Entries from July 2006

Suez’s Lesson

David Frum July 29th, 2006 at 12:00 am Comments Off

Fifty years ago this past week, on July 26, 1956, the Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal. Nasser’s act would lead to an international crisis, a regional war and ultimately to the resignation of a British prime minister. “Suez” would become a lesson and a warning against Western meddling in the Middle East.

But the lessons and warnings of Suez look very different after 9/11.

In 1956, the Suez Canal was owned by the British government and a consortium of British and French private investors. Two-thirds of Europe’s oil traveled through the canal, protected by British troops.

In 1952, a group of nationalist military officers led by Nasser had overthrown Egypt’s king and elected parliament. The officers demanded the withdrawal of all British troops. The British complied. In 1954, Britain and Egypt signed a new treaty in which Egypt promised to respect foreign ownership rights over the canal.

But as soon as the last British soldier departed in June, 1956, Nasser immediately violated his promise and seized the canal.

So Britain and France made a secret deal with Israel. Nasser had been sponsoring terrorist raids into Israel from Egyptian-occupied Gaza. If Israel invaded Sinai to punish Egypt, the deal went, France and Britain would intervene to impose a peace–and to topple Nasser.

Israeli troops moved on Oct. 29 and swiftly defeated the Egyptian forces. But the allies had miscalculated the attitude of U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower fiercely opposed the Suez war. He ordered Israel to stop and threatened economic reprisals against the British and French. The Anglo-French intervention collapsed. Nasser survived.

And what did America get in return? Did Nasser show gratitude to the president who saved him? Did Arab nationalists acknowledge the U.S. as their friend and protector? The questions are absurd: Of course not.

After Suez, Arab nationalists redoubled their invective against the United States. The region turned increasingly radical, increasingly pro-Soviet, increasingly violent. And Nasser himself led the way through his vitriolic radio broadcasts, his aid to extremist movements throughout the region, and his tightening relationship with the Soviet Union.

Here’s an alternative lesson to draw from Suez. What Westerners think of as goodwill, Middle Easterners often interpret as weakness. Westerners expect their concessions and compromises to be met with concessions and compromises in return. Instead, Western moderation often intensifies Middle Eastern radicalism–as Eisenhower’s goodwill intensified Nasser’s radicalism, as Jimmy Carter’s intensified the Ayatollah Khomeini’s, as Ehud Barak’s at Camp David intensified Yasser Arafat’s. And (I’d argue) as George Bush’s moderation toward Iran since 9/11 has intensified the Iranian regime’s intransigence, extremism and violence.

By contrast, when Westerners act strongly and assertively, Middle Easterners surprisingly often back down. In 1958, Eisenhower sent 14,000 U.S. troops to support the government of Lebanon against Nasserist radicals–and the radicals yielded. The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 intimidated the Iranian mullahs into releasing U.S. hostages.

Sometimes even mistakes can do the job. In 1986, a U.S. warship mistook an Iranian passenger jet for a fighter plane and shot it down. Khomeini refused to believe the shooting was an accident. He became convinced that the U.S. was actively intervening to support Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war–and, for that reason, he at last agreed to accept peace.

What if the U.S. had shown itself equally tough in 1956? What if it had refused to rescue Nasser from his self-inflicted doom? What if terrorism and treaty-breaking had carried a high price for the first Arab dictator to try them? Might we possibly have had less terrorism and treaty-breaking in the years since?

We cannot know, of course. But we can say this: A lot of the mainstream commentary on the Middle East is guided by assumptions that Middle Eastern leaders will do what we would do if we were in their place. As Barry Rubin tartly observes in the June issue of the Middle East Review of International Affairs:

“Palestinian leaders should be thinking: …Violence, radicalism and maximalist demands have failed to bring benefits. We must instead try a strategy of compromise, peace and moderation. … Since this seems logical, much of the world simply assumes that such is the Palestinian position.” But in fact it is not the Palestinian position, any more than it is the Iranian position to want a negotiated solution to the nuclear problem or than Hezbollah wants a compromise with Israel.

