in Washington. For better or for worse, we reorganized our intelligence services and rethought our foreign policy.

This isn't to say that the homeland security debate (let alone the foreign policy debate) in the United States is perfect or even intelligent: As the flooding of New Orleans well demonstrated, it also meant that older risks were ignored. But at least there is a debate in the United States, at least there are policies and at least some American institutions -- schools, newspapers, local governments, museums -- have tried to think through the consequences of a terrorist attack.

By contrast, it's not unusual in Germany, or elsewhere in Europe, to hear that the "war on terrorism" is phony, a jumped-up invention of the Bush administration and the American media, a pretend reason for the invasion of Iraq, a laughably stupid way of conning voters -- and a pathetic excuse for limiting artistic freedom.

Neither the events of Sept. 11 nor any of the bombings that followed seems to have convinced Europeans that anything important has changed in the world. I only wish they were right.
That Europeans regard the war on terrorism as a phony fits in with their delusion that if only Israel were to concede land to the 'Palestinians' for a state reichlet the 'Palestinians' and other Arabs would stop the terror against Israel and the Jews, and peace on earth and goodwill to men would take over. The European delusions are potentially deadly, both to their own populations and to ours.


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