Jonathan Stevenson. Foreign Affairs. Volume 82, Issue 2. March/April 2003.
After the United States was attacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001, its European allies were among the first nations to express sympathy and pledge their aid in the war to come. The fact that many European countries have long experienced terrorism themselves helped ensure a great deal of transatlantic empathy and cooperation—at least at first. France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom have all suffered political violence over the past 30 years and were thus predisposed to help the United States in its new struggle against al Qaeda. But the kind of terrorism these European countries have suffered—”old” terrorism—differs substantially from that suddenly faced by the United States. As time passed, these differences started to erode the thoroughgoing unity that had flourished right after September 11.
Nowhere were the differences between the European and American experiences and approach more evident than in homeland security. Even as Washington scrambled to adopt new measures to defend itself, there was notably less haste among European authorities to tighten immigration policies or improve border security. This was typified by the dispute between the French and British governments over Paris’ refusal to close the Sangatte refugee camp near Calais. Since the war in Kosovo, hundreds of refugees, many of Afghan origin, had sought to flee the camp for illegal entry into the United Kingdom via the nearby Channel Tunnel. After September 11, the British and others began to worry that al Qaeda or the Taliban might infiltrate these groups and blow up one of the world’s engineering wonders. Yet it took well over a year of bilateral acrimony before the camp was finally closed, in December 2002.
The good news for Washington is that Europe’s lethargy in cooperating on homeland security has more to do with a difference in the way it perceives threats than with any deeper political or social divide. True, Europeans and Americans have recently clashed over particular strategic matters, such as the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, regime change in Iraq, perceived American unilateralism, and various social policies. No doubt they will continue to do so in the months to come. But these broader discrepancies between European and American approaches, profound as they may be, are unlikely to damage day-to-day, nonmilitary counterterrorism cooperation. Indeed, transatlantic coordination in the pursuit and apprehension of those who threaten the United States does not seem to have diminished, and differences in threat perceptions actually appear to be narrowing. Nevertheless, European leaders seem not fully to appreciate an insidious dynamic: that poor European homeland security is now making the United States more vulnerable, and strong U.S. homeland security is making Europe more vulnerable. Until policymakers in Europe start to focus on this reality and push to improve cooperation, countries on both sides of the Atlantic will remain at greater risk.
One of the crucial differences between the American and the European experiences with terrorism—and something that helps explain why their respective governments have taken different approaches to fighting it—has to do with the level and kind of violence involved. Most of the ethnic and nationalist terrorists who have plagued Europe over the last three decades have used their violence with restraint. This strategy allowed these groups—organizations such as the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Basque separatists of the Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA)—to preserve a place at the negotiating table even while they set off the occasional bomb. And it meant that many of these groups could be tamed through political means. Indeed, many of Europe’s terrorists were open to negotiation, direct conflict resolution, and other forms of accommodation. These options were epitomized by Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and by Paris’ application of the “sanctuary doctrine”—under which terrorist-support work in France was tolerated by the government so long as operations were not actually directed at French interests themselves.
Starting in the 1970s and 1980s, however, a rise of violent activity in Europe by international terrorist groups (such as the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hezbollah) began to prove these traditional European responses to terror inadequate. Governments reacted with more robust—and effective—cooperative measures. Still, unlike the enemies the United States faces today, few terrorists in those days sought to debilitate European governments or recruit large numbers of members. And even those that did harbor global religious and ideological objectives (such as the Algerian Islamist Group, or GIA) still tended to employ “old” terrorist techniques.
Al Qaeda, on the other hand, represents a transnational threat—one very different in kind from that posed by the IRA or even newer groups such as Hamas. Al Qaeda has potentially thousands of members and no interest in bargaining with the United States or its allies. Instead, it seeks to cripple them, by inflicting mass casualties if possible, potentially with weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It is impossible to imagine Osama bin Laden’s followers apologizing for inadvertently killing Americans—as Hamas did, after a suicide attack on Jerusalem’s Hebrew University in August 2002.
And yet, even after September 11, Europe’s perceptions of the threats posed by terrorism have remained different from America’s—perhaps justifiably so. Both Europeans and Americans understand that the war in Afghanistan and new law-enforcement and intelligence cooperation have not spelled the end of al Qaeda. The likelihood of another catastrophic terrorist attack therefore remains high, especially when one remembers that the September 11 attacks were roughly two years in the making.