The U.S. misjudged Nasser in 1956. And it has repeated that same misjudgment again and again in the years since. As the international community gets ready now to rescue Hezbollah and Iran from yet another war provoked by terrorism and treaty-violation, maybe it’s time to consider a very different kind of lesson, the lesson forlornly propounded by Bernard Lewis for all these many years: “In the Middle East, get tough or get out.”

Iran’s Showdown With The West

David Frum July 25th, 2006 at 12:00 am Comments Off

Here’s what we don’t know: We don’t know whether Hezbollah anticipated the strong Israeli reaction to its kidnapping of Israeli soldiers.

That means we don’t know whether Hezbollah intended to trigger a major regional war–or whether it complacently assumed it could pressure Israel into a 400-to-1 prisoner exchange like the one Hezbollah extracted in 2004.

But here’s what we do know: We know that the missile that wrecked an IDF warship and killed four sailors on July 15 was manufactured in Iran to a Chinese design. We know that Hezbollah’s longer-range weapons are commanded by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. We know that Hezbollah’s fighting forces were equipped and trained by Iranian officers. And we know above all that Hezbollah is financed, equipped, and trained by the Iranian secret service. It carries out terror missions on behalf of Iran. For all practical purposes, Hezbollah is an arm of the Iranian state.

And when Hezbollah goaded Israel into war, the war it triggered was not a war between Israel and Lebanon.

The war Hezbollah provoked is a war between Israel and Iran, with Hezbollah as Iran’s proxy–and the people of Lebanon as Iran’s victims. The Lebanese have been kidnapped by Iran as surely as those two Israeli soldiers abducted on the northern border.

Israel has recognized that tragic fact. It has fought this war on its northern border as humanely as it can. Flip the switch in Beirut and the lights come on; open the taps, and the water flows. Essential services have been spared. The runways at Beirut Airport have been bombed to stop reinforcements to Hezbollah, but the control towers and the newly built terminal have been spared because Lebanon will need them later.

Unintended civilian casualties have tragically occurred, as they do in any war. But Israel’s sincere and costly attempts to minimize the loss of innocent life present a stark contrast with Hezbollah’s deliberately atrocious war methods.

Hezbollah has boasted that it has tried to fire missiles into Haifa’s chemical factories, in hope of releasing gases to poison the civilian population. Hezbollah rocket warheads arrive crammed with ball bearings, so as to inflict maximum death and suffering upon the civilian populations at which they are fired.

Nobody wants the war to last a minute longer than it needs to. But ironically, letting this war go to the finish would be a far more humane policy than the UN’s call for an immediate, unconditional ceasefire.

If the war ends today, it ends with Hezbollah bloodied, but intact. It ends with Hezbollah still in possession of much of southern Lebanon, ready to be resupplied and reinforced by Syria and Iran. It ends with Hezbollah able to boast that it fought a war with Israel that ended with Israeli concessions. In other words: it ends with a Hezbollah, which is to say an Iranian, victory.

What would happen then? Well, such a victory would finish forever the hopes of those Lebanese, the majority of the population, who want to see their country regain its national independence.

And it would embolden the mullahs of Iran. In the early 1990s, the mullahs launched a global terror campaign. They assassinated Iranian dissident exiles in the streets of Paris and the restaurants of Berlin. In 1994, they bombed the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, killing almost 100 people, and bombed the Israeli embassy.

In 1996 they attacked the Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia, killing 17 Americans. That last attack was too much even for the Clinton administration, which issued an ultimatum to the Iranians. Overt Iranian violence subsided. Instead, the Iranians redoubled their investment in their nuclear bomb program, so that next time, they could kill with impunity.

“Next time” is now here. Intended or not, the war on Israel’s northern border is Iran’s showdown with the West.

Now see the stakes if Iran loses. If Hezbollah is destroyed as a military force, Iran loses its most potent weapon of attack and retaliation against the Western world.

