Sadly relevant anti-terror campaign
The European Security Advocacy Group, which I wrote about last year, has begun to run more anti-terror ads in European newspapers, including Aftenposten and VG in Norway. You can read the english versions here. The message is that Europeans shouldn't feel safe from terrorism:
For a decade or so, Europe had more terrorist attacks than the Middle East. .. Between 1991 and 2000, the world witnessed 3,810 terrorist attacks. And nearly a third of them - 31% - occured right here in Europe. The focus of global terrorism has shifted elsewhere. For now. But as Europol and security agencies report, terrorist cells are alive and well - all over Europe.
The source for this surprising claim is the US State Department - partly unpublished figures, and partly this report on global terrorism, (see graphs here). It's a stretch to compare regions this way. Terrorist activity is unevenly distributed in both Europe and the Middle East. I also wonder if we're comparing apples and oranges. But it's important to remember, as the ad continues, that "terrorism never really left Europe", that "it's not just somebody else's problem in some remote part of the world", which is precisely how many Europeans think about terrorism.
These words became tragically relevant today, when terrorist blew up 190+ people in Madrid, and injured 1200+ more. Was it ETA or al-Qaeda? It says something about the current situation that we have a choice of suspects. Three years ago I would have been shocked by an attack this size. Now, after 9/11, Bali, Istanbul, Israel and Iraq, after thousands of victims, plots and cells uncovered all over the world, surprise comes difficult. The numbers are unremarkable, the horrible personal stories been heard before, and that bothers me. I feel sadness and anger, but not shock.
Only that it happened in Western Europe is unusual, but even this shouldn't surprise anyone. If al-Qaeda is responsible, it's not their first attempt. Many al-Qaeda plots in Europe have been prevented over the last years, and some, like the one aimed at the 1998 soccer World Cup in France, might have been as deadly as this one. If on the other hand ETA is responsible, it's a first of this size, but it's hardly surprising that they too have learned the power of large-scale terrorism. The concept has been heavily advertised, and attention is guaranteed. And one must keep up with the times. Al-Qaeda has caused an inflation in the field of terrorism. A modern terrorist attack must be more deadly and better executed than anything that served the same purpose ten years ago.
So there should be no surprise here, none at all. But there is, of course. There's a reason why ESAG must remind Europe that we're vulnerable to terrorism. Many still believed until today that attacks like this can't happen in Europe. An NRK reporter said something to that effect a few minutes ago. This very moment people all across Norway are thinking up reasons for why this could happen in Spain, which is far away, is home to a known terrorist organization, and supported the US in Iraq, but surely it couldn't happen here in Norway. They'll come up with all kinds of rational-sounding reasons.
It likely won't happen here any time soon. We're one of many countries al-Qaeda hates, and one of the smallest ones. That's all that stands between us and a similar attack in Oslo. Some of us will realize that, others will draw more comforting lessons. We can at least hope that warnings against terrorism will now be taken more seriously, and clever justifications of it less.
Sandy P. | 2004-03-11 21:57 | Link
Nope, just head-in-the-sand all the US' fault.
AQ's claiming responsibility, but used ETA MO in the bomb mix.
Susan | 2004-03-11 23:45 | Link
Wonder if those Swedish "artists" will commemorate this tragic event with one of their wonderful "installations" glamorizing the bombers as perhaps, "Robin Hood" or "William Tell"?
Nah, couldn't be. The Madrid terrorists killed actual human beings, not Jews.
Sylvia, Denver | 2004-03-12 06:55 | Link
At Iberian Notes is this comment:
ETA plants the bombs, and this was clearly an ETA-style job, but tries to make it look like Al Qaeda, or at least bring up the suspicion as best they can--and note that the first person to link the alleged "Arab resistance" group and the massacre in Madrid was none other than ETA mouthpiece Arnaldo Otegui.
