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Can Democrats Win on Security?

The Journal Editorial Report

Paul Gigot: This week on "The Journal Editorial Report," homegrown terror: how Islamic extremists have transformed Britain into "Londonistan." Could it happen here? And a Mideast's postmortem, as Israel steps up its withdrawal from southern Lebanon, a look at the winners and losers in the 34-day war. Plus, George Soros takes on George Bush, calling the war on terror self-defeating. As November approaches, can Democrats win on the security issue? But first, these headlines.

Gigot: Welcome to "The Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot. Last week's arrest of two dozen British Muslims in a foiled terror plot has brought renewed focus to that country's problem with homegrown terror. My guest this week says that despite the resolve of Prime Minister Tony Blair after Sept. 11, London has become the European hub for the promotion, recruitment and financing of Islamic extremism. Melanie Phillips is a columnist for London's Daily Mail and the author of the new book "Londonistan." She joins me now from Jerusalem.

Melanie Phillips, welcome.

Phillips: Thank you. Hello.

Gigot: I think that when a lot of Americans think of Britain and they see Tony Blair's support for the U.S. and the war in Iraq and, they say, Boy, thank heavens we have that ally in Europe on our side. But you argue in your book that that may not be really accurate. Why not?

Phillips: Well, it's a shameful and shocking thing to report, but Tony Blair is pretty well isolated in Britain. He's isolated even within his own cabinet. He's isolated within the Labour Party--the ruling Labour Party. And he's isolated within the population, which believes that he is a "poodle," in quotes, of George Bush's America, in the war in Iraq in particular. Britain is consumed, at the moment, by a virulent anti-Americanism and anti-Israelism, which drives all common sense out of the window, I'm afraid, in public debate.

And even though Tony Blair is very much on the side about global terror and so on, the war in Iraq, I'm afraid he nevertheless has presided over an administration which continues to refuse to acknowledge the nature of the threat facing Britain. That is to say, clearly people in Britain are aware that Britain faces a very serious terrorist threat. The discovery of the appalling trans-Atlantic plot a few days ago is proof enough of that. But what people in Britain, in our establishment, in our ruling political class, even in the security establishment--the police, the intelligence service--what they refuse to acknowledge is the nature of this terrorism, that it's based in religion. That it's based in the Islamic jihad, that what we're facing is a global war of religion.

And because they refuse to acknowledge that, for all kinds of reasons to do with minority rights and so forth--of the kind that you have also in America--because they're refusing to acknowledge what this thing is, they are not taking the action that is needed to combat it--certainly not, in my view, to stop.

Gigot: But a year ago, of course, you had these successful attacks on London. But this year, you have a foiled plot, which it looks, at least from this vantage point, as a big success. Are you saying that there is--that Britain is not making any progress on this front, and we're going to see more and more of this?

Phillips: Well, it's certainly made some progress, and all credit to our security authorities for foiling this appalling trans-Atlantic plot. But at the same time, we are told there are literally dozens and dozens of other plots currently under way, currently being investigated by our security forces. And the point I'm making is this: that while Britain's intelligence and security and policing people have undoubtedly wised up to the need to thwart these terrorist plots before they come to their appalling fruition, and break up terrorist cells, that in my view is not enough.

What they have to be doing, what the country should be doing, is addressing the ideas, the demented and paranoid ideas, that are driving people to these monstrous and inhuman acts. And that is what Britain is not doing. It is not saying We are simply not going to tolerate people in the Muslim community being preached and being taught hatred of Jews, hatred of America, hatred of the West, sedition, the desire to overturn the country. We're not going to put up with that.

Gigot: Are you saying--just--just--

Phillips: They're simply not saying that.

Gigot: Are you saying that they should ban certain kinds of speech, for example--

Phillips: Absolutely.

Gigot: --they should go into mosques and say you cannot preach certain things? And isn't that inconsistent with what we've come to understand is the Anglo-American tradition of free speech and free religion? You're saying that those values ought to be put in some kind of jeopardy?

Phillips: Well, we are putting our whole civilization in jeopardy unless we address the hatred and the lies that are driving people to mass murder. I think both Britain and America are very hung up on this freedom-of-speech issue. Freedom of speech is rightfully a very important value in our society. But if it is abused so that our society is potentially destroyed, that's not very sensible. In the past, we understood this.

In this past, we understood there were ideas that could kill, that there were ideas that no society should be expected to tolerate if they were a direct threat to that society. We don't tolerate, in Britain--we're supposed not to tolerate, for example, speech which incites racial hatred, because we believe that the damage to individuals and society is so great it outweighs our rightful respect for freedom of speech. Yet when it comes to religious hatred, religiously based hatred of other people--Jews, Americans, the West--we somehow say, Oh, we must back off because it's religion, because it's an ethnic minority, we must have nothing to do with this. It's kind of prejudiced to interfere with it.