Through the years of negotiating with Iran over its nuclear bomb program, the Iranians have repeatedly threatened: “If you should dare ever to strike our nuclear facilities, we will unleash a global Hezbollah terror campaign against oil in the Persian Gulf, against Israel, against Europe, against the United States!” No more Hezbollah means no more such terror threats.

When negotiations over the nuclear program resume, they will resume with the West powerfully strengthened and Iran visibly weakened by the failure of Iran’s own reckless aggression. This will be Israel’s achievement–and Israel’s latest gift to the peace of the world.

To achieve this positive result, however, Israel must be allowed to finish the job. Israel must be allowed to shatter Hezbollah as a military force and put an end to its state-within-a-state in southern Lebanon.

Once that work is done, the international community can act to rebuild and restore. There has been talk of replacing Hezbollah with an international military force. The right kind of force should be welcome. Not a UN force obviously: the UN force in southern Lebanon, UNIFIL, not only stood by as Hezbollah kidnapped Israeli soldiers, but actually helped cover up for Hezbollah by concealing videotape it had recorded of the attack.

But a NATO force, perhaps led by France, which has strongly championed Lebanese independence from Syria–such a force could open the way to peace, reconstruction, and the full democratization of Lebanon.

All that comes later. There is a war to be won first. We grieve for the innocent Lebanese victimized by Iran’s terror war.

But we remember too the millions of other innocents for whom we would have to grieve unless Iran’s power to wreak terror, next time with nukes, is taken away in time.

Across The Middle East, The Mullahs Are Meddling

David Frum July 22nd, 2006 at 12:00 am Comments Off

War is bomb blasts, explosions, violence, confusion. But maybe a short chronology of events can bring a little order to the story–and help us to understand the origins of this latest spasm of violence in the Middle East.

Through this hot summer, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, have been working furiously to find a diplomatic solution to the problem of the Iranian nuclear bomb. In mid-June, the six powers formally offered Iran a set of incentives for abandoning its nuclear enrichment program, including light-water nuclear reactors and technology for Iran’s civil aviation fleet. Iran spurned the offer. After another month of discussions, the six powers agreed to threaten Iran with economic sanctions. The threat was publicly issued in Paris on July 12 and reaffirmed at the G8 meeting in St. Petersburg on July 17.

As the nuke cops closed in, the Iranians flexed a little muscle of their own.

Iran has this year emerged as the most important patron and supporter of the Hamas terrorist movement. It pledged $50-million in aid to Hamas in April; Israeli sources report that Iranian intelligence officers have trained Hamas guerillas.

On June 25, Hamas kidnapped an Israeli soldier in a carefully planned and executed attack. The guerillas erupted from a 700-foot tunnel they’d dug underneath the border between Israel and Gaza, surprising an Israeli outpost from the rear. The attack predictably provoked Israeli retaliation.

Then, on July 9, the level of violence in the region surged upward again. That day, uniformed militiamen blockaded a predominantly Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad and massacred up to 50 civilians, dragging them from homes and cars to shoot them in the head in the streets. The unusually well-co-ordinated slaughter triggered a cycle of sectarian retaliation and counter-retaliation that left 628 people dead over the following week–and may push the total civilian death count for the month to 2,000, up from a horrifying enough 1,000 in June.

Again, the authorship of the July 9 massacre traces back to Teheran. The militia that carried out the attack, the Mahdi army, professes loyalty to the loudmouthed young cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. But as the Mahdi army has grown, it has generated its own military leadership, paid and trained by Iran.

In the first months after the liberation of Baghdad, al-Sadr tried to manipulate Iraqi nationalism against his more prestigious Shiite rival, the Iranian-born Ayatollah al-Sistani. Under pressure from his militia, however, al-Sadr has grown closer to Iran in recent months–and last month declared that his army would fight for Iran if the US attacked Iranian nuclear facilities.