It is the United States, however, and not Europe, that will be the likely victim of such an attack. After all, it is the United States, not Europe, that maintains military assets in Saudi Arabia, broadly supports Israel, and is the chief source of the popular culture that bin Laden and his followers despise. The United States, not Europe, is al Qaeda’s principal bete noire—its “far enemy”—and, consequently, its preferred target. Europe is only a secondary one, and given the power dynamic between it and the United States, this situation is unlikely to change anytime soon. Many Europeans have been quick to recognize this fact. A secret report, leaked in June 2002, revealed that EU interior ministers had agreed that although they still faced a significant threat from al Qaeda, the risk had diminished since September 11 thanks to heightened security. Even if they succeeded, future attacks would probably be aimed at American assets anyway.
Should Europe come under attack directly, authorities there still expect a different, lesser form of terrorist violence than do Americans. Ballistic-missile or WMD strikes, for example, are thought relatively unlikely. Traditional terrorist tactics—car bombs, shootings, and the like—seem far more probable. Although the September 11 attacks prompted a drastic shift in the American conception of national security, they did not have a comparable effect on European views.
The American attitude toward terrorism now holds that threat assessment, proactive law enforcement, and risk management must be augmented so as to eliminate as many vulnerabilities as conceivable. This new, expansive philosophy began to take shape immediately after the September 11 attacks and has culminated in the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Emblematic of this comprehensive approach, meanwhile, is the Homeland Security Advisory System, established in March 2002. This system prescribes warnings at five different color-coded danger levels—each of which triggers a more stringent set of protective measures. In October 2001, moreover, the U.S. attorney general also instituted the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force, which uses data-mining technology to generate intelligence needed to keep terrorists out of the United States. Finally, the Department of Justice has also established 56 “joint terrorism task forces” (which bring together federal, state, and local agencies to investigate and prevent terrorist attacks) and 93 “antiterrorism task forces” (which coordinate communications and operations among the relevant agencies).
Whereas U.S. homeland security strategy is now driven by potential consequences, European security tends to pivot on probabilities. Most European governments, accordingly, have continued to approach terrorism as predominantly a problem that can be assessed and dealt with on an emergent basis, after particular threats have arisen. Part of the explanation for this approach is that, for historical and other reasons, Europeans tend to be wary of both the social and the economic costs of dealing with threats before they crop up—by reducing vulnerability, for example, or by improving the government’s capacity to fight them. Since September 11, therefore, Europe’s efforts to improve territorial security have been largely rhetorical, not substantive. And not always even that; neither “homeland” nor “territorial” security were among the seven areas included in the EU’s post-September 11 counterterrorism program. Only air transport security—an area in which Europe was already superior to the United States—was improved. As of January 2003, moreover, the EU was only beginning to implement a networked border-monitoring and border-control system, a common visa policy, and an EU-wide fingerprint database (Eurodac) for asylum seekers. A June 2002 report on the EU’s response to September 11 raised the question of territorial security only in the context of preparedness for WMD attacks, particularly those involving biological weapons. And even in that context, although European health ministers now do meet regularly to discuss improving their response capability, most European countries have not started stockpiling vaccines as intensively as has the United States.
Europe’s more restrained approach to homeland security will have negative implications for the United States, however. September 11 demonstrated that America’s security is organically linked to Europe’s vulnerability to infiltration by terrorists. Europe, after all, was the key recruitment, planning, and logistics base for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and Europe may continue to serve as a source for threats against the United States. Despite Washington’s intention to create an enhanced security system whereby standing, permanent capabilities minimize terrorist threats to U.S. territory, citizens, and assets, the United States has so far merely set the agenda for doing so. Given the unwillingness of Americans to trade liberty for security and the resurgence of partisanship in Congress, implementation of that agenda will remain slow, fitful, and fraught. So long as the United States remains vulnerable, Europe may remain most useful to al Qaeda as a recruiting and staging ground—not as a target.