So, Did Otegui claim it was an Arab group? Was this before or after the Spanish police found the van with the fuses and Arab literature? And who in their right mind would leave ,er, clues like that just laying around? If it was before the van was found, then how would he know? Either way it looks like the ETA would have to be involved - it's ETA's turf. Of course, the various "resistance" movements: IRA/ETA/ et al, seem to have evolved over the years into being smokescreens for anarchists. I would be surprised if the ETA wasn't taking money/materiel from Al Qaeda. Europe better wake up. This has nothing to do with Bush or US foreign policy - that just pushed up everyone's timetable, made the terrorists poke their heads out of their spider holes. Perhaps Al Qaeda's goal is to use the homegrown anarchist groups as useful fools?
Hunt them down.
Sandy P. | 2004-03-12 07:20 | Link
Well, it seems that AQ's 90% ready for its attack on the US. Of course, we've been waiting since November, but we'll see.
Anders, Oslo | 2004-03-12 15:40 | Link
A sad day for Europe and a sad day for humanity.
ESAG have improved their ads slightly. However, they still preach a few inaccuracies. There is not more terrorism in Europe than in the Middle East. But we seem to be catching up. As Bjørn rightly suggests they are comparing apples and oranges. No one has any track of minor terrorism incidents in the Middle East. But if someone throws a rock through the window of a governmental office in Norway it is counted.
We may need new ideas and approaches for an effective trans-Atlantic strategy against this problem. The USA has no chance of fixing this alone, neither has Europe. I therefore ask you: Do relations matter??
I strongly recommend "The Breaking of Nations" released by Robert Cooper this February. This book is truly an "eye-opener":
Bjørn Stærk | 2004-03-12 16:02 | Link
Anders: "The USA has no chance of fixing this alone, neither has Europe. I therefore ask you: Do relations matter??"
They always did, the question is how much. If you have to choose between attempting to solve the problem and maintaining good relations with allies so that at some future point they might contribute to solving the problem in some unspecified way, I choose the first.
You'll also notice that the US has not suffered another terrorist attack at home since 9/11. Al-Qaeda has so far only been successful against weaker targets. This suggests that the US is on a right track. Europe may want to evaluate what that track is, and learn from it.
Susan | 2004-03-12 19:43 | Link
I think that secretly the powers to be in Europe DOES believe that the US is one the right track, Bjorn. But as usual, Europe just wants the US to do all the dirty work and leave them out of it, so that they can sit on the sidelines and point fingers at the evil Amerikkkan imperialists while enjoying the benefits of our protection and willingness to get our hands dirty.
John Ø. Welle, Norway | 2004-03-13 01:08 | Link
Anders: "Those who want to have a chance of survivng an uncertain future should think in terms of arming and organizing to face it, while at the same time working for lasting political solutions."
Perhaps you would like to divulge to us in what way (Old) Europe has worked to achieve this goal since 9/11 (Excepting Afghanistan)? You seem to be laboring under the illusion that the lack of international cooperation on the war on terror lately should be blamed solely on the US. But I might be wrong.. ?
Anders, Oslo | 2004-03-13 20:21 | Link
John: Afghanistan was important. The Bush administration has not been seeking lasting political soloutions in cooperation with old europe. They also managed to stay out of the illegal illegitimate war to rid Saddam of the weapons he never had. And yes.... most of the blame for the trans-atlantic tension belongs to Washington. Unilateralism is the opposite of cooperation.
Bjørn: Of course Europe has a lot to learn from US countermeasures to terrorism. But there is a line when civil rights issues and countermeasures are difficult to achieve. I don't want the EU Patriot act. Rumsfeld is correct when he states that we can not defend against every perceivable trhreat everywhere at all times. The underlying causes of terrorism must be adressed.
The war on terrorism is won when people do not want to preform terrorist acts. It will not be won by killing all terrorists. A terrorist is born every day. If people keep throwing rocks through your window, try to find out why they do it before you kick their "hineys"....but don't get me wrong... the whop-ass part is also needed. And when it comes to that part Uncle Sam is numbero uno!! The EU needs military capabilities.
