Bill Scher: What Europe is truly doing

M-SP Star-Tribune

Bill Scher is the executive editor of, one of the best blogs out there. His opinion piece in the Star-Tribune is reflective of his common-sense, informed take on the news:

Therein lies the tough nut: We have to do more than defeat a group of people, we have to defeat an idea. That's tricky business, but you surely can't defeat an idea unless you understand what that idea is.

Tenet's testimony leaves the impression that he thinks Al-Qaida's interest in attacking the United States is an end to itself. And Bush, of course, never spent any time educating the voters on what is driving them. He simply told us they "hate freedom" and left it at that.

But it's not that simple. As terror expert Jason Burke explained in the book "Al Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror," the attacks are not an end, but a means. They are propaganda tools to "radicalize and mobilize those Muslims who have shunned [Bin Laden's] call to action [by] proving that there is a cosmic battle between good and evil underway and that Islam ... is in peril." In turn, Bin Laden believes the world's Muslim's will "rise up," earn "the blessing of God [and] cast off the shackles that have been laid upon them by what he sees as centuries of 'humiliation and contempt.' "

If that's the case, then it's easy to see how a war with Iraq could be counterproductive to the war on terror. If Bin Laden wanted a "cosmic battle," he got what he wanted. Tenet's analysis that Bin Laden's message is spreading beyond his immediate organization bolsters that notion.

It appears that Europe wants to get out of this trap. Recently, both the German chancellor and the European Union foreign policy chief spoke of addressing "root causes" of terror in addition to combating the "symptoms."

That's the sort of liberal talk that American conservatives deride as "decadence." But if Europe concludes that Bush made a strategic error with Iraq and tries a new strategy, that's not "decadence," that's pragmatism. And if radical Islamic terror continues to display strength, Bush supporters may increasingly worry that come November, American voters will be pragmatic too.
Nice going, Bill.