To understand Europe’s approach to counterterrorism, it helps to remember that its attitude has been informed by the region’s experience with the old form of terrorism—not the new transnational kind. Because of the limited form that most of European terrorism has taken in the past, European governments remain more inclined than Washington to distinguish the political wings of terrorist groups from their military elements. This in turn helps explain why, although European governments have generally been very effective in stopping terrorists financially—they have frozen about $35 million in suspected al Qaeda assets since September 11 (compared to about $34 million in the United States and $124.5 million worldwide)—as of December 2002, they still had not frozen the assets of Hamas’ political wing. Moreover, although the EU has expanded its official list of proscribed terrorist groups to bring it more in line with the State Department’s, there remain conspicuous omissions, including Abu Sayyaf, Algeria’s gia, Harakat al-Mujahideen, Hezbollah, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. (Members of the EU are free to compose their own lists, however, and some, such as the United Kingdom, ban more groups than does the EU.)
Before September 11, only six European countries—France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom—had specific counterterrorism laws (as distinct from ordinary criminal codes). Some of these six have since strengthened their laws still further or improved enforcement. Other countries such as the Netherlands, which did not have such laws or counterterrorism programs, have enacted and implemented them. Spanish magistrates, seasoned by long-standing Basque terrorism and equipped with tough statutes, have been among the most dogged pursuers of al Qaeda suspects. Germany has substantially increased funding for its border guard, prosecutor’s office, and intelligence agencies, and has increased law enforcement’s access to personal financial data. Berlin has also authorized the prosecution of foreigners associated with terrorist groups based outside Germany, and the deportation of those perpetrating political violence or otherwise threatening Germany’s “basic order of democratic freedom.” Italy, for its part, has similarly broadened its statutory authority for apprehending terrorists.
Other countries, however—such as Belgium—have done little, and even in European countries that have taken action, the measures have been largely remedial. Both Germany and Italy have long been plagued by bureaucratic inefficiencies and significant statutory gaps in their law-enforcement regimes. Prior to September 11, for instance, Germany had no provision outlawing foreign-based terrorist organizations, and Italy had not authorized surveillance of those suspected of belonging to such groups.
Still, there is no doubt that European leaders are aware that their countries were infiltrated by al Qaeda prior to September 11. This fact, along with more recent developments showing that al Qaeda has reconstituted itself and expanded its list of targets, has energized EU law enforcement. This is not surprising, given that al Qaeda or its affiliates have attacked German tourists in Tunisia; French submarine engineers in Pakistan; a French oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden; U.S. marines in Kuwait; Australian, European, and American tourists in Bali; and Israelis in Kenya. As this list indicates, until it is ready to stage another mass-casualty attack in America, al Qaeda will content itself with softer targets over a wider geographical range. Confirming the point, in an audiotape that surfaced in November 2002, Osama bin Laden expressly cited Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, and the United Kingdom as targets. In response, several European governments departed from their relatively circumspect, low-key approach to terrorism alerts and issued stark warnings about planned attacks in Europe.
Nevertheless, these incentives for improving territorial security in Europe remain subject to countervailing attitudes and political forces. Germany, the United Kingdom, and France all have large Muslim populations. And whereas the roughly 15 million Muslims living in the EU’s 15 current member states constitute about four percent of the total EU population, the 6 million Muslims (a liberal estimate) living in the United States compose only slightly higher than two percent of the U.S. population—a significant difference. European Muslims, however, are only half-accepted socially and are politically underrepresented. This marginal status makes them susceptible to radicalization—one factor that has helped prevent governments from taking steps that might seem anti-Muslim.
Another explanation for Europe’s halfhearted pursuit of suspects and prevention of terrorism has to do with a certain incapacity and with political priorities. The EU is not a United States of Europe. It simply lacks the kind of power necessary to effect simultaneous changes in the policies of its constituent national governments. Although the EU’s Schengen arrangements mandate strict border controls between new member states and nonmembers, open borders within the expanding union are integral to its postmodern economic and political experiment—and any impingement on this openness remains highly controversial. Brussels is now planning to create a system for EU-wide arrest warrants, and in theory, the weakening of national borders should ease the application of such warrants. But this step could lead to significant backlash from member states. As the EU moves with trepidation toward enhancing its political power, individual governments are becoming more worried about hemorrhaging national authority.
Furthermore, for purposes of applying the arrest warrant, the EU has proposed an extremely broad definition of terrorism, one that includes all “intentional acts … seriously intimidating a population or … destabilizing or destroying … fundamental political, constitutional, economic, or social structures.” The warrant would also cover common crimes, as well as racism and xenophobia. Thus the arrest warrant, although proposed on the pretext of counterterrorism, appears to be part of a larger agenda, one that aims to criminalize racial or religious hatred per se and to expand the EU’s supranational legal jurisdiction. These are ambitious and controversial goals far less likely to produce consensus than would a simple crackdown on terrorism. As a result of such controversy, the target date for the EU arrest warrant to become operational—originally the end of 2002—has been steadily pushed back to 2004. Italy initially resisted adopting the warrant altogether, before relenting as a result of a partial opt-out. And even those countries that agree in principle may find reasons to drag their feet when it comes to executing the warrants.