John Ø. Welle, Norway | 2004-03-14 15:17 | Link
Anders: You know, I keep hearing the term 'unilateralism' bandied about when people are trying to negatively describe US foreign policy. It's a nice buzz-word. It's completely off the mark, though.
49 countries are currently enlisted in the Coallition. Granted, they are contributing at varying levels, but it still shows there are broad support for the war.
Further more, unilateralism isn't only about the number of allies a certain nation has at any given point, but also the *willingness to seek out allies*. When the Iraq war first started to emerge as a likely possibility, the critics all agreed that Bush would fail to seek out UN cooperation. They were, of course, wrong. No one can argue that Bush didn't insistently try to get the UN involved.
The failure of UN cooperation can only be blamed on the pussyfooting of nations like France, Germany and Russia. Iraq was in clear violation of resolution 1441, and the SC failed to live up to it's obligation. In my eyes, it was the final proof that the UN as a credible enforcer of international law, is just so much air.
What is the point of international law, (which no sane person would argue Iraq wasn't flagrantly violating) if noone is willing to enforce it?
And drop that gloating smirk because of the lacking WMD. *Everyone*, including France and her cronies, believed that Iraq had such weapons before the start of the war. The issue was whether further inspections could uncover them, not whether they could be found at all.
Not that it matters much. The WMD was just a casus belli anyway. There were several other (and some better) reasons why a war in Iraq was a good idea. The reasons against it, if you strip it down, seem almost always to boil down to latent anti-americanism, or at the very least, latent anti-bushism. Why shouldn't a war against a man responsible for the death of 60.000 of his own inhabitants a year be considered a just war, no matter what?
Another thing, you say the underlying causes of terrorism must be addressed. Why? We already know perfectly well what they want. It's all insane. The question is whether you want to appease them, or pursue an unrelenting policy in dealing with them.
Anders, Oslo | 2004-03-15 15:46 | Link
John: We disagree about most things regarding this topic.
We've been through a few of these themes in earlier blogs, and the discussions have been quite fruitful. On the more positive side. After all, disagreement is strongly encuoraged in this forum. By that standard we are doing well :-)
John Ø, Welle, Norway | 2004-03-15 17:41 | Link
Diplomacy has always been about trying to persuade the other part to come as close as possible to your point of view, without letting go to much. This has absolutely nothing to do with 'forcing anybody'. That is when you hold a gun to somebody's head. The US showed considerable willingness to continue the inspections, despite their obvious futility. However, there is a limit to how much stonewalling a nation should be willing to endure, before it chooses to act on itself. ("We won't go to war no matter what". Ring a bell?)
- International law enforcement (It is difficult since the international system ultimately is an anarchy where no one has legitimacy over others)
"where no one has legitimacy over others". You seem to be saying that the sovereignty principly should override all other concerns. Do you think it was wrong/illegitimate of NATO to intervene in Serbia in '96? Somalia?
Also, International Law isn't an anarchic jungle when it comes to very basic principles such as Human Rights. The problem isn't the lack of UN's capability to comprehend the laws, rather than it's capability to enforce them.
- broad support for the war(??do you read papers?)
Do you read anything but *Norwegian* papers? The coallition exists of 49 nations, which is pretty broad in my book. This fact has largely been downplayed and trivialized by Norwegian media, mostly because of their opposition to the war.
- What is a casus belli?
The popular meaning of the term is 'excuse for going to war'. It says nothing of the justness of the war. You have to examine the underlying causes to answer that.
Is removing one of the worst dictators in modern times a just cause?
Is bringing democracy to Iraq, with the possibility to bring it to the whole region, a just cause?
Is stabilizing oil prices, and thus securing Iraq a steady income, a just cause? (Note: This has nothing to do with 'stealing oil'.)
Is hindering the death of 60.000 (2/3 children) a year a just cause? (And those are conservative numbers.)