After the sanctions threat on July 12, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator flew home via Damascus, where he reportedly met with Hezbollah leaders.

That same day, July 12, Hezbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers on the northern border. The next day, July 13, Hezbollah rockets were fired at Haifa and Israel’s northern cities, forcing a full-scale Israel-Hezbollah war.

Does that make things a little clearer?

Iran’s precise goals remain murky. Are they seeking only to pre-empt the Security Council calendar and divert attention away from the sanctions vote?

Or do they have bigger goals? Are they trying to rally Islamic opinion worldwide to their support? Do the rulers of Iran hope that inciting conflict with Israel and America will consolidate their claims to lead the Islamic world?

Or are they more audacious still? Might they possibly imagine that by turning up the level of terrorist violence against Israel and Iraq they might inflict a humiliating direct defeat upon the United States? With the U.S. Congress demoralized, the Iranians may calculate that they do not have to defeat American forces on the ground to break American public opinion–any more than the Viet Cong defeated the U.S. Army in the Tet Offensive.

In the same way, the mullahs may believe that Hezbollah can emerge strengthened from a battle with Israel. If this conflict ends with a negotiated ceasefire that leaves Hezbollah in control of south Lebanon, then Hezbollah has won–and so has Iran.

If Iran sees its goals as strengthening Hezbollah, driving the U.S. out of Iraq, and obtaining a nuclear bomb for itself, that list of priorities indicates what the Western world’s counter-priorities have to be: destroying Hezbollah, securing Iraq, and halting the Iranian bomb program. The campaign to achieve those counter-priorities begins in Lebanon. It cannot end there.

Coming Up Snake Eyes

David Frum July 15th, 2006 at 12:00 am Comments Off

And here I thought Islamic law forbade gambling. Yet Hamas, Hezbollah, and the rulers of Iran–supposedly devout Muslims all–have just shaken the dice and rolled them in a fearful game where the stakes will be measured in human lives.

Let’s examine the game from the point of view of each of these players.


Hamas is replaying an old maneuver of Yasser Arafat’s from 2000: turning to war in order to escape the responsibilities of peace. Hamas had shocked itself with its victory in the January 2006 elections: 44% of the vote, 56% of the seats–and 100% of the obligations of government.

Within hours of assuming power, Hamas was slammed by economic crisis. No society on earth depends as heavily on foreign aid as does the Palestinian Authority: Fully US$300 of the average Palestinian income of US$1327 is donated, almost all of it by the United States and the European Union. Those funds support, among other things, the Palestinian Authority’s huge public-sector payroll: One out of every three Palestinian families depends on a government salary, including the families of 58,000 armed police and militiamen.

Unwilling to subsidize a terrorist organization committed to the destruction of Israel, those donors suspended or reduced their aid to the Palestinian Authority. Hamas officials at first dismissed the aid cutoff and assured their supporters that aid from their Muslim brethren would more than offset the forfeited Western funds. But that promise quickly proved illusory. By the end of April, 57.7% of Palestinians evaluated economic conditions in the PA as “bad.” Unpaid gunmen loyal to Fatah began to turn their weapons against Hamas forces: By May and June, the PA seemed to be sliding toward civil war.

Hamas’s response: divert the minds of the people by provoking a war against Israel instead. It allowed Hamas factions to fire rockets into southwestern Israel from the Gaza Strip. And the main Hamas armed force dug a tunnel under the border with Israel from which it launched the raid that resulted in the kidnapping of Corporal Gilad Shalit.

Of course the leaders of Hamas knew that such an open act of war would provoke Israeli reprisals. They gambled (i) that reprisals would rally Palestinian opinion to Hamas; (ii) that international opinion would restrain Israel before it utterly destroyed the Hamas regime; and (very possibly) (iii) that it was better to see its regime destroyed by Israel than to have to continue to govern the Palestinian Authority without foreign cash to pay the bills.

