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Thesis & Antithesis

A critical perspective on energy, international politics & current affairs

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Location: Washington, D.C.

greekdefaultwatch@gmail.com Natural gas consultant by day, blogger on the Greek economy by night. Trained as an economist and political scientist. I believe in common sense and in data, and my aim is to offer insight written in language that is clear and convincing.

02 November 2005

Europe, the next front?

Francis Fukuyama has a thoughtful piece in today’s Wall Street Journal on the challenges that Europe faces as the new battleground on the war on terror. Here is a quote:

“The real challenge for democracy lies in Europe, where the problem is an internal one of integrating large numbers of angry young Muslims and doing so in a way that does not provoke an even angrier backlash from right-wing populists. Two things need to happen: First, countries like Holland and Britain need to reverse the counterproductive multiculturalist policies that sheltered radicalism, and crack down on extremists. But second, they also need to reformulate their definitions of national identity to be more accepting of people from non-Western backgrounds” (1).

My comments on this line of thinking are two: first, the integration of Muslims into Western societies is no guarantee against terror—only a few need to fall through the cracks for a terrorist attack to take place. There is still a place for sensible policing against extremism; but the natural limits in combating terror suggest that it is more likely for Western Europe to learn to live with terrorism than to eradicate it.

My second comment is about the redefinition of Europe’s identity. I doubt this will happen. From a comparative political perspective, the American melting pot is an outlier; it is more reasonable to expect America to import nationalism than to export multiculturalism (though I don’t find either likely). Even if you think about the European Union—a relatively modest task of redefinition whereby Europe’s citizens think of themselves as Europeans—the foundation for this identity is shaky. And what is worse, it is the “new” identity that will be cast aside in a time of crisis—precisely the mood today in Europe.

In a way, Europe is an important front on terror. And to think of it as such requires a conceptual adaptation away from the “failed states produce terrorists” paradigm. But there is limit to what can actually change.

(1) Francis Fukuyama, “A Year of Living Dangerously,” Wall Street Journal, 2 Nov 05

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