The idea of improved border control has also run into trouble. In May 2002, the European Commission announced the possibility of creating a multinational EU border patrol. A promising 15-day trial was held in that month, with guards from EU member states jointly patrolling the borders of France, Italy, and Spain (as well as 24 airports), stopping 4,500 illegal immigrants, and arresting 34 alleged drug traffickers. Despite this success, however, when EU interior ministers met the following month in Luxembourg, they made almost no progress on border security or immigration. Germany held up a burden-sharing agreement on asylum seekers because it wanted other EU nations to absorb more of its immigrants but did not want to pay them to do so. Greece, Italy, and Spain wanted financial assistance for external border patrols and guarantees that they would not be saddled with refugees seeking asylum in northern Europe. And British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s call to condition aid to non-EU countries on their cracking down on illegal immigration at its sources was also rejected.
Europeans’ discomfort with closed borders and information-gathering on private citizens has also limited U.S. homeland security measures within Europe. As of November 2002, under its Container Security Initiative, the United States had secured permission from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands to deploy specially trained U.S. Customs Service officials to the ports of Rotterdam, Antwerp, Le Havre, Hamburg, Bremerhaven, Genoa, and La Spezia to monitor shipping manifests and inspect cargo bound for the United States. But most European governments have not supported American plans for background checks and biometric devices (which recognize unique physiological characteristics such as fingerprints or retinas) for seafarers, and the Europeans have resisted a U.S. initiative to share information about the ultimate ownership of vessels. This failure is one reason why Washington has come to regard European fastidiousness about data protection as a serious obstacle to counterterrorism.
NATO structures could, in theory, help fill the gap by coordinating efforts at counterterrorism and homeland security. Indeed, the alliance has already established five concrete counterterrorism instruments: a mobile lab for analyzing nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons; a prototype NBC response team; a virtual “center of excellence” for NBC weapons defense (consisting of a standing, Brussels-based system of intranet links among national study centers and their experts); a biological and chemical weapons defense stockpile; and a disease surveillance system. Despite pressure from Washington and NATO Secretary-General George Robertson, however, at the December 2001 NATO summit the alliance settled on a meager four percent increase in NATO ‘s $147 million civilian budget—which has not substantially risen in real terms since 1994. Given its recent bumper enlargement and the need to reconsider its mission, NATO therefore cannot be expected to make much of a contribution to counterterrorism anytime soon.
The increased need for counterterrorism capabilities has actually helped to slow the consolidation of supranational power in Europe. In the near term, homeland security measures are likely to fall mainly to national governments. These are, indeed, the bodies (as opposed to the EU or NATO) with experience in the field. Accordingly, most transatlantic homeland-security work will remain at the bilateral level. It may take additional terrorist attacks on European soil to inspire greater transnational efforts. In the meantime, it will be difficult for national authorities to keep real-time tabs on the influx and outflow of foreigners, and Europe will probably remain vulnerable to terrorist infiltration.
Unite and Conquer
Given the importance of Europe’s territorial security to the defense of United States, any disinclination on the part of European governments to confront such matters could well impair the transatlantic relationship. But one overarching factor suggests that Europe will not opt out of a coordinated counterterrorism policy: Europe’s own vulnerability. The United States is spending almost $40 billion on homeland security in the current fiscal year. The country’s capabilities should improve once the new Department of Homeland Security gets up and running and the law-enforcement establishment completes its reorientation toward counterterrorism. These considerable efforts will probably make the American homeland less vulnerable to terrorist attack. In that event, however—as has been hinted by bin Laden’s tape and al Qaeda’s growing affection for soft targets over a widening geographical expanse—terrorists may suddenly find European countries more appealing targets.