Apparently Hamas coordinated this gamble with a fellow terrorist group, Hezbollah, because Hezbollah followed up with an even more audacious gamble.


Under international law, the line demarking Gaza from Israel is an armistice line between Israel and Egypt, not an international border. The line between Israel and Lebanon, however, is an international border–and for a Lebanese militia group to launch an invasion across the border is by anybody’s definition an act of war.

Like Hamas, Hezbollah also faces a crisis. Last summer’s “Cedar Revolution” pressured Hezbollah’s ally, Syria, to withdraw its armed forces from Lebanon. A UN Security Council Resolution, number 1559, called upon all Lebanese militias to lay down their arms. Every Lebanese group except Hezbollah complied.

But as international pressure has mounted over the past year–not just against Syria, but also against Hezbollah’s patrons and funders in Iran–Hezbollah’s leader Sayyed Nasrallah also feared the deteroiration of his own political position. The son of murdered Lebanese politician Rafiq Hariri had built an effective political movement, supported not only by the U.S. and France but also by Saudi money, that seemed poised to win democratic power. Was Nasrallah worried that his state within a state would soon be curbed?

If so, that worry might explain why he too has bet his organization and his life. In 2004, Nasrallah swapped a kidnapped Israeli businessman and the bodies of three soldiers for two dozen Hezbollah and 400 Palestinian prisoners: an exchange that hugely enhanced his and his group’s prestige. He seems now to have gambled that he could do it again–at acceptable cost in Israeli retaliation.

Why would Nasrallah hope for such a seemingly unlikely outcome? That brings us to the third set of gamblers: the governments of Iran and Syria.


Iran’s new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad plainly believes in that old phrase, winning through intimidation. Having in the past threatened Israel with annihilation as soon as Iran finishes its nuclear bomb, last Friday he warned of an “Islamic explosion” if Israel pursued the kidnappers of Cpl. Shalit into Gaza. Looks like he had his plan ready: Those are Iranian-made rockets now landing on Israeli cities.

With Israel pursuing Hezbollah all the way to Beirut, Ahmadinejad has upped the ante again, threatening a “fierce response” if Israel struck at Syria.

Some suspect that Iran is doing more than intervening after the fact–that it approved and maybe even ordered up those Hamas and Hezbollah attacks in advance. Iran’s motives? Perhaps it seeks to remind the U.S. of its ability to cause trouble throughout the region should the Americans strike at Iran’s rapidly advancing nuclear program.

Gamble upon gamble upon gamble–and all gambles so far rolling up snake eyes.

Hamas’s gamble has gone wrong: While the world community hastened to rescue Yasser Arafat again and again and again, this time, nobody is offering to rescue them. When this war ends, the PA will be more of a ruin than ever–and Hamas will have failed both on its promise of a better life for Palestinians and on its promise of death and destruction to the Jews.

Hezbollah’s gamble seems to be going wrong, too. Israel is smashing up Hezbollah’s carefully husbanded military force with hardly a murmur of protest from the international community. The government of Saudi Arabia–Saudi Arabia!–denounced not Israel but Hezbollah for “uncalculated adventures undertaken by elements in Lebanon and those behind them without recourse to legal authority and consulting and coordinating with Arab nations. These elements should bear responsibility for their irresponsible actions and they alone should end the crisis they have created.”

As for Iran and Syria: Who likes their odds? Who now thinks that Iran can honour its commitments on nuclear power? Or that either country will ever cease its support for terrorism in Iraq? And if their proxies fail to wound Israel, that raises the question: How can they possibly inflict harm to America? And if we’re not to fear Hamas and Hezbollah any more–what is it, exactly, that should deter the U.S. from acting to remove Iran’s nuclear capability before today’s threats of “explosion” become tomorrow’s reality?

Mexico’s Defective Politics

David Frum July 8th, 2006 at 12:00 am Comments Off

Mexico’s cliff-hanger presidential election–and the threat by loser Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to fight the result in the streets–has disappointed Mexico’s friends around the world. But what else is new? Mexico is a perennial disappointment to everyone, and to the people of Mexico above all.

