Democracy didn't stop British terrorists

Terry Jeffrey

8/16/2006 12:01:00 AM - Terry Jeffrey

Had the Liquid Bomb Plot (as some English papers call it) succeeded, a headline the next day might have accurately read, "British Terrorists Attack America."

Though the plot was foiled by excellent British police work, it nonetheless demonstrated that the land of Locke and Blackstone, the cradle of Western democracy and law, has become a breeding ground for Islamic terrorists.

Given that the terrorists planning to commit what may have proved to be the deadliest anti-American terrorist attack ever were born and bred in democratic Britain, President Bush may want to reconsider his strategy of pushing democratic regime-change around the world, and especially in the Middle East, as the means of protecting the United States against terrorism.

"We know that democracies do not foment terror or invade their neighbors," Bush said last year, explaining his policy.

"If the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation and resentment and violence ready for export. The United States has adopted a new strategy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East; a strategy that recognizes that the best way to defeat the ideology of terror as a weapon is to spread freedom and democracy."

But the first premise of this strategy is borrowed from bleeding-heart liberalism. Muslim terrorists, it supposes, start out as victims of benighted governments. Remove those governments, and you will end Islamist terrorism.

Yet, how can this apply to Great Britain?

Freedom House, which ranks the world's nations by the degree of "political rights" and "civil liberties" they afford, gives the United Kingdom the best score possible in each category. The Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom ranks the United Kingdom as the world's fifth freest economy. The United States ranks only ninth.

So why have native Brits been implicated for the second time in little more than a year (the London subway bombings was the first) in an Islamist conspiracy to commit mass murder?

All 23 alleged conspirators held in Britain in connection with the latest plot were reportedly British born and raised. British oppression did not create these suspected terrorists. A radical Islamic ideology did. Changing Britain's form of government will not change that radical vision.

Indeed, the challenge for the British will be to defeat those who embrace this ideology without sacrificing their own traditions of liberty.

Writing in the London Daily Telegraph on Sunday, filmmaker Russell Razzaque explained his own brief exposure to an Islamist club at a British university in 1989. Leaders of the club espoused the view that: "The duty of every Muslim was ... to join the battle to set mankind straight, and this was possible only via the establishment of a global Islamist state ruled by a single ruler -- Khilafah -- imposing a strict interpretation of Shariah law across the board. Our religious and moral obligation was to this cause alone."

The same edition of the Telegraph reported on the Islamist literature found in the office of the London Metropolitan University Islamic Society, headed by Waheed Zaman, one of the suspected Liquid Bomb Plot terrorists. One sheet said, "Allah guarantees the person who carries out Jihad in His Cause ... that He will either admit him into Paradise (Martyrdom) or return him with reward or booty."

Zaman's sister said of him, "My brother loves fish and chips and Liverpool Football Club."

Earlier this year, I wrote in praise of the speech House International Relations Chairman Henry Hyde, the Illinois Republican, delivered when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared in his committee. With Rice sitting before him, Hyde advocated a return to the "clear-eyed and sober-minded understanding of this world" embraced by our forebears.

He rebutted the well-meaning but mistaken notion that "our interests are best served by assigning a central place in the foreign policy of our nation to the worldwide promotion of democracy." He dismissed this as "the Golden Theory" and advocated instead a morally responsible realism.

"We can and have used democracy as a weapon to destabilize our enemies, and we may do so again," Hyde said. "But if we unleash revolutionary forces in the expectation that the result can only be beneficent, I believe we are making a profound and perhaps uncorrectable mistake. History teaches that revolutions are very dangerous things, more often destructive than benign, and uncontrollable by their very nature. Upending established order based on a theory is far more likely to produce chaos than shining uplands."

In last year's Lebanese elections, the Hezbollah terrorist group won 14 parliament seats and a place in the government. This year's Palestinian elections delivered the Palestinian Authority to the Islamists of Hamas. Is it in U.S. interests for Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to become more like Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority? Even if these states could peacefully replicate the political order of our best ally, Great Britain, would that stop anti-American Islamist terrorism from arising within their borders?

History is already proving Henry Hyde right.