Well, I think this is madness. Because we are turning a blind eye to the ideas which are driving people to these monstrous and inhuman acts, and so our security--

Gigot: What about the analogy that some people draw between the lessons that the British might have learned in their long battle against the Irish Republican Army, which used terrorism for years? And they say, Look, we managed to get control over that problem. It was long fight. And we can use the same methods against this kind of terror.

Phillips: Well, I think this is a misguided argument, because we are facing a very different kind of terror. And this is, in fact, the British problem. The British do see this problem of the Islamic global jihad as a kind of souped-up Northern Irish problem. But it's not. Northern Island's terrorism, the IRA, Irish Republican terrorism, was terrorism with a particular purpose. It was to achieve a united Ireland. It was not nonnegotiable. One could say one should not have negotiated with the IRA. But that's not the point. It was not a nonnegotiable position.

The Islamic jihad is a nonnegotiable position. The Islamic jihad says, We're in the business of destroying Western civilization, of overturning Western society, of destroying America, of destroying Britain, and turning them into Islamic societies, and of murdering large numbers of people to that end. Now, that is a nonnegotiable position. And so we cannot possibly, in my view, adapt, or adopt, the same techniques that we have used in the past towards discrete, particular terrorist programs, which are a very different matter.

I think what we're facing with the global Islamic jihad is something we've never faced before. It's not war as we understand it between states, but it's certainly not terrorism as we understand it. And this is the problem we face. We haven't got the language to describe this. We're facing a new phenomenon.

Gigot: All right, Melanie Phillips, thank you for that very provocative warning. Thanks for coming.

Still ahead, the foiled London terror plot may help keep the issue of national security front and center in the midterm elections. Can Democrats use it to their advantage? But next, as public criticism intensifies, Israel's defense minister calls for an inquiry into the handling of the war against Hezbollah. As the dead are mourned, who can claim victory? Our panel weighs in when "The Journal Editorial Report" continues.

Gigot: Despite the Bush administration's declarations of victory this week, the fragile cease-fire in the Middle East remains in danger of unraveling as Hezbollah refuses to disarm and France dials back on its commitment to the U.N. peacekeeping effort.

Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor Dan Henninger, foreign-affairs columnist Bret Stephens and Wall Street Journal editorial board member Rob Pollack.

Bret, the president himself, Condoleezza Rice and others have said this is a victory for Israel and for American diplomacy. Do you see it that way?

Stephens: I think it's a sad day for America when Hassan Nasrallah and various Syrian and Iranian propagandists have a better grip on reality than the American president, secretary of state and the Israelis.

Gigot: That's tough.

Stephens: It's true. The fact is that Hezbollah was not defeated, and Israel set out to defeat Hezbollah. They've been emboldened. The U.N. resolution that's come into place shows no signs of being taken seriously by anyone, least of all the so-called international community that's supposed to enforce it. You have a perception that Nasrallah is the king of the Arab and Muslim world, and the bubble of Israeli deterrence that was based on the idea that they could not be defeated conventionally has been burst. Israel looks like a weak state right now. And I think that is poisonous for the region, and it is poisonous for any efforts for peace going into the future.

Gigot: Any silver lining here? That's a pretty strong indictment?

Pollock: Yeah, I think there are perhaps a couple of silver linings here. I mean, look, I think a lot of what Bret said is correct. On the other hand, the other things we need to keep in mind, is probably--it's quite possible actually that Hezbollah moved a bit early here. And what I mean by that is Iran probably would have rather had Hezbollah at full capacity, you know, maybe six months down the road when they come to a full confrontation with the international community over the nuclear program.

The other thing to remember is just as Israel's deterrence capability has--its reputation for being strong has perhaps been diminished, I think the fear factor with Hezbollah has also been diminished to some degree. Everyone worried about what would happen when Hezbollah fired their rockets at Israel. Well, Hezbollah has fired their rockets at Israel, and it wasn't that big a deal.

Gigot: I think that's a very important argument he's making. Hezbollah did its worst. I mean, it fired 3,500 rockets, and it really didn't do that much harm to--I mean, it put terror and the fear in the hearts of Israelis, but it didn't really do that much damage to Israel.

Henninger: Well, I guess my reply to that would be that we're thinking in mainly Western terms about this, and we have to try to look at it from the Arabs' point of view, which is not quite that rational. I mean, all over the Middle East they're saying that Hezbollah has restored Arab honor and dignity. They're even saying this in places like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. And I think the idea is growing that the Iranian militia model has something going for it. They're pouring tremendous amounts of money now into Lebanon to rebuild, $10,000 per family. The Arabs are sending hundreds of million dollars into Lebanon to rebuild. And I think this is going to energize the idea that they're capable of opposing the United States and the Israelis.