Is stopping Saddam's funding of Palestinian terrorists a just cause?
Me thinks so.
- terrorists are insane. (You are fooling yourself. They are clever calculating bastards, who deserve punishment)
Nope, I said their *goals* are insane. Vast difference. As you point out, their methods are rational, but their aims are certifiably insane.
- appeasement. You want me to stop talking about WMD which was the main theme of the Bush administration a year ago. But you still think that references to Chamberlain in the 30s are appropriate. Again I disagree.
I was refering to the 'we should try to understand terrorists' part of your last post. You seem to suggest that we should try to do something about what causes terrorists to fly planes into big buildings. Should we drive the Israelis into the sea? Should we establish sharia-law in the west?
If you're not willing to go along with that, there is little purpose to going down that path.
- After all, disagreement is strongly encuoraged in this forum. By that standard we are doing well :-)
Heh, indeed! But isn't it time you agree that I'm the one who is right? :)
Anders, Oslo | 2004-03-16 09:38 | Link
No need to back down, since I believe that you are wrong on most accounts. This part is particularly bad:
Is removing one of the worst dictators in modern times a just cause? NO
Is bringing democracy to Iraq, with the possibility to bring it to the whole region, a just cause? NO
Is stabilizing oil prices, and thus securing Iraq a steady income, a just cause? (Note: This has nothing to do with 'stealing oil'.) Absoulutely Not.
"Is hindering the death of 60.000 (2/3 children) a year a just cause? (And those are conservative numbers.)" No. They were dying as a result of the sanction-regime which the UN (under pressure from the USA and others were enforcing. Stop sanctions and babies will survive. Cluster bombs aren't ideal for preventing mass deaths. I suppose you would disagree. The failed sanction regime is a failure international society at large is responsible for.
"Is stopping Saddam's funding of Palestinian terrorists a just cause." The extent of this I question, but it would be the closest thing to a cause. You see "Casus belli" is a reason or a cause for going to war. The idea is that someone did something to you which justifies going to war. Saddam was not involved in 9-11 so there is no cause. You are basically talking about the second criterion for going to a just war which is: Right Intention. I don't have a problem with the intentions. They are good intentions, but they are not legitimate reasons for going to war.
If the USA is not a unilateralist state. Then who is? Refusing to enter Kyoto, ICC, abandoning the ABM. Experimenting with mini nukes which will scrap the NPT-treaty. Enforcing the UN demands without UN approval?? Come on.... Is your definition of unilateralis a state which talks to no one?
John Øyvind Welle | 2004-03-16 15:26 | Link
You just don't have the arguments to show it?
"This part is particularly bad:"
Why, I'll be damned. Can you tell me what *you* would consider a just cause for going to war?
"They were dying as a result of the sanction-regime which the UN (under pressure from the USA and others were enforcing. Stop sanctions and babies will survive. Cluster bombs aren't ideal for preventing mass deaths."
Sorry, but this is just plain stupid. So what you're proposing is that not only should we have left Saddam unchecked, we should have dropped the sanctions and embraced him in the international society? Well, that's certainly not unprecedented when it comes to brutal dictators, but what makes you think Saddam would use any of the extra income to 'save the babies'? And what about the hundreds of thousands Saddam killed with bio/chem weapons? Not to mention the unknown numbers killed and tortured by Saddam's secret police?
Cluster bombs? You seem to have a problem with proportions. The death count as a result of such munitions are ranging from 1 (The Pentagon, probably not reliable) to 200. The casualties may, however, rise as a result of undetonated munitions. That's bad, no doubt about it, but surely you too can see that this amounts to next to nothing compared to the deaths caused by Saddam's regime?
"The extent of this I question, but it would be the closest thing to a cause. You see "Casus belli" is a reason or a cause for going to war. The idea is that someone did something to you which justifies going to war."
