Live your dream, die in someone else's
In the post Unintended Consequences I noted that there was a Syrian subplot within the wider cartoon crisis drama.
The cartoon crisis shifted course ever so slightly as the White House held Syria responsible for the burning of the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus. ... embassy burnings in Syria provided the opportunity for the White House to re-secularize what was rapidly becoming a religious and cultural conflict. The White House seized the chance to point out these arsons were not religious outpourings but deliberate acts of a State -- the Assad regime to be exact -- a State with bitter enemies throughout the Islamic world, thereby harnessing the charged climate of public opinion to advance its strategic agenda. It's reasonable to surmise that the first victim of the frisson that ran through Europe has already been Iran. Opposition within the IAEA to referring Teheran to the Security Council over its uranium enrichment program suddenly collapsed -- almost unnoticed -- as the furor over the cartoons rose to a screeching pitch.
Lee Smith at the Weekly Standard has some thoughts along the same line, but he puts it in context of the larger game between Europe and Middle East-based terrorist organizations. He asks what's behind the organized attack on the Danish and Norwegian embassies in the Syrian sphere of influence.
Muslims all over the world are so angry about a series of cartoons poking fun at the Messenger of God that by now pretty much every Danish and Norwegian flag in the Muslim world has met its fiery end. And yet only in Damascus and Beirut have institutions--embassies or consulates--representing Denmark and Norway been attacked. Are Lebanese and Syrian Muslims angrier than other Muslims? Or, what's going on here?
Since nothing happens in Damascus without government approval Smith thinks Syria is trying to send a message to Europe consisting of three points.
There are at least three possible reasons: (1) To prevent the international community from bringing down Syria's ruling regime; (2) To raise money for Hamas; (3) To warn against interfering with the Iranian nuclear program. ...
The Muhammad cartoon conflict, as silly as it sounds, is about our war for freedom and liberty and our way of life. ... But the response to the cartoons is also about the real war, the one that involves, among others, Syria, Iran and Palestinian terrorist organizations.
Of all of Lee Smith's observations, the most striking is his idea that Middle Eastern terrorist organizations had to remind Europe to remember that it was their b..ch. Why else would they strike the countries which had been most generous to them in the past full in the face?
However, like many political bodies in the Arab world ... only knows how to express itself through violence. ... In the '70s and '80s Yasser Arafat's PLO found an especially attractive venue in Europe. The continent was light on security and fat in the wallet. ... Europeans would be wise to remember what Arafat's shell game cost them because right now, leaders all over Europe are being reminded of what can happen when you try to de-fund Palestinian terrorists. The argument will look something like this: The "moderate" and responsible wing ... needs to be empowered to take on its radical members who only want to kill nice Europeans. It's a protection racket. Damascus and Beirut are serving as rehearsal spaces for what might happen if the European Union stops signing checks.
I think this time the terror puppet masters have miscalculated. They should have remembered that the key to every successful protection racket is keeping your own muscle from making independent demands and maintaining the rate of extortion low enough to make it less trouble to pay than to fight. Unfortunately the air of intimidation by what passes for "Islam" creates an atmosphere in which ambitious Imams and thugs -- seeing how the game is played -- aspire to become playahs. The Danish radical Imams took a look and maybe decided to stir up trouble independently to create their own shakedown rackets. This incentive is why terrorist organizations, whether in Iraq, Kashmir or Mindanao proliferate: everyone wants a slice of the pie, from welfare payoffs, token political offices or brute collections from kidnapping.
But the cartoon crisis made protection too expensive. It may have been OK to pay Arafat a few billions but it had got so that any two-bit preacher could work up locals in his own "mosque" to become the Big Man in his ville, like Cap'n Hook Hamza. When extortion goes out of control the citizens start to push back and business goes bad for the established playahs. Damascus' attempt to b...h-slap the Scandinavian countries could backfire. Be nice if it does.