Stephens: And that's not all. You also have to look at it in terms of what has happened in Lebanon. You know, you remember 16 months ago, the Lebanese Sunnis and Christians came together. They managed to expel the Syrian army. The Shiites, Hezbollah, looked like--which had been allied with Syria--looked like it was on the back foot. All of that has been erased. Right now, the Syrians are very confident; the Iranians are confident; and not only is Hezbollah perceived to have won a military victory against Israel, but it is wining a political victory within this fragile, nascent Lebanese democratic state.

Gigot: Why should the Iranians be that confident that Hezbollah can do this again in six months or even within a couple of years? Because presumably, as Rob says, they wanted them to be allies when it came to a second front, if you will, if something happens on their nuclear program. But now, they're going to be on their heels for a while--that is, Hezbollah is. Haven't they acted too soon?

Stephens: Well, first of all, it's not at all clear to me that they're on their heels. They were reported to have about 13,000 missiles. They fired maybe 4,000 of them. It's not clear how gravely the infrastructure has been damaged. But Iran's game plan in the region ultimately is a Shiite takeover of Lebanon, so that it has its own Shiite Islamic satellite on the Mediterranean.

Gigot: And this--

Stephens: And it's gotten much closer to that goal.

Pollock: I think no matter how weak the U.N. force is in Lebanon, Hezbollah is on its heels to the extent that their room for maneuver in the near term is diminished. And I think we have to recognize that.

Stephens: On the contrary, their opportunities for mischief are greater. You have a weak U.N. force there. Just remember what Hezbollah did to the American Marines in '83, to the French paratroopers in '83? They're going to do it again--mark my words--sometime down the future.

Gigot: All right, gentlemen, thanks. When we come back, billionaire businessman George Soros takes on President Bush's war on terror, calling for good intelligence over military action. So what would he think about this week's NSA wiretap ruling? Our panel weighs in when "The Journal Editorial Report" continues.

Gigot: Welcome back. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, billionaire investor and Democratic donor George Soros took on the Bush administration, calling the war on terror "a false metaphor that has led to counterproductive and self-defeating U.S. policy."

Soros writes, "The war on terror cannot be won. An endless war waged against an unseen enemy is doing great damage to our power and prestige abroad and to our open society at home. It has led to a dangerous extension of executive powers; it has tarnished our adherence to universal human rights; it has inhibited the critical process that is at the heart of an open society; and it has cost a lot of money," end quote.

Dan, that's quite an indictment of American foreign policy. Do you think, then, it's a winning theme for Democrats come this election season?

Henninger: I think it might be a winning theme for winning an election in a faculty debate, but not in a national election.


I mean, these are basically philosophical sentiments. And, you know, George Soros fancies himself a philosopher-king--the open society is based on the famous Anglo-Austrian philosopher Karl Popper. And although George Soros was a genius as an investor, I think he's very confused as a philosopher and as a politician. There are no concrete alternatives to the current course expressed in anything George Soros said, and I don't see how the Democrats can go out there and expect the American people, who understand that the threat is real, to sign up for mere sentiments.

Gigot: Wait a minute. There is a concrete alternative, and one of those he's insisting on is negotiation--let's sit down with Syria; let's sit down with Iran; let's negotiate. I mean, you could call it--dismiss it as the Rodney King school of foreign policy: Can't we all get along? But on the other hand, he is saying something concrete: Let's talk to these people. They're not quite the threat we think they are.

What's your response?


Stephens: Well, I mean, that's part of what he's saying, let's talk to Iran and Syria. And the other part of what it says is we need better intelligence. And I think that's actually a valid and important argument. We do need better intelligence. But then, I would imagine, if you put it to George Soros, OK, more-aggressive interrogation techniques, wiretapping, monitoring financial transactions--the whole panoply of programs that the Bush administration has been putting into place has been consistently challenged by George Soros's wing of the party. So it would be easy to take him seriously if he was serious about intelligence. I just don't believe he is.

Pollock: And if the Democrats are going to try to capitalize on this stuff, one thing they're going to have to stop doing is claiming American victories in the war on terror as defeats, which is precisely what happened after the foiled London bombing plot, and Harry Reid and Ted Kennedy came out and said this shows that Iraq has diverted our focus from the war on terror. Well, how does a foiled plot show that Iraq has diverted our focus from anything? I think that when Americans hear people claiming victory as defeat, they sense something wrong there.