Indeed, al Qaeda’s new decentralized post-Afghanistan structure and the group’s heightened reliance on local talent now makes opportunistic, lower-level “freelance” attacks in Europe a greater threat. For example, in late 2000, a group of Algerians with probable al Qaeda connections planned to blow up a Strasbourg market. Such attacks are operationally similar to the old-style terrorism of the IRA or Hamas. But they will occur in a substantially more dangerous political and military context, due to the absence of bargaining as a tool of moderation and al Qaeda’s intention to escalate the violence to the level of mass destruction. Even if al Qaeda focuses only on American installations in Europe, should its operatives use WMD, the consequences will be grave for the population at large.
These factors suggest that with respect to homeland security, Europeans and Americans will remain dependent on one another. The prospect of al Qaeda’s targeting European territory will make the need for vigorous European territorial defense acute, and this in turn will stimulate a natural convergence of European and American agendas. Already, some European officials seem to have seen the light. David Veness, director of Scotland Yard’s counterterrorism unit, believes al Qaeda attacks on Europe are “a question of when and where, not if.” British analysts have concluded that prior to September 11, the United Kingdom’s security services neglected the threat from al Qaeda, due to their preoccupation with Northern Irish terrorism. Since then, however—perhaps out of concern that its “special relationship” with the United States would make it a likely target, perhaps aware of the high degree of social isolation and radicalization of its Muslim population—the United Kingdom has vigorously reoriented its counterterrorism profile. Parliament passed laws in December 2001 comparable to the U.S.A. Patriot Act and recently enacted tighter asylum criteria. The government has formed a 6,000-strong reaction force for assisting police and civil authorities in the event of a mass-casualty attack. After bin Laden’s November 2002 tape specified that al Qaeda was considering European targets, the British government also introduced a civil contingencies bill for better dealing with such an attack, revitalized its civil-defense planning, and accelerated its stockpiling of the smallpox vaccine.
Such measures could inspire other European countries to follow suit. France, which has extensive experience with Arab nationalist terrorism, has recently shown greater concern about mass-casualty attacks. Furthermore, Europol—the multinational European police office—has seen its budget double to almost E52 million since becoming operational in late 1998, and its 242-strong staff is set to increase to 350 this year. Europol remains constrained, however, by the competing interests of Brussels and national governments. It is unlikely ever to become a European version of the FBI, which has almost 30,000 employees and a $3 billion annual budget. Europol has no enforcement powers and its staff will remain relatively small. The most it can do is ask national governments to initiate joint investigations of endemic large-scale criminal problems and provide analysis and coordination for national law-enforcement agencies.
Nevertheless, Europol has already proven useful as a vehicle for distributing general information and assessments among national law-enforcement authorities. It has also served the useful political function of enshrining pre-existing bilateral law-enforcement relationships that had arisen in connection with transnational threats such as narcotics trafficking and the “old” pre-al Qaeda terrorism. Europol also has some potential, albeit limited, to help harmonize the national policies of EU member states on territorial security. Its headquarters in The Hague now houses liaison officers from each EU country who facilitate interaction between Europol and 34 law-enforcement agencies. Transatlantic law-enforcement links are also thickening. In late 2001, the FBI and Europol exchanged liaison officers.
In terms of immigration, September 11 did not immediately lead to tighter restrictions, as it did in the United States. Still, the recent political tilt by European voters toward the right may eventually allow for more rigorous measures. The June 2002 EU summit in Seville yielded little substantive progress on the matter, and although members approved an EU-wide border patrol, it is not expected to start work before 2007. Eu leaders did, however, agree in principle to have their national police chiefs meet regularly to discuss immigration, to undertake joint border-enforcement operations, and to harmonize visa and asylum policies.
As for the “values gap” between Europe and the United States, it has not seriously jeopardized day-to-day transatlantic counterterrorism cooperation, and many of the problems it raises can be finessed. Differences over the death penalty do complicate extradition of suspects from Europe to the United States. Divergent data-protection standards also impede intelligence sharing. Washington and Brussels are committed to reaching general accord on these issues, but progress is likely to be slow. Although they have agreed to exchange general analytic information on terrorism and crime via Europol, an impending agreement on sharing personal data relating to terrorist suspects foundered in November 2002 due to concerns over civil liberties and legal liability.
Such problems, however, are manageable on a case-by-case basis, even if this is not the ideal solution. For example, after withholding from Washington requested information on Zacarias Moussaoui, the suspected “”20th hijacker,” for several months, French and German authorities finally agreed in November 2002 to provide it after Washington assured them that it would not be used as evidence to support a death sentence. Similarly, the EU’s counterterrorism task force and the FBI have exchanged personal data on those suspected of involvement in the September 11 attacks on the basis of a special EU exemption from data-sharing restrictions covering “life-threatening situations.” Incipient U.S.-European cooperation prompted by American homeland-security concerns—such as U.S. Customs Service container inspections at European ports—also constitutes a solid foundation for more robust transatlantic cooperation.