The list I was making was underlying reasons, not a list of proposed casus bellis. We already know what the casus belli was (WMD). It didn't hold water. Too bad. What I'm trying to point out is that there were *other reasons* which were just as good as the official justification. (Oh, and remember that a Casus Belli is just that, 'an official justification'; it tells nothing of the whole range of reasons for going to war.)
"Saddam was not involved in 9-11 so there is no cause."
That's non sequitur. No one ever said that 9-11 was a cause for going to war in anything but a very broad sense.
"If the USA is not a unilateralist state. Then who is?"
Glad you asked. I'll tell you who is: France. That's right, your beloved champion of multinational cooperation France is a seasoned expert in unilateralism.
France has intervened unilaterally in Africa 34 times since its assault on Gabon in 1964. Their threat to veto a UN Security Council resolution (re Iraq) no matter what was a unilateral action. France’s intransigence on farm subsidies has been the single greatest impediment to progress at the World Trade Organization. France’s determination to set up an independent European military-planning center risks splitting NATO. France’s refusal to comply with the European Union’s fiscal rules may result in the rules’ collapse. The list goes on and on.
And I see you keep dodging the fact that the US did not act alone, but had the support of 49 other countries in the Coallition to liberate Iraq. That's not unilateralism. The first Gulf War had fewer participants.
"Refusing to enter Kyoto, ICC.."
I don't blame the US one bit for not wanting to touch those two with a transatlantic sized stick. The Kyoto deal had vastly different terms for the US compared to those of Europe and China. Besides, it's chock full of a lot of other stupid things, not specifically related to the US. The same thing with ICC. Nations such as France and the UK were given passes while the US was not.
One might actually suspect the framers of these international treatis to have a negative bias towards the US.. (Gasp! Shocking isn't it!)
Anders, Oslo | 2004-03-16 23:18 | Link
To me this doesn't make much sense. France is unilateralist and the USA multilateralist? Are you suggesting that France dominates the world and not the USA??!!?? Why do you instinctively think that I love France? Where do you get your information on International Relations? I do agree that Norwegian newspapers are insufficient.
You really sound like a GUNG-HO kinda guy. Is there any aspect of US foreign policy you find just a tad questionable? I'm just curious.
The only thing I find somewhat encouraging in this post is that you admit that WMD-claims was what the war was sold by. And that claim was lies, spin or sheer incompetence. This war wasn't started as a humanitarian intervention. It therefore cannot be justified in the aftermath as a humanitarian intervention.
You touch upon a lot in your post.
JanH | 2004-03-16 23:51 | Link
Anders, you have to remember that outside the whiny left, the word "unilateralist" means a country that acts alone, as a single country, not someone who acts as part of a coalition that lacks France.
Anders, Oslo | 2004-03-17 10:54 | Link
You're all obsessed with France. ICC, Kyoto, anti-landmine treaty and NPT are just as good evidence. Unilateralism may have its meaning inside the whiny left. It also seems to have a relatively strange meaning inside this forum. Exceptionalism is perhaps an even better way to describe the base-line of US foreign policy. That term was thoroughly debated in a previous blog in this forum.
Finally, what is interesting about France is that they are arrogant and stubborn enough to truly defy the number one superpower in the world. Why they do it is another very interesting question also previously debated :-)
Move on from the simplistic and truly naive idea that everything that France does is bad and everything the USA does is WONDERFUL!!!
John Øyvind Welle, Norway | 2004-03-17 13:10 | Link
"To me this doesn't make much sense. France is unilateralist and the USA multilateralist? Are you suggesting that France dominates the world and not the USA??!!??"
Who 'dominates' the world is entirely beside the point. Take North Korea for instance; you would be hard pressed to find any nation more altruistically unilateralist, but that doesn't mean they are the most dominant nation on the earth.
In fact, with the economic and military power the US possesses I find it quite impressive that they have been trying as hard as they have to seek international cooperation. It's not like they couldn't easily have wiped out Saddam on their own.
"Why do you instinctively think that I love France?"