Gigot: Gentlemen, though, aren't Democrats on to something here, perhaps? And we've had the Lebanon, which you said, Bret, was not a victory. You have Iraq's not going terribly well. You have Iran being more aggressive. Do you feel safer? And could the Democrats--then you were, say, four or five years ago? And are Democrats maybe on to something and being able to say to the American people, "You're not safer"?

Stephens: Well, I think most Americans are more aware of the threat, and that increases your feelings of insecurity. But I think that Americans are steeled by an important historical experience, which is the Cold War. That is to say, if you were to say to Americans, say five years into the Cold War, you've got a hot war in Korea in front of you, a nine year quagmire in Vietnam; nation after nation after nation is going to fall to the Soviets; you're going to spend trillions of dollars; you're gong to develop unimaginable technologies--intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles--and all of this is going to rumble on for 45 years, they might then have said, Gee, I don't know if we want this. But now we remember the Cold War. And I think people understand that we're in a long war.

Gigot: But can Democrats--notwithstanding George Soros--can they get to the right of George Bush and say "You're not safer. Trust us. We'll do more"?

Henninger: But they're not saying what they'll do. It's a formula for defeatism. They're simply exploiting a sentiment of failure here without proposing any sort of alternative.

Pollock: Exactly. If they could come out and say, "We're for this, this and this policy that the president isn't"--

Gigot: Like what? Like what?

Pollock: Well, that's exactly the point. They aren't coming out saying, "We're for this, this and this policy." They're saying, We don't like wiretaps. We don't like the Patriot Act. We don't like all the things that are working in the focused war on terror that they claim to support.

Stephens: No, they're for negotiations with Syria and Iran. This is what they're for.

Gigot: OK, thanks, gentlemen. We have to take one more break. When we come back, our "Hits and Misses" of the week.

Gigot: Winners and losers, picks and pans, "Hits and Misses," it's our way of calling attention to the best and the worst of the week. Item one, the NCAA pulls the plug on the Tribe and the Lady Indians--Dan?

Henninger: Yeah, well, the NCAA is on the warpath again, or I would have maybe called it jihad against colleges and universities that use Indian mascots. And yes, William and Mary is being tasked for calling themselves the Tribe. That's pretty insulting, isn't it? But the NCAA has in its head that it's an abusive ethnic environment if you do this sort of thing, and actually talking about banning these schools from hosting postseason tournaments.

Now, you've got big schools--like Illinois, the Fighting Illini, and North Dakota, the Fighting Sioux--who are talking about filing a lawsuit against the NCAA to overturn this crazy policy. Now, personally, I think all of these Indian names are compliments to a people who were brave, valorous and went on the offense. But in this crazy PC world of the NCAA, a compliment turns out to be an insult.

Gigot: All right, Dan. Next, a Nobel Prize-winning author reveals a dark secret from his past. Bret?

Stephens: Guenter Grass is Germany's greatest living writer and has for a long time been the self-styled "conscience of the German nation," particularly to his generation of Germans who came of age during the Second World War. And one of the things he's always done is scolded Germans for covering the tracks of their past, for their amnesia and lies about the Nazi era.

Well, guess what? It turns out that Mr. Grass was suffering some amnesia of his own. He was a member of the Waffen SS, and not just any member, an enthusiastic member of the Hitler Youth. He volunteered for U-boat service and ended up in an organization that was deemed criminal by the Nuremberg trials. So I think this is a nice occasion to remind--to consider that it's Germany that has come to terms with its past. Unfortunately, its "conscience" has not.

Gigot: All right, Bret. Finally, a "miss" to the Bush administration for its stance on airport screening. Rob?

Pollock: Yeah, Paul, I'm a little bit disappointed that the Bush administration has not used the opportunity provided by the foiled London plot to get rid of that silly policy of searching 8-year-old girls and 80-year-old grandmothers with the same frequency as they search young Muslim men. You know, over the past week, we've heard the homeland security secretary, the attorney general, the Transportation Security Administration chief all mounting the same old politically correct rhetoric.

In fact, the TSA chief told me himself that he thought taking religion or ethnicity into account, as even a small factor, might violate the Constitution. Well, that's nonsense. The courts have ruled on this many times, upholding policies with disparate impact, such as the all-male draft. And frankly, I think it's high time that we gave airport security screeners the ability to use their common sense, even if that means some innocent people might have to face just a few extra minutes in line at the airport.

Gigot: All right, Rob, thanks.

That's it for this week's edition of "The Journal Editorial Report." Thanks to Dan Henninger, Bret Stephens and Rob Pollock. I'm Paul Gigot. Thanks for watching, and we hope to see all of you next week.

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