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The Al Qaeda watchers have a new chant: They tell us that the once-centralized terror organization is now largely decentralized, and that the separate cells have a great deal of autonomy. Osama bin Laden may still provide the ideology, but the locals do their own planning and operations. Thus, the Washington Post found that the expert consensus on the London attacks was that, yes, these people might be linked to al Qaeda in a broad, political/religious/ideological way, but the operation itself, like many in the recent past (Madrid or London, for example), was a local product.The insistence that “Al Qaeda” — defined as the main enemy — is highly decentralized has a lethal effect on designing an effective antiterrorist policy, for it reinforces the strategic paralysis that currently afflicts this administration. If we conceive the war against the terrorists as a long series of discrete engagements against separate groups in many countries, we will likely fail, beginning with Iraq.



Silent screams. Night sweats. Quiet desperation. The whispered dread of impending doom. Liberals are suffering all of these anxieties over soon-to-be Justice John Roberts - at least the smart ones are who know the stakes. Those stakes go far beyond Roe v. Wade. Smart liberals know the entire gigantic edifice of Federal bureaucratic control over our lives, which they have been painstakingly building since the 1930s, has as its foundation one thin reed of six Constitutional words tortured beyond recognition. Invest those words with normal recognizable meaning, and thousands of Federal laws and regulations are defunct. This is the conservatives’ and the libertarians’ dream, and the liberals’ nightmare. What keeps making the liberals sit bolt upright in bed is knowing there is nothing they can do to prevent their nightmare from coming true. To understand why, we need to talk about a farmer named Roscoe Filburn from Montgomery County, Ohio, who grew 23 acres of wheat back in the 1930s.



Not quite two years ago, in Terrorism and Tiny Zibbs, I discussed why one of the principal causes of Moslem terrorism is that so many Moslem men are afraid of women. This was made quite evident in a London Daily Telegraph poll of British Moslems conducted last week that stunned the British. 24% of British Moslems, it turns out, are sympathetic with the feelings and motives of the suicide bombers attacking London, and almost one-third believe that: “Western society is decadent and immoral and that Moslems should seek to bring it to an end.” The outrage this provoked caused most folks to overlook the poll’s internals, which showed that the great majority of those alienated British Moslems are men. Very few British Moslem women want to bring Western society to an end, for that society respects them as full human beings and gives them freedom to act as such. So all this soul-searching navel-gazing blather in the British liberal press agonizing over the failure of British society to cure Moslem alienation utterly misses the point - as liberals almost unfailingly do. The fault, the blame, the cause of Moslem terrorism, hatred, and alienation lie not with us in the West, but with the cultural defects of Moslems themselves - and specifically of Moslem men.



Let’s say a young white fellow is caught entering a New York subway station by a watchful policeman, who discovers 50 pounds of high explosives in his backpack. Upon interrogation, the fellow explains he was instructed to blow up the station by the Holy Cheendon, whose voice he hears in his head, because for doing so the Cheendon will send him to Paradise located in the Andromeda Galaxy.Such a fellow would not be a Moslem crazy, just plain crazy. But what if there is something specifically screwed up in his brain that’s making him crazy - and it is this same something that turns some Moslems into suicidal terrorists?



There is good news and bad news in the attacks Thursday in London. The bad news, of course, is that the attacks took place. The good news is that they were so clumsily executed. The attacks mirrored those of July 7th. Now as then, three subway trains and a bus were targeted. NBC has reported the Brits have told American authorities that both the backpacks used in Thursday's attacks and the (homemade) explosives in the backpacks were identical to those of July 7th. What was different is that this time only the detonators went off. Just one person -- apparently one of the bombers -- was injured in Thursday's attacks. The fact of the attack, coupled with its ineffectiveness, is more likely to infuriate than to intimidate the British. When an attack inspires more contempt than terror, the terrorists are in trouble.



That the London killers were native Brits surprised a lot of people, which is testimony to our capacity to forget our own history. The 7/7 terrorists were neither the first British terrorists (take Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber," for example), nor the first terrorists born and bred in a Western democracy. It is quite easy to compile a long list of native American, British, French, German, Spanish, and Italian terrorists — suicide and otherwise. Mohammed Bouyari, the assassin of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, was born and bred in the Netherlands.These facts were known, but got relegated to that part of the spirit that shelters active thought from unpleasant truths. The knowledge that our societies contain people ready to kill us had not penetrated the awareness of the British people, and, with them, countless Europeans and Americans.



It’s a great scam, if you think about it. You bought, say, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John when it came out in 1973 (am I dating myself here?), and you still like it.You even still have the album, although the record player is long gone, and they don’t make them anymore. You liked the album so much, you bought a cassette tape version to play in the car, and later on, a CD.Now you’ve got an iPod or similar MP3 player, and you considering buying the MP3 version.Hmm. Shelling out four times for the same product? There are two no-cost ways you can get the music you want into MP3 format - one using the cassette tapes you already own. The other involves completely legal downloads of popular commercial music, not running afoul ( so far ) of laws involving copying and downloading.



What we may call the "critical mind" is almost non-existent today in the Arabic speaking societies. This is largely due to the meager margin of democracy allowed and to the fact that top positions, in many cases, are concentrated in the hands of a few incompetent individuals whose intellectual capacities and management skills are mediocre at best. When we add to this the current proliferation of a reactionary religious culture, it is understandable that there should be a marked decrease in rationality, a lack of participation marked by extreme negativity, and a prevalence of constant and fixed ideas that cannot hope to hold up against the objective criticism that is crucial to true development. All of these factors actively hinder social mobility, resulting in a general state of incompetence that in turn leads to a decline in standards at all levels. Invariably, rational thinking takes a back seat.



What do you suppose the reaction would be in the American, Chinese, and world press if a Major General in the US Army gave an official briefing at the Pentagon and stated:“If the Chinese attack Taiwan, we will have to respond with nuclear weapons. We Americans would then have to prepare ourselves for the destruction of all our cities east of Kansas City. Of course, the Chinese will have to accept that hundreds of Chinese cities will be destroyed by us.”Can you imagine the media feeding frenzy? Can you imagine the reaction at the White House? The general would be instantly cashiered and sent to a mental hospital for psychiatric treatment, while everyone in the Administration made every possible effort to repair the damage.So why didn’t this happen when a Major General in the Red Chinese People’s Liberation Army - who is also the Deputy Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies at the Chinese National Defense University - said exactly this in reverse on July 15 in Beijing?



Why is special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald pursuing so zealously the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame, since it is all but impossible to prove that the leaker or leakers committed a crime? The Intelligence Identities Protection Act requires that the leaker have learned the identity of a "covert agent" from authorized sources. And it requires that the leak be deliberate. The law defines a "covert agent" as someone working undercover overseas, or who has done so in the last five years. Plame has been manning a desk at CIA headquarters since 1997. So why is Fitzgerald acting like Inspector Jauvert in Les Miserables? The answer may lie in a sentence Walter Pincus of the Washington Post wrote on June 12th, 2003.