Western Europe is a core recruiting ground for Muslim terrorists that is being overlooked given the U.S. focus on Iraq and the Middle East, according to Francis Fukuyama, academic dean of Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.
The failure of European countries to assimilate their large and growing Muslim populations in the era of globalization has caused an alienation among the young that has created a "hard core for terrorism," Fukuyama said in Washington at a bipartisan policy forum on terrorism and security, sponsored by the New America Foundation.
"Fixing the Middle East is only part of the problem. It is a West European problem, too," Fukuyama said. He pointed out that the leaders of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks came out of a cell in Hamburg and that most of the extremists participating in the more recent bombings in Spain and England were born in those countries.
Fukuyama's analysis squares with recent CIA conclusions about the importance of Western Europe, where, as one former senior intelligence official put it yesterday, "there are 10 million Muslims . . . that are not integrated into their societies."
Fukuyama called this one area of the war against terrorism in which U.S. and European interests merge and joint cooperation has begun to be productive. The Europeans "need to understand American assimilation" because their approach of "multiculturalism has been a failure," Fukuyama said.
The security and terrorism conference drew more than 100 legislators, academics and former policymakers, who expressed a broad range of views and concerns about extremism and the strategies for confronting it.
University of Chicago Associate Professor Robert A. Pape, author of "Dying to Win," a book based on a study of 460 suicide bombers, told his audience that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network decided two years ago to target Western European countries that had allied themselves with the United States in Iraq. Pape said Norwegian intelligence obtained a September 2003 document from a Web site reportedly affiliated with al Qaeda. The document discussed hitting Spain before its elections and, thereafter, the British, the Italians and the Poles, all of whom have had troops in Iraq.
In his book, Pape described the situation, saying: "Every suicide terrorist campaign has had a clear goal that is secular and political: to compel a modern democracy to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland."
Retired Army Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson, who was the chief of staff of then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, described at the conference what he called the "rightful paranoia" that senior Bush administration policymakers have regarding the prospect that terrorists might somehow obtain nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
"Katrina gives us no confidence," Wilkerson said, in U.S. preparations for a terrorist nuclear explosion in a major city. "I am 10 times more worried about what happens to civil liberties after that attack."
Wilkerson then drew the picture of Bush or a future president forced to act "to satisfy demands of the American people." He said the likely steps after such a dramatic attack would include "closed doors and closed borders . . . no foreign students at all" and would "make the Patriot Act pale," a reference to the post-Sept. 11 law designed to give law enforcement agencies more latitude to investigate would-be terrorists.
Princeton professor G. John Ikenberry criticized the Bush administration's counterterrorism policies, saying that U.S. unilateralism has become a "provocation and unsettling element in the world." His solution is "to rediscover bargaining with key allies."
An opposing view came from Rep. Jim Saxton (R-N.J.), chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on terrorism, who expressed strong support for the president's policies and praised the Pentagon's Special Forces as having "done more than any other group" to fight terrorism.
He called for a tougher policy on Iran, a country that he said "promotes radicalism, promotes terrorism." He said the United States should support groups inside and outside Iran that can "spread the cause of freedom" there.