Monday, July 02, 2007

Gordon Brown's Quick Lesson in Jihad

This morning's Wall Street Journal editorial page argues that Gordon Brown, who took over the premiership in Britain this week, got a quick lesson in the realities of terrorism in the post-9/11 world. In office just two days, Brown is hoping to show some of the anti-terror resolve of his predecessor, Tony Blair:

Barely 48 hours on the job, Britain's new Prime Minister Gordon Brown got a lesson in the realities of the post-9/11 world....

Whoever plotted these staggered bombings is, according to Mr. Brown, in general terms "associated with al Qaeda." The U.S., along with British and other allies, have badly disrupted Osama bin Laden's global network. Nothing nearly on the scale of 9/11, and no attack on U.S. soil, has taken place in the past six years. But small local cells--whether in Bali, Madrid or Casablanca, directly or indirectly inspired by bin Laden--are aiming at soft civilian targets with crude means. The conspirators in Britain on the weekend didn't seem to know how to wire a bomb properly. That may not be the case for others plotting to bring the era of the car bomb à la Baghdad to other Western cities.

The changing nature of this threat is, if anything, harder to address. Britain is home to a large Muslim community, mostly from South Asia, and British intelligence struggles to weed out the kinds of home-bred terrorists who carried out the 7/7 subway attacks. Last year police broke up a plot to bring down trans-Atlantic flights with liquid explosives, among 30 or so the U.K. says it has foiled since 2001. The head of British intelligence last year estimated that around 200 terrorist networks are active in the country.

Critical to winning this fight are technology, such as London's ubiquitous surveillance cameras, and the infiltration of extremist cells. France neutralized its French-born Algerian terrorists in the 1990s with robust policing and better intelligence. The other front is inside the Muslim communities themselves. So far, in Britain, Muslim leaders prefer to pin the blame on Israel or the U.S.-led war in Iraq than resolutely condemn and fight the terrorism in their midst. American Muslims are better integrated in U.S. society, but that was no insurance against the recently uncovered plots against New York's JFK Airport and Fort Dix in New Jersey.

Most Britons understand that terrorists wage war on them and their freedoms--and are not, per the fashionable left, voicing opposition to British policy in their own way. This weekend's plotters intended to kill partygoers at popular nightclubs in London's West End and school children departing Glasgow for summer holiday. These cities are thriving, cosmopolitan, tolerant and open--which is a main reason the Islamists want to bomb them.

On Thursday, his first full day in office, the Prime Minister sought to distance himself from just-retired Tony Blair's unpopular commitment to the "global war on terror" by unveiling a cabinet with prominent Blair critics. But Mr. Brown appears to be a quick study. Yesterday, in an interview with the BBC, he was nothing if not resolute: "We will not yield, we will not be intimidated, and we will not allow anyone to undermine our British way of life." Welcome to the fight.
Indeed, welcome to the fight, and keep up the detemined resolve.

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