By world standards, Mexico is not an especially poor country. If you use the CIA’s statistics, which try to adjust for local costs of living, the average Mexican produces only a little bit less than the average Pole, almost twice as much as the average Chinese or Egyptian, and three times as much as the average Indian.

But the average Mexican can be forgiven if he takes a more dismal view.

The Mexican economy is not growing. Since 1980, South Korea’s annual production has quadrupled. Ireland’s has more than tripled. Even Turkey’s has nearly doubled. Mexico has more or less stood still: Its economy produces only 17% more than it did a quarter century ago.

Why has Mexico performed so poorly? The short answer: misgovernment. Three times since 1980, Mexico’s leaders have plunged Mexico into financial and economic catastrophe: In 1981-82, when president Lopez Portillo nationalized the country’s banks and devalued the peso; in 1986 and again in 1996. Since 1996, Mexico has governed itself something more like a modern, open society. Since 2002, it has had the benefit of higher oil prices. But even with those advantages, it has achieved only a little better than 2% annual average growth over the past 10 years.

Such growth as has occurred has tended to benefit only the wealthiest Mexicans. Mexico is one of the four most unequal societies in Latin America, itself the most unequal region of the planet. Mexico’s poorest 40% receive only about one-tenth of national income.

Why are Mexico’s poor so very poor? Again, the answer is Mexico’s defective politics.

Nineteenth century Mexico was a country of vast estates, ruled by a tiny landowning elite. The 1910 Revolution and the leftist nationalist regimes that followed overthrew the old ruling class. But rather than distribute lands to those who worked them, Mexico’s new leaders took the best land for themselves–and transformed the rest into communal farms. To this day, millions of Mexican peasants try to earn a living from tiny uneconomic plots they do not own. They can leave their land and migrate to the city–but they cannot sell it to acquire capital for their new life.

When Mexicans do arrive in the city, they find themselves locked out of the formal economy by some of the strongest unions and most restrictive labour laws in the Western world. New industries and new companies are suffocated by heavy regulation and crony capitalism. Foreign investment in Mexico’s oil industry is forbidden by the Constitution–costing the country billions of dollars in potential output and an estimated 200,000 potential new jobs.

And even if jobs were generated, it’s doubtful that Mexico’s poor could fill them. Mexico’s cash-strapped governments have never invested much in education–and what little they do spend is gobbled up by Mexico’s huge, powerful and corrupt teachers’ union. Result: Mexicans show among the lowest level of educational attainment of any of the 30 major economies grouped in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Ominously, educational levels are just as low among today’s under-20s as among over-40s–a warning that the Mexican economy will struggle with poor human capital for decades to come.

Friends of Mexico have seized with hope on every seeming turning point. In 1982, a bankrupt Mexico decided to turn away from statism toward a more open economic future. In 1994, Mexico joined a North American Free Trade Area. Multiparty democracy arrived at the same time. In 2000, it held its first truly free presidential election–and elected a charismatic modern reformer, Vicente Fox.

Yet at each turning point, remarkably little really turned. Fox was outmanoeuvred by the reactionary old-time statists who control the Mexican Congress and maintain the choking bureaucratic status quo. As if he himself had given up on reforming Mexico, he worked instead to help Mexicans leave, trying to negotiate a deal with President Bush that would open North American labour markets to Mexico’s unskilled workers. He failed, but four million Mexicans have migrated northward anyway since 2000, most of them illegally.

Can Mexico’s next president do better? Assuming the courts confirm Felip Calderon’s apparent victory, he will face more daunting obstacles even than those that defeated Fox–starting with a radicalized and embittered opposition.

Obrador and the populist party want to mobilize the understandable grievances of Mexico’s poor in order to sustain the corrupt and backward political system that keeps Mexico’s poor in poverty. If the past is any guide, it is a very real risk that they will succeed.

