February 26, 2004

Euro-American Tactics Watch

Jim Hoagland:

"While America is at war abroad, Europe is on alert at home. These differing priorities and responses to Sept. 11 and its aftermath have led to two years of misunderstandings and controversy across the Atlantic. But both Americans and Europeans need to draw from each other's approach and resources to reduce their mutual vulnerabilities to religiously inspired fanatics bent on destroying modern society.

As a global military power, the United States relies more on sending soldiers and spies abroad to fight far from American shores. The Pentagon and CIA have identified a global insurgency that they are countering with military and espionage strategies that still reflect the all-or-nothing stakes of the Cold War. George W. Bush proclaims himself a war president.

Europeans depend more on national police forces with sophisticated internal intelligence operations, which Americans are reluctant to accept. It is no accident that the most popular politician in France today is Nicolas Sarkozy, the ambitious interior minister who has made his name synonymous with a pervasive and tough police presence. Similarly, Britain's David Blunkett and Germany's Otto Schily, Sarkozy's counterparts, overshadow most of their cabinet colleagues at home.

In one sense, both continents follow the hammer-and-nail theory of international politics. Governments, like individuals, often define a problem by the tools that are available to deal with it. But Americans need to understand the extent to which European responses are also driven by the perception that their security problems are internal, rather than in distant lands."

I think each side needs to adopt the other's "best practices" more often going forward.

Put differently, the Europeans have to be able to leave the peaceful 'perpetual peace' Kantian precincts of Euro-land more often when preventive action is necessary (while playing down tendencies and temptations to be consumed by a short-sighted desire to constrain U.S. power) in their 'near abroad.'

Meanwhile we need to improve our Homeland Security operations by better employing diverse human capital available in academia, business and media--all the while learning some lessons from the Europeans where applicable.

And we need, together, to think about intelligent ways to win proverbial hearts and minds through the Middle East. (Oh, fast-paced, 'hip' MTV style T.V. programs aren't gonna cut it).

Worth noting too, the latest al-Qaeda threat included France too (re: headscarves). The lesson? Appeasement-style policies won't work (re: al Q and affiliates).

This is a common struggle, involving the entire Atlantic community, against theocratic barbarians who aim to scuttle the post-Rennaissance Western liberal project. The stakes are high and real.

It's time to move forward, with solidarity, to address these perilous forces that are vying to obtain WMD to attack Western polities, writ large, so as to exercise maximum damage.

Bush's stock, rightly, is running a bit lower these days. But we need to ensure that Kerry and Edwards get this before thinking of voting for them. National security, in my view, remains the paramount issue facing the American voter in 2004.

Posted by Gregory at February 26, 2004 03:06 PM
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