Well, I consider France to be the antithesis of the US, and since you obviously have a troubled relationship with the US I just leapt to the conclusion. (Or, I was being flippant.)
"Is there any aspect of US foreign policy you find just a tad questionable?"
Not so much with their foreign policy as their domestic policy, but there are still things:
- I think they relied too heavily on Kurdish exiles for intelligence on the reactions of the Iraqi people after the liberation.
- I'm not entirely sure I like their policy of winning the support of local kingpins with greenbacks. Bribes often tend to come back and slap you in the face.
- The sanctions against Cuba are utterly meaningless, they only serve to please the large Cuban exile population.
- They're too soft on France!
"[Won't debate]... Because we seem to be very far away from any common ground on these issues."
That's exactly why you should continue to put up counterarguments. That is the only way to find out if your arguments really hold water, or if you have a bias.
But I'll tell you what. I'll make you a deal. I will read two of your favourite anti-war writers (preferably something written on the net), if you will read two of my favourite pro-war writers:
- Cristopher Hitchens (He's a liberal pro-war journalist, so he won't annoy you by suddenly dropping socially überconservative things into his writings.)
- Robert Kagan (Writes a lot about the rift between the US and Europe.)
A simple Google-search will turn out relevant writings.
John Øyvind Welle, Norway | 2004-03-17 13:18 | Link
"Move on from the simplistic and truly naive idea that everything that France does is bad and everything the USA does is WONDERFUL!!!"
I can't speak for anybody else, but I doubt most people here buys into that black and white picture. The point for me, was to show you that France exercises considerable Hypocrisy (With a big H) when they're blaming other nations for unilateralism.
Anders, Oslo | 2004-03-17 22:53 | Link
I'll do Kagan. That's all the homework I'll accept :-) I know parts of his work, but I 've never gotten aroung to reading the whole book about "Paradise and Power" thoroughly. I read his recent article in the Weekly Standard with Kristol though. "The Right War for the Right Reasons". Interesting and very articulate. (Mind you all...I do read the neo-con stuff too)
I think the article should have been more aptly named: "The Right's war for the Right's Reasons" ;-) Naturally, I disagree with Kagan and Kristol. So does Zapatero and the people of all European countries according to the Pew-poll of yesterday. What we are witnessing now is the diplomacy backlash that was inevitable. A weakening of old alliances and a breakdown of good constructive relations.
I'll only recommend one book. The already mentioned "Just and Unjust Wars" by Michael Walzer seems appropriate. And don't come saying afterwards that Iraq was what Walzer refers to as a "supreme emergency"! That's his loophole out of the legalist paradigme.
John Ø. Welle, Norway | 2004-03-18 16:37 | Link
I'll have a look into that. Seems like an interesting read from what little I could gather from the reviews over at amazon.
"And don't come saying afterwards that Iraq was what Walzer refers to as a "supreme emergency"! "
A supreme emergency, no, but from what I've seen he argues that if a nation has an intent to injure, prepares to fulfill the intent, and if the risk is increased by delaying, a war may be justified.
I would say that applies to Iraq. The lack of WMD notwithstanding.
Besides, who cares what he says, it's Hobbes that matters! :)
Anders, Oslo | 2004-03-18 22:37 | Link
If Europe and the USA can't get some consensus on the war on terrorism quite soon. Hobbes may get an undesirable comeback. I've always liked Hobbes. His ideas are sometimes caricatured and distorted. But it's not a particularly encouraging way to think of the world.
Øyvind, Bergen | 2004-09-20 21:18 | Link
Susan wrote: Wonder if those Swedish "artists" will commemorate this tragic event with one of their wonderful "installations" glamorizing the bombers as perhaps, "Robin Hood" or "William Tell"? Nah, couldn't be. The Madrid terrorists killed actual human beings, not Jews.
The only thing is... one of the artists, Dror Feiler, is not only Swedish. He's also Jewish.
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