Counter-Terrorism: The Dark Side of Luck


February 29, 2008: For the West, the most dangerous Islamic terrorists are not members of al Qaeda, but rather young Moslems living in the West. This is especially true in Europe, where many Moslems have not integrated with the local culture. That means many young men are uneducated and unemployable. Many refuse to blame themselves or the cultural habits they brought with them from the old country, and instead put it all on the country they have moved to. European governments have made it worse by tolerating this separatism. That is changing, but it won't do much for the angry young men that are already in place. With all the training material they need available on the Internet, all it takes is some smarts, and persistence, to create a tragic situation.

Al Qaeda is mostly important as a symbol. The people seeking to imitate them are all over the place. The wannabe terrorists also get some moral support from local leftists. This is similar to what was going on back in the '60s and '70s, when some leftists argued that black crime was actually a kind of "people's war" against the establishment. That was nonsense, because there was not ideological underpinning to guys going out and just trying to make money the easy way. But the Jihadi wannabes have an ideological motivation, and don't really need much infrastructure. Naturally most of them will fail . . . but not all. That's what keeps European counter-terror officials on edge. They know that the number of dedicated (to Islamic terrorism) local Moslems are a small portion of the Moslem population. But with over 20 million Moslems in Europe, that comes out to hundreds, or maybe thousands, of serious terrorist wannabes. The police aren't sure of the exact number, because they can only extrapolate from opinion surveys, arrests and investigations of suspicious activity.

As diligent at the police are, they are playing the odds here. All it takes is a few lucky breaks for some passably competent terrorist wannabes, and you have another attack as occurred in Britain (2005) and Spain (2004). Over a dozen similar attacks have been stopped by good police work. But as terrorists like to say, they only have to get lucky once.


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