Not Quite Eye to Eye
The greatest problem in transatlantic cooperation over homeland security used to be the very different ways Europe and America viewed the threats they faced. Unless Europe became convinced that it faced a danger comparable to that confronted by America, Washington could not have confidence that European leaders would do enough to deny terrorists ground for planning, recruiting, and staging future attacks. The subsequent bombings in Bali and Kenya, however, and bin Laden’s November tape recording have all led to greater convergence between the United States and Europe. Most European governments have since ramped up their vigilance accordingly. Now the most important issue in transatlantic homeland security is whether these higher threat perceptions in Europe will be sustained and will lead to significant advances: the harmonization of national policies and better cooperation with the United States.
Having said that, Europe’s concept of security will probably remain more threat-based than the comprehensive approach pursued by the United States. Even the United Kingdom’s policy is primarily driven by current intelligence as opposed to prospective vulnerabilities. Moreover, the EU—particularly in its planned expanded incarnation—does not and will not possess enough power anytime soon to coordinate law-enforcement by its member states. It certainly will not have the capacity of a true federal government—the way Washington, for example, can supervise national, state, and local authorities in the United States. But European countries do have strong incentives to improve their own security by cooperating with other EU members. And long-standing bilateral law-enforcement connections among European countries, along with the EU’s existing structures and forums, are potent mechanisms for enhancing that cooperation.
A number of positive steps should be taken, however. These include a formal and general EU-U.S. compromise on data protection that makes day-to-day intelligence exchanges more fluid and thus facilitates faster and more comprehensive threat assessments and law enforcement; harmonized European border security and visa standards, with a single database providing a clear picture of who is going where; deeper public-private partnerships for more effective risk management in European countries; and expedited and universal implementation of the EU-wide arrest warrant. Establishing a more general and workable transatlantic standard for extradition, although not essential (since prosecutors in the United States can always choose to waive the death penalty on an ad hoc basis), would also make for a sunnier political climate.
The alarm sparked in Europe by bin Laden’s November tape recording has afforded Washington greater leverage to urge European authorities to improve coordination and cooperation. In using that leverage, Washington should acknowledge the complementary aspects of the American and European experiences and priorities. The United States has superior technical capabilities, manpower, reach, and resources, and information provided by the United States enhances European governments’ capacity to protect their citizens. American warnings about possible terrorist operations in Bali, for example, gave the British government a basis for alerting British travelers (even if it did not act on those warnings). Furthermore, in the United States, public-private cooperation on matters such as border security and cyber-security has already succeeded in some cases in harnessing the government’s security priorities to private companies’ incentives to expedite commerce. European countries could make significant strides in their own territorial security by creating comparable public-private alliances.
Europe, for its part, has more experience than the United States in fighting “old” terrorist groups and may have a few things to teach Washington about counterterrorism. A profound lack of American interagency coordination, for example, has prompted soul-searching in existing U.S. law-enforcement and intelligence services and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. France’s highly effective intelligence coordination system—centered in the Secretariat Generale de la Defense Nationale and spanning the executive and judicial branches—was itself the product of administrative disarray in French counterterrorism in the 1980s and therefore merits close American study. Similarly, U.S. congressional interest in establishing a cabinet-level national intelligence post and a separate domestic intelligence-collection capability is growing; MI5’s experience with Northern Irish and other terrorists in the United Kingdom could richly inform the debate. Al Qaeda’s growing disposition to engage local actors as contractors, thereby obscuring the operational distinction between international and domestic terrorism, further broadens the scope for European contribution.
Finally, the perennially fraught issue of U.S.-European security burden-sharing could turn out to be a broad and unexpected source of cooperation. September 11 has made the United States more inclined to lead ad hoc “coalitions of the willing” than to rely on formal military alliances. This arguably makes significantly increased real European military spending—improbable in any event—less important and leaves more room for alternative European contributions to international security. One such alternative would be firming up European territorial counterterrorism defenses. However the details are worked out, homeland security, like counterterrorism generally, at bottom invokes shared transatlantic interests and should inspire not insularity but engagement and cooperation.