Whose Side Is The Left On?

David Frum July 1st, 2006 at 12:00 am Comments Off

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a complex opinion rebuking much of the Bush administration’s legal response to the 9/11 attacks. The court ruled that al-Qaeda detainees were entitled to at least a modicum of protection under the Geneva conventions–and that the President needed Congress’ approval before sending detainees to military tribunals for trial and punishment.

The high court’s decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld is being reported as a defeat for the Bush administration, and so it is. But that same decision opens the way to an important and useful debate over counter-terrorism policy–and that is a debate the administration can and should win.

It’s symbolically interesting that the Hamdan decision was handed down in the same week that The New York Times triggered a national uproar by exposing details of a U.S. Treasury department program to track terrorist finances around the world. (Two other papers also published the story, but in a less culpable way: Once the Treasury realized that the Times was determined to proceed, it briefed other news organizations itself in order to ensure that the facts were presented accurately and unsensationally.)

The Times’ terrorism-financing story followed two other intensely damaging leaks: One to the Times disclosed details of the National Security Agency’s program for intercepting terrorist communications; another to the Washington Post disclosed the locations of the prisons where high-value al-Qaeda captives were held for questioning.

Altogether, these three stories helped al-Qaeda to transfer money more securely, to conceal its communications more effectively, and to identify potential targets for terrorist retaliation and blackmail. Short of printing coupons to offer terrorists discounts on their next purchase of a nuclear device, it’s hard to imagine how a media organization could provide more assistance to the terrorist enemy than these stories in the Times and Post have done.

The divulgence of crucial national secrets has elicited remarkably little outrage from Democrats in Congress. Few have stepped forward to defend the Times or the civil servants who leaked to it, but almost none has condemned the leak, either.

Now the Hamdan decision–and the resulting urgent need for new anti-terrorist legislation–forces a decision upon Congress and the Democratic minority. Where do they stand? What will they support?

This is more than merely a partisan question. It goes directly to the question of whether the U.S. and the West will be able to combat terrorism as united societies–or whether their left wings will opt out, or balk, or worse.

Since 9/11, Western counter-terrorism has achieved an impressive record of success. Outside the Middle East, terrorists have inflicted only two major attacks in five years: Madrid in 2004, London in 2005. Yet this very success is now under attack.

In Britain, courts have again and again attacked that country’s security laws: Last week, Labour MP John Denham charged that the U.K. courts’ relentless opposition to security measures threatened a “constitutional crisis.” In the U.S., at least one major leak–the NSA story–has apparently been traced back to a Clinton appointee to the senior civil service. In Canada, we are already seeing signs that liberal opinion, which tolerated counter-terrorism when practiced by a Liberal government, may soon go into opposition against exactly the same measures when implemented by conservatives.

Last month, the Pew Foundation (Pewglobal.org) released its latest survey of worldwide Islamic opinion. Some of the results are very encouraging: Very large majorities of Muslims worldwide express no confidence in Osama bin Laden, and most Western Muslims condemn suicide bombing. But the survey also makes clear that Muslim populations in both the Middle East and the West remain profoundly alienated: Even now, large majorities of Muslims, not just in the Middle East but in Britain, France and Germany, refuse to believe that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by Arab terrorists. Attempts to change Muslim minds through public information campaigns like that headed by Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes are going precisely nowhere.

It may be that Muslim attitudes will eventually soften. I expect they will. But it looks likely that this process will take a long time–and that it will be led by insiders, not imposed by outsiders.

But if outsiders cannot hope to persuade alienated Muslims away from radicalism, they must–they cannot avoid–taking measures to protect themselves from that radicalism. Yet these measures are strenuously opposed by the press and the courts–and, in the U.S., even illegally subverted by political antagonists within the government.

Have we reached the point where the greatest threat to the lives and safety of civilian populations may be–not the increasingly clumsy operations of the terrorists–but sabotage by internal opponents of counter-terrorist operations?