It is Europe-bashing time again. Outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is the latest in a very long string of US officials to tee off on the Europeans for not "carrying their share of the defense burden." So easy for Americans to say, such an easy escape-hatch from our own economic and fiscal problems.
The reality is everyone's defense budget is coming down. And as they come down, it is important to remember that not everyone in the world agrees with the US view that we have a God-given mission to provide global military and counter-insurgency operations in pursuit of the chimera of "global security," least of all the Europeans. For more on my views, visit the national security experts blog of the National Journal, posted today.
Put simply, why haven't the Al Qaeda backed suicide bombers launched more attacks on the U.S.? In the Wall Street Journal this week, Holman Jenkins answers this question in the context of the underwear bomber:
Considering the ease with which a suicide bomber could stroll into a Starbucks in any American city and kill a dozen people, you have to wonder at al Qaeda's obsession with targeting commercial airliners.
If 19 terrorists (the number who carried out the 9/11 attacks) each blew himself up at one- or two-week intervals in a shopping mall or a movie theater, America likely would become a seething nation of paranoid shut-ins. That it hasn't happened tells you something: Al Qaeda doesn't have a ready supply of competent suicide bombers, domestic or imported, to carry off serious attacks.
I woke up today very thankful to see the words "arrest" and "alleged" in an otherwise gruesome and ominous headline:
FBI arrest four in alleged plot to bomb Bronx synagogues, shoot down plane
Home grown terrorism in the post-9/11 United States is going to change everything when it finally appears.
Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Madrid train bombings. I was working at CEA at the time, and I happened to be in Paris making a presentation to the OECD that week. It was very disconcerting to be away from home when it happened. Nearly 200 people killed and about 2000 wounded by a terrorist cell inspired by, but not formally linked to, Al Qaeda. That was the sort of viral terrorist act that had me most concerned after 9/11. I thought we were in for a lot more attacks after that.
I haven't seen any reference to this anniversary in the U.S. media, though Google will point you to some. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn't have remembered it myself had I not glanced at a receipt that had 03-11 printed at the top. Go here if you need a refresher on the event.