Here's how an early report by Reuters covered the massive terrorism bust in the United Kingdom. They started out conventionally enough just chugging along with airport closures, arrest details and quotes from bystanders, but then got to the big picture:
" ‘I'm an ex-flight attendant, I'm used to delays, but this is a different kind of delay,' said Gita Saintangelo, 54, an American returning to Miami. ‘We heard about it on the TV this morning. We left a little early and said a prayer,' she said at Heathrow.
"Britain has been criticised by Islamist militants for its military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prime Minister Tony Blair has also come under fire at home and abroad for following the U.S. lead and refusing to call for an immediate ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas."
Is there a software program at western news agencies that automatically inserts random segues in terrorism stories? The plot to commit mass murder by seizing up to ten UK-US airliners was well advanced long before the first Israeli strike against Hezbollah. Yet it's apparently axiomatic at Reuters, the BBC and many other British media outlets that Tony Blair is the root cause of jihad. He doesn't even have to invade anywhere anymore. He just has to "refuse to call for an immediate ceasefire" when some other fellows invade some other fellows over on the other side of the world.
Grant for the sake of argument that these reports are true that when the bloodthirsty Zionist warmongers attack all those marvelous Hezbollah social outreach programs it drives British subjects born and bred to plot mass murder against their fellow Britons. What does that mean?
Here's a clue, from a recent Pew poll that asked: What do you consider yourself first? A citizen of your country or a Muslim?
In the United Kingdom, seven per cent of Muslims consider themselves British first, 81 per cent consider themselves Muslim first.
And that's where the really valid Lebanese comparison lies. Lebanon is a sovereign state. It has an executive and a military. But its military has less sophisticated weaponry than Hezbollah and its executive wields less authority over its jurisdiction than Hezbollah. In the old days, the Lebanese government would have fallen and Hezbollah would have formally supplanted the state. But non-state actors like the Hezbo crowd and al-Qaeda have no interest in graduating to statehood. They've got bigger fish to fry. If you're interested in establishing a global caliphate, getting a UN seat and an Olympic team only gets in the way. The "sovereign" state is of use to such groups merely as a base of operations, as Afghanistan was and Lebanon is. They act locally but they think globally.
And that indifference to the state can be contagious. Lebanon's Christians may think of themselves as "Lebanese," but most of Hezbollah's Shia constituency don't. Western analysts talk hopefully of fierce differences between Sunni and Shia, Arab and Persian, but it's interesting to note the numbers of young Sunni men in Egypt, Jordan and elsewhere in recent weeks who've decided that Iran's (Shia) President Ahmadinejad and his (Shia) Hezzbo proxies are the new cool kids in town. During the Nineties, we grew used to the idea that "non-state actors" meant a terrorist group, with maybe a few hundred activists, a few thousand supporters. What if entire populations are being transformed into "non-state actors"? Not terrorists, by any means, but at the very minimum entirely indifferent to the state of which they're nominally citizens.
Hence that statistic: seven per cent of British Muslims consider their primary identity to be British, 81 per cent consider it to be Muslim. By comparison, in the most populous Muslim nation on the planet, 39 per cent of Muslim Indonesians consider themselves Indonesian first, 36 per cent consider themselves Muslim first. For over four years now, I've been writing about a phenomenon I first encountered in the Muslim ghettoes of the Netherlands, Belgium and other European countries in the spring of 2002: second- and third-generation European Muslims feel far more fiercely Islamic than their parents and grandparents.
That's the issue: pan-Islamism is the most profound challenge to conventional ideas of citizenship and nationhood. Of course, if you say that at the average Ivy League college, you'll get a big shrug: Modern multicultural man disdains to be bound by the nation state, too; he prides himself on being un citoyen du monde. The difference is that, for western do-gooders, it's mostly a pose: they may occasionally swing by some Third World basket-case and condescend to the natives, but for the most part the multiculti set have no wish to live anywhere but an advanced western democracy. It's a quintessential piece of leftie humbug. They may think globally, but they don't act on it.
The pan-Islamists do act. When they hold hands and sing "We Are The World," they mean it. And we're being very complacent if we think they only take over the husks of "failed states" like Afghanistan, Somalia and Lebanon. The Islamists are very good at using the principal features of the modern multicultural democracy legalisms, victimology to their own advantage. The United Kingdom is, relatively speaking, a non-failed state, but at a certain level Her Majesty's Government shares the same problem as their opposite numbers in Beirut: they don't quite dare to move against the pan-Islamists and they have no idea what possible strategy would enable them to do so.
So instead they tackle the symptoms. Excellent investigative work by MI-5 and Scotland Yard foiled this plot, and may foil the next one, and the one after that, and the ten after that, and the hundred after those. And in the meantime a thousand incremental inconveniences fall upon the citizen. If you had told an Englishman on September 10th, 2001, that within five years all hand luggage would be banned on flights from Britain, he'd have thought you were a kook. If you'd told an Englishwoman that all liquids would be banned except milk for newborn babies which could only be taken on board if the adult accompanying the child drinks from the bottle in front of a security guard, she'd have scoffed and said no one would ever put up with such a ludicrous imposition. But now it's here. What other changes will the Islamists have wrought in another five years?
Absent a determination to throttle the ideology, we're about to witness the unraveling of the world.
© Mark Steyn 2006