England Faces Homegrown Terrorists

Posted on August 14, 2006

The source for terrorism is no longer found in the caves of Afghanistan. The colleges of Great Britain have become the new terrorist training camps. A Washington Post article indicates that MI5 is overwhelmed by the volume of terrorism suspects and potential plots.

With this kind of volume it is getting increasingly difficult to thwart terrorist attacks. Tracking and monitoring thousands of potential terrorist will stop some attacks, but it doesn't get to the root of the problem that countries like England and France are facing. Rising unemployment, the War in Iraq and anti-Western clerics are all helping to turn some of the Muslim population against their home countries. It's a monster of a problem that appears to have few easy solutions. In the meantime, the British and U.S. governments have increased security measures at airports while they hope the rising British terrorist threat will somehow subside. The increased airport security measures provide merely an illusion of safety. Banning toothpaste and lip gloss on airplanes isn't going to stop terrorists. It's not a solution to the actual problem. As one Israeli expert noted on CNN: "You Americans look for weapons. We look for terrorists." Translation: time to profile and stop the ludicrous random checks that lead to searches of grandmothers and infants.

As for this particular plot, the more information that comes out the more it appears that this plot was far from ready to be put into action. The suspects did not have plane tickets and many did not have the necessary passports. Explosives had been tested in Pakistan. But in England, although some chemicals had been purchased, nothing had been mixed or prepared. British intelligence officials wanted to continue tracking the suspects and disagreed with Americans over the timing of the arrests. Or, as one expert noted on the Sunday talk shows, "this operation was more aspirational than operational." So the British apparently think we jumped the gun on this particular operation.

What this incident shows us is that we have moved into a new phase of terrorism. There are thousands of young, angry, Muslim men who have been galvanized by the ill-conceived war in Iraq and the propaganda spouted by the likes of Osama bin Laden. And if there is one thing we have learned -- and that the Israelis are learning all over again -- you can't fight terrorists with an army. It takes a much more complex and broader-reaching plan than that. It also takes leadership, which is something that the United States is sorely lacking right now.