The Dutch still get it.
Smiley hit the nail on the head. The Diplomad
inspired this site, and continued to provide inspiration as we worked to find our collective voice in the blogosphere. They will be missed, and are of course welcome to post here, or at My Blog is Your Blog
any time. I'll be reading their archives for some time to come.
Life and blog must go on, however.
As Secretary Rice continues her introductory tour as SecState around Europe and the Middle East and the world's attention is focused on the Iraqi elections and the nuclear capability of Iran another enemy is still at large. Al Qaeda has not folded up it's tents and disappeared into the night. All the purple fingers in Iraq do not change the fact that OBL is still out there, and that he and his merry group of murderers would like nothing more than to cause the death of me, you, anyone else reading this and just about everyone in America and western Europe.
One country in Europe, however, still has it's eyes on the prize. The Netherlands, mobilized by the death of Theo van Gogh, recognizes the fact that the arch-enemy is still a power to reckon with. In November of last year we blogged
about the true nature of this enemy as revealed by van Gogh's murder, and the "Letter to America
" penned by OBL himself. It may be time to read that letter again, especially for our European friends.
Radio Netherlands has posted an article entitled "Counter-terrorism: is Europe doing enough" chock full of quotes from an interview with Richard Falkenrath, former Deputy Homeland Security Advisor to President Bush. Falkenrath, now with the Brookings Institution did not pull any punches with the state of European counter-terrorism (CT) affairs:
"Frankly, since 9/11 [there have been] very modest changes. Institutionally, I have seen no significant change. There's been the appointment of a counter-terrorism coordinator in Brussels, after Madrid. A useful innovation, but a rather modest one. I don't think it's going to make very much difference. [There's been] no major statutory change in any European country or with respect to European law, and no real innovation in any of the critical areas of border security; transportation security; bio-defense; critical infrastructure protection; domestic counter-terrorism, any of the things we've been doing in the United States. I don't see equivalent progress being made in Europe."
I recently had to transfer through one of the major EU airport hubs, and while we were making final descent and the crew was thanking everyone for flying with them they included the announcement "Passengers connecting to the United States of America are urged to proceed directly to their gate without delay as security precautions are intense and time consuming." I had never heard that announcement before, and was taken aback momentarily, until it struck me that this must mean all of the other security precautions in the airport were not intense! That, gentle reader, does not a comforting thought produce. As I completed my trip I was careful to note the state of airport security in the three EU countries I passed through: basically non-existant. In two airports I checked in at a self-serve kiosk and never showed an ID to anyone. My bags were quickly x-rayed, and that was it. I hate standing in line at the airport, but I dislike the thought of the lax security even more so.
The Europeans have to date been loathe to cede any national security powers to the EU. Shortly after the van Gogh murder Deutsche Welle reported on the problems caused by the wide ranging mix of police powers found in the Union.
Hitches in intelligence sharing, and the flow of information between national law enforcement and security agencies on the European level is mirroring similar problems within each country. German security officials, for example, have been at pains to improve data-sharing since the Sept. 11 attacks, with only marginal success, say critics.
"The police don't know what the police know," said Bodo Franz, the Hamburg state police's top terrorism investigator, echoing a common refrain.
That was in November. Om 29 January Deutsche Welle reported that "A suspected Iraqi al Qaeda member arrested in Germany said he was personally sent by Osama bin Laden." This terrorist was arrested in Mainz, where President Bush is scheduled to visit next month, and is suspected of being tasked with securing enriched uranium in Luxembourg.
The Department of State, and I am sure many other US agencies, are willing and ready to work with the EU and member nations on CT issues as William Pope, acting anti-terrorism coordinator at the Department made clear that the US and EU must work together to combat al Qaeda and international terrorism:
...Pope.. said closer cooperation between Washington and the 25-nation European Union was the only way to counter the threat...
...[the] European Union, the United States and other countries had been successful in fighting Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaida, but said that terrorist network still posed a threat...
[He] warned that Europe remained a staging ground for terrorist cells loyal to al-Qaida, despite a crackdown after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but said the greatest threat comes from decentralized extremist groups based in countries with weak anti-terrorism policies.
I agree with Mr. Pope, that US-EU cooperation is vital. But first the sundry member states of the EU need to get on the same page on CT issues. As the Radio Netherlands article concludes:
Some would argue that the United States has an advantage in that it is like an 'island', while Europe faces more difficult security issues because of it is a huge land mass with long land borders which are difficult to monitor. However, Richard Falkenrath would argue that this means Europe simply needs to make an extra effort or else choose to "live with this higher state of threat and larger vulnerability," but adds:
"I think they will end up regretting that choice."
So do I.