2003 January 24 Friday
Mark Steyn: Canada Opts Out Of Security Perimeter

Mark Steyn says that Canada is unwilling to cooperate with the United States to form a North American security perimeter. It is even more unrealistic to expect that level of cooperation from Mexico. Though in Mexico's case the its government's intentions matter less because Mexico lacks the necessary institutional capacity to enforce such a perimeter even if it was willing to try. In Canada's case the requirements of increased security clash with other values (a large value for the elites of both Canada and Mexico is the emotional need to appear as distinct and independent of America as possible) and the Canadian government has decided the other values are more important.

Within 48 hours of 9/11, it was clear that Canada had a choice: It could be inside a North American perimeter or outside a U.S. perimeter. Given that the trucks were mostly backed up on the northern side of the border, the answer seemed obvious. But the siren song of "Canadian values" -- i.e., Liberal Party values -- was too powerful, and, as we know from Kyoto to the gun registry, whenever the national interest conflicts with Liberal platitudes the Grits go with the latter. Last fall, when the U.S. announced that Canadians born in selected Middle Eastern countries would be required to submit to "special registration" procedures, Ottawa's privacy commissioner responded by demanding that "place of birth" be removed from all Canadian passports and The Toronto Star huffed and puffed about "Muslim-focused racial profiling" full of "contempt for due process."

They have a point. Effectively, the commissioner invited the U.S. to treat all Canadians as Syrian, and increasingly they do. No more profiling! That's great, isn't it? Unless you're a Quebec logger.

We live in an era when declining costs of transportation and communications are combining with increased economic integration to bring the peoples of the world into increasing contact with each other. This leads many commentators to prophesy the decline of the nation-state. However, the growing threat posed by terrorists will increasingly trump these other trends in importance. The ability of the denizens of Toronto (or of London or Rome or Calcutta for that matter) to fly to New York City or to cheaply call or exchange electronic data with people in New York City depends very strongly on the physical existence of New York City and the absence of biological, chemical and radiological contamination therein.

National borders are the places where the still very powerful sovereign states can exercise the greatest control over the movement of people. Just as it is inevitable that new terrorist attacks will occur in the Western nations so it is inevitable that the attacks will lead to greater anger and fear in Western populaces. These populaces will respond by making increasingly strident demands that borders be made larger obstacles for the passage of any people who might conceivably be terrorists.

As for the inevitability of future terrorist attacks in Western countries look at the recent spate of arrests of terrorist suspects throughout Europe. 16 terrorist suspects were just arrested in Spain.

Sixteen suspected Islamic terrorists arrested in Spain were "preparing for attacks with explosive and chemical material" in Europe, top Spanish officials say.

The suspects in Spain had links to four arrested last month in France:

Four Islamic terrorist suspects arrested last month in France -- identified as Merouane Benahmed, Mourredine Merabet, Menad Benchellali and Ahmed Belhout -- had previously been in Spain and had maintained contact with the suspects arrested on Friday, the government statement said.

Connections to the London apartment raid that found ricin led to a raid and arrests at the Finsbury Park Mosque.

Police swooped on a north London mosque linked to Islamic radicals, arresting seven people in what a top police officer called a "successful raid" linked to the discovery of deadly ricin in a London apartment two weeks earlier.

A sixth man has been arrested in connection with five originally arrested due to the ricin discovery in a London apartment.

British police have arrested a North African man in connection with the discovery of the deadly poison ricin in a London apartment.

The five Moroccans arrested Wednesday in Italy were discovered as a result of efforts to find illegal aliens.

Police who had been looking for illegal immigrants discovered a kilo of explosives, believed to be C4, and maps of central London. Police also reportedly found maps marking the site of Italian churches and Nato bases.

This bears repeating. The Italian police were not looking for terrorists. They were only looking for illegal immigrants and in the process came across what appears to have been a terrorist cell. Certainly this is an argument for a larger effort to round up illegal aliens from Muslim countries. But is the recent spate of arrests of terrorist suspects also a sign that the Western countries are going ot be able to prevent further attacks? Unfortunately the opposite is more likely the case. The element of luck involved in making some of the arrests is an indication of a much larger number of terrorist operatives still at large in Western nations who are not going to be detected by conventional methods for identifying terrorist suspects. For many terrrorists luck will break in the other direction. They will elude detection. Other networks of cells will manage to organize and pull off attacks.

My forecast is for more terrrorist attacks in the West, rising populist anger, and in response to that anger the sweeping from power of Western political parties that so far have been unwilling to take greater measures to expel and prevent the entry of terrorists into Western countries.

Update: An Algerian arrested during the sweep on Finsbury Park mosque was helping to finance the ricin plotters. His assistance included helping the budding terrorists to apply for British government welfare benefits.

The paper reported that detectives, who have examined computers seized during the investigation, believe the man recruited men from the Finsbury Park mosque, helping them with benefit claims.

By funding a social welfare state that gives money to terrorists the British government is, in effect, paying for "Getting hit on the head lessons". One wonders how big the lesson will have to get before it sinks in.

The UK Daily Telegraph has an article that summarizes the recent wave of terrorist arrests in Europe. The accompanying pop-up graph lists all the terrorist arrests since September 11, 2001. Note that the 70 arrested in Britain exceeds the number arrested in all of the rest of Europe. The effectiveness of this round of arrests depends in part on whether are separate terrorist networks that have no contact with the North Africans currently being rounded up.

Most of the fundamentalists arrested so far are north Africans with a web of connections to fellow nationals throughout Europe. Arrests in one country have led police and intelligence officers to alleged cells in others.

The latest arrests follow dozens made in London, Paris, Manchester and Edinburgh in recent weeks. More are expected soon.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 January 24 10:41 AM  Immigration Border Control

bunuel said at January 24, 2003 11:54 AM:

Very interesting piece.
I were wondering recently about the wisdom of the islamists'attack all across the front.Would it not make sense for them to attack selectively - US yes,EU no - so as to divide their enemy rather than motivate it to unite in common cause? Would you say it is the lack of one center that may explain such apparent miscalculation?Or is there a higher,less commonsensical reason to this shooting in all diredtion at once?

Randall Parker said at January 24, 2003 12:48 PM:

Bunuel, That's the weird thing about the behavior of the Islamists. Yes, if they wanted to maximize their ability to attack the US and to cause the greatest amount of damage they'd leave Europe alone and they'd give Europe more reason to try to appease them. But as evidenced by the attempts they are making to attack across Europe (and most are not aware of the attempts foiled even before 9/11 such at the planned EU Parliament attack) they are not discriminating between Western countries.

If their beef really was with just the US position toward Israel or US troops in Saudi Arabia they'd be much more selective. Its obvious they are opposed to the West more generally.

No, I don't see a wiser higher strategy driving them. Maybe I'm missing it. But it looks like a fairly generalized hatred to me.

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