Counter-Terrorism: American Methods Intimidate Europeans

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November 24, 2008: As excited as Europeans were to see Democratic senator Barak Obama elected president in the U.S., there turned out to be an unexpected cloud around that silver lining. Namely, it's that blacks, and minorities in general, have made far less social progress in Europe than in the United States. Obamas election is just another, and rather striking, example of this. This also goes a long way towards explaining why there have been no terror attacks in the U.S. since 2001. And why the 2001 terrorists were warned to stay away from American Moslems.

Obama's election is not an exception, but part of a long trend. An Indian-American was recently elected governor of Louisiana, and in 1996, a Chinese-American was elected governor of Washington state. As much as other nations preach equality and opportunity, it's the United States where it actually happens. Not just with politicians, but academics, business executives and military leaders. Colin Powell becoming chief of the U.S. armed forces two decades ago was not exceptional, when you consider the number of African-Americans who have achieved high rank in the military over the last half century. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the locals, and allied troops, often finding themselves facing a black face when they have to deal with an American general, or battalion commander. This is a unique experience for the Iraqis and Europeans. In the Arab world, Africans have been looked down on for thousands of years, because of the slave trade. Many people of African ancestry are still enslaved in Arab countries (despite the practice being finally outlawed there since World War II). As a result of that, it's very difficult for a Saudi or Iraqi of African ancestry to rise very far in society. Not so, much to their surprise, in America.

In Europe, there is not nearly as much acceptance of foreigners compared to the United States. This is the main reason why Europe has more problems with Islamic terrorists than the United States. There are more subtle problems as well. Many NATO countries have sent peacekeepers to Afghanistan, but have not been able to use their Moslem soldiers as well as they thought they could. It's not that NATO thought they would have a lot of linguists, as very few of their Moslem troops came from Afghanistan. In fact, most of the Moslem troops in NATO armies, were born in Europe (it was usually their parents who emigrated, most commonly from Turkey or North Africa).

It was believed that, as Moslems, they would have a better rapport with the Afghans. That did not happen. Part of the problem is that Afghans, in general, are not crazy about foreigners, no matter what their religion. They are particularly hostile to Turks and Arabs. The former, because there is a Turkish minority in Afghanistan that has long been seen as a threat to the Indo-European tribes (the Pushtuns and Tajiks) who have traditionally dominated the area. Arabs are disliked because they comprised most of the al Qaeda personnel in Afghanistan. Those al Qaeda "troops" eventually became enforcers for the Taliban, using force to encourage compliance with unpopular Taliban directives.

What NATO commanders did discover about their Moslem troops was not very encouraging. Most of these young Moslems joined the military just for the money. They wanted to get a job, and it is very hard for immigrants, or the children of immigrants, to get jobs in Europe. The military was always looking for volunteers, but most young guys saw being in uniform as no fun at all. So many Moslems were accepted, if not welcomed. Few of the NCOs, and hardly any officers in European armies are from emigrant families. This is in sharp contrast to the United States, where there are many Arab and Moslem NCOs and officers in the military, and the commander of all U.S. troops in the Middle East and Afghanistan (2003-2007) was an Arab-American Christian.

In Europe, Moslems were held in low esteem even before 911. Since then, fear of terrorists has translated into even more disdain for Moslems. This carries over into the military, where officers and NCOs often distrust their Moslem troops, or simply show disdain for them. Senior commanders recognize that they have a problem with Moslem troops, and it's not always the fault of the Moslems. This makes it easier for Islamic radicals to recruit European soldiers. In one striking example, a British soldier, who was born in Iran and acting as the interpreter for the British commander in Afghanistan, was caught trying to sell military secrets to Iran.

No such problems in the U.S. military, or civil society. Many Europeans, and Moslems, have long asserted that the U.S. was simply indulging in tokenism by appointing blacks to senior government or military positions (while ignoring the large number that were careerists, and had already reached high, but not the most senior, ranks). They can't explain away Obama as another example of tokenism (although some will, including the senior leadership of al Qaeda.)

 

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