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Archive for Monday, July 16, 2007

Enemy within’ calls for comprehensive effort

July 16, 2007

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As a former resident of London, I personally resent the recent terrorist upheaval there and in other parts of the United Kingdom. Sadly, the alleged perpetrators - largely medical professionals - like others before them, have apparently embraced a narrow, perverted, rampaging interpretation of Islam.

Yet, as absurd as the problem is, it also is very real and one that likely will not find resolution for at least a generation. Thus, the British - and those in other countries who face similar challenges - must take far more proactive measures against the threat.

Although it gives me some comfort that the two vehicle bombs in London drew official attention before they could detonate and that a third one at Glasgow Airport caused limited damage - thus sparing many innocent victims - I know that the troublemakers and their brethren will not stop.

Those recent attacks are but the tip of the proverbial iceberg. When the U.S.-led intervention in Afghanistan after 9/11 dislodged al-Qaida's headquarters and operations, the survivors fanned out to other countries, with the objective of regrouping and propagandizing. Whether the responsible parties in Britain are members of al-Qaida, affiliates or wannabes, the situation is worrisome. Even the least skillful among them could one day prove deadly.

Indeed, the so-called "enemy within" looms as a uniquely dangerous long-term adversary because it is in some respects even harder to identify and assess than al-Qaida itself. How can one hope to determine with accuracy which of the seemingly peaceful people among us harbor notions of upending civil society?

Those who chose to ignore or minimize the danger sell themselves and their way of life pitifully short. The ones who cause me particular grief are those who buy into the extremist Islamic rhetoric that all would be fine if the West simply left Muslim countries alone.

That is a big lie of the violent Islamic radicals' menacing, ever-evolving, transnational, world-changing strategy. If they can con global audiences into believing that they have no motives beyond supposedly safeguarding Muslim countries, the extremists will have made substantial progress.

By the way, contrary to the view of Bush-administration haters, the White House is not solely to blame for the upswing in terrorism. Even if President George W. Bush and his team had never existed, radical Islamic terrorists would be on the prowl, and Americans would find themselves in the crosshairs.

The inevitable change of administrations in the United States next year could help ease tensions, especially if the new leadership follows more of a multilateral approach to global problems and solutions. But ideologically driven terrorism - such as the 9/11 attacks - seeks to replace, not accommodate, and will remain.

The key in the United States, in Britain and elsewhere is to defend with vigilance, while matching and surpassing the terrorists' zeal and creativity.

We must prepare ourselves mentally; nothing the terrorists do should surprise us. As the British cases illustrate, all terrorism ultimately is local, and so must be a good portion of the battle. People must become more willing to share information about those that they suspect of involvement in terrorism, as British officials urged this week, especially moderate members of the terrorists' own ethnic, cultural and religious communities. Expanded education and awareness about terrorism is essential. Finally, societies must hone better messages to counter terrorist propaganda.

Without such a comprehensive effort, we can only dream about prevailing against terrorism.

- John C. Bersia, and editorial writer for the Orlando Sentinel.

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