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You have an opinion, but do you have what it takes to be heard?

Paul Rosenzweig
Washington, DC

Paul Rosenzweig

I'm a former senior federal policy maker, with a wide-ranging knowledge of issues involving homeland security, national security, intelligence and law enforcement.

Europe is from Venus ...

Editor's note: The contestants were given free rein for their second post of the day. You can read Paul Rosenzweig's earlier post here.


Wesam al-Deleama is a Dutch citizen who was born in Iraq.  When the war in Iraq started, he returned home and joined the insurgency to fight against the US.  The evidence that he did so is pretty convincing: there is, for example, a video that shows al-Deleama planting roadside IEDs as a means of waging war against American soldiers.

Eventually al-Deleama was captured.  He was charged criminally and extradited from Holland to the United States to face charges.  Last year he pled guilty to conspiring to kill Americans in Iraq as part of the insurgency.  He was sentenced to 25 years in prison and then, as part of an agreement with the Dutch, he was returned home to serve out his sentence.

Last week a Dutch court intervened (as it was entitled to do) and reduced his sentence from 25 years to 8 years, which with credit under Dutch law, amounts to a sentence of "time served" - effectively a 5 ½ year sentence for trying to kill American soldiers.  The Dutch prosecutors, to their credit, had requested the court to impose a 16-year sentence. But the court disagreed (and one reason it gave was that conditions in American prisons are overly harsh).

Many who work in the counter-terrorism field have sometimes wondered whether or not our friends and allies in Europe actually "get it."  To be sure, most of the government officials responsible for protecting the European public against terrorism understand what the stakes are.  But frequently we see a public reaction to terrorism and war that seems ... well, jarring to American sensibilities.  The Al-Deleama is one of those times.

And please, don't misunderstand the point.  This is not to say that the European view is "wrong" or "less valid" or anything like that.  But a lot of our counter-terrorism policy in America is premised on the sense of shared purpose that we think suffuses Western opposition to a radicalized and violent Islamic minority.  That shared sense of purpose is what undergirds the NATO expedition to Afghanistan and it also undergirds our intelligence-sharing programs with European colleagues.   We think that our close working relationships are founded on our mutual understanding of the problem of terrorism and our shared interest in self-protection.

But what if the underlying premise is wrong?  What if Europe and America really =don't= share the same perspective on the nature of the current threat, or the appropriateness of the response?  If that's the case - if European views are "different" from American ones - then how tenable is a strategy that relies on close trans-Atlantic cooperation?

Europe is entitled to its own views on the salience of the terrorist threat.  So is America.  But our strategy founders if we start from the mistaken premise that our views are the same.   They aren't.

Read more posts from this round. See what the judges are saying. And cast your vote on Friday.

By Paul Rosenzweig  |  October 21, 2010; 2:25 PM ET  | Category:  Blogging Challenge
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Not a bad premise, and Paul bolsters his point through detailed documentation. A worthy read.

Posted by: UponFurtherReview | October 22, 2010 11:56 AM
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Most interesting! Most of us are predisposed to focus on our kinship with western Europe and ignore the elements in our perspectives that divide us. I still think we have a tremendous amount in common, and should strive for cooperation, but keep the cultural background in mind. In your next blog post (or article) it would be nice to know if you think anything has changed recently in Europe, with the surprising rise of conservatism, and the backlash against Islam in a place with such a large islamic population. These movements involve minorities, to be sure, but the fact that they exist at all and have begun to have a voice may mean that the climate in Europe may be changing when it comes to combating terrorism. In the meantime, thanks for shedding light on the unexpected in this post.

Posted by: melitroske | October 22, 2010 11:25 AM
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Mr Rosenzweig has selected a perfect example to show the divide between Europe & America when it comes to the realities of the terrorist threat and underscores just how differently they view the intentions & actions of Islamic terrorists. A fine & dispassionate piece of commentary.

Posted by: arnnyc | October 22, 2010 11:22 AM
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Well stated, cogently argued. An excellent blog post.

Posted by: jbritt3 | October 22, 2010 12:18 AM
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Never tied the title into the story, which presumably would have added the USA as the warrior god Mars. That would have been a far better post. As it was, the first half of the story had little connect to the larger premise in the conclusion.

Thank God Europe is not like the USA (less Tony Blair). Invading Iraq mistakenly looking for WWI era WMDS, killing thousands and losing thousands in the process, is something no other nation should ever do.

Posted by: chucky-el | October 21, 2010 7:16 PM
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I would expect that the US and Europe don't share all the same views on the nature of the terrorist threat any more than their agreemments on anything else. I think we can take that as a given.

Posted by: MsJS | October 21, 2010 4:19 PM
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