December 31, 2001
Lessons of Richard Reid
peacekeepers and nation-building, terrorism is a domestic problem
the tragedy comes the farce. Three months after the inferno of the
World Trade Center, a British chap tries to blow up a plane by setting
light to his shoe. It would not have sounded so funny if he
had succeeded. Thankfully not everything in the world goes wrong,
and the unorganised militia of flight 63 restrained the passenger
with belts and sedatives and we can if not laugh at least
be relieved about this story. So what lessons can be learned from
first is that Richard Reid's ability to carry out an attack like
this was unaffected by the political control of Afghanistan. The
existence of the Brixton mosque, its infiltration by hard-liners,
the availability of plastic explosives over the internet and poor
airport security none of these were down to the Taliban.
It seems likely that he was trained
in Al Qaeda camps, probably in Afghanistan, however it seems
that the networks were formed in England as were all the
logistics of the exercise.
is not an argument for leaving the Al Qaeda camps in peace. Although
America's security will benefit from this action (and Britain
will probably suffer from its participation) it will only
be a short-term benefit. The terrorists are in the West, and not
Afghanistan. Their network may be disrupted by this adventure, but
this network or something like it will re-form, especially when
they were already suspicious of governments and never allowed one
to own them.
will not be defeated by disrupting the training camps or the leadership
of a cell-like terror network it will have to look at defeating
the cells on their home ground, and, folks, that's our home ground
as well. So what things can be done? Here are a few modest suggestions.
organisers and the cheerleaders of the terror incidents are in almost
every case first-generation immigrants. Richard Reid notwithstanding,
so are most of the foot soldiers. This should not be surprising
when one is considering international terrorism.
will be enormous costs, both economic and political, of completely
cutting off immigration even if it is only from Muslim or
Arab lands. Some marginal changes could really hurt the Islamists.
Social security payments seem to sustain an unduly high proportion
of these people, as a brilliant
piece by Mickey Kaus
in Slate chronicled. We can
also look at our policy of refusing to extradite those who face
the death penalty back home. Britain has had to suspend habeas corpus
to keep eight suspected terrorist leaders behind bars. Many of them
could not be extradited because they were facing the death penalty
in another country. Strange set of priorities.
many people noticed that passenger action stopped this hijacking?
A group of terrorists may not have been stopped by belts and sedatives
in the same way that a lone terrorist was. Keeping guns off aircraft
is not protecting passengers, just the opposite.
lesson is that a country should not feel responsible for its citizens
abroad. The idea that Richard Reid is to receive any consular assistance,
much less legal assistance, strikes most people as odd. When someone
voluntarily leaves Britain, he foregoes the protections of her laws
and submits himself to the protection and of the country he visits.
Richard Reid did just that. This commonsense rule would also knock
out one of the incredibly
thin excuses that the British elite has used for going into
this war. The 60 British people who died, died under the protection
of the American government and it is up to America to avenge
them. In the same way, it would be the UK's duty to avenge American
merchant bankers killed in the City of London. This, however, had
better be the subject of a separate column.
WILL ALWAYS BE WITH US
of the most interesting points to come out of this is the unsophisticated
nature of Richard Reid's operation. He was lighting his shoe. Plastic
explosives may sound sophisticated, until he plausibly claims that
he bought them over the Internet.
or not he had help or training, the fact is that the cells are now
here and can plausibly keep operating for years. Terrorist activity
can be cut down through domestic police action. However, there is
also a political calculation. With Northern Ireland that is quite
specific, the IRA
see the British as the main obstacle to an ethnically pure Irish
state (or Marxist state depending on the faction). It is clear what
is at stake here, and the British people know that they are paying
a price to keep in Ulster. This is not the case with the Al Qaeda
network. No doubt, over time there will be a realisation that Al
Qaeda have political
goals (that do not involve overturning Western capitalism and
democracy). It will then be a question of how much we are prepared
to suffer to thwart their goals.
is not to suggest that giving in to every terrorist threat will
bring peace; doing so is impossible when you have differing terrorist
groups and attempting it will signal that terrorism is a profitable
course of action. What it does suggest is that terrorism will always
be with us to some extent, and that an increased risk of terrorism
should be factored in as a risk of certain actions for example
British involvement in the Afghan adventure.
PROBLEMS NEED DOMESTIC MEASURES
many commentators seem to treat the struggle against militant Islam
as merely a rerun on the Cold War. It is not. Islam, even militant
Islam, is a far more diffuse phenomena than communism and a far
harder plant to nurture in non-Muslim soil, and so it is far less
ambitious. The other difference is that its main thrust will be
through domestic terrorism, whereas the Soviet Union projected its
might through more conventional means. So while foreign adventures
worked in containing a conventional rival, they will have a limited
and short-term (although real) effect in containing terrorism. In
many cases, especially Britain's, the Afghan adventure will dramatically
increase the risk of terrorism with no benefits. Terrorism is a
domestic problem, and the only long-term solution is through domestic
DO ANY BETTER?
am cutting down on my column-writing to concentrate on other projects,
particularly on this infernal Euro referendum. Over the next couple
of months, I will be doing my columns on a fortnightly basis, and
after that they will be done only occasionally.
could you write one of these columns? The requirements are that
you should be British (or living here) and write about foreign affairs
from a noninterventionist angle. And that's it. E-mail any columns
to me at firstname.lastname@example.org pseudonyms are obviously
you wish to keep up with my writing as it appears you can subscribe
to my e-mail
list, or to my eclectic
daily e-mails on British foreign affairs. There are other projects,
my web log will
still be updated with events and thoughts as they happen and the
forum will not indeed cannot stop offering fierce
debate on British foreign policy.
of course there's Antiwar.com,
which I am sure will go from strength to strength. This is not my
last column so you will not have my last good-bye and profuse thanks
you'll have to wait for that. In the meantime I would like
to say that the support of the webmaster Eric Garris and the unique
Justin Raimondo has been invaluable. There is more than one side
to foreign affairs, although you often wouldn't know it if it wasn't