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A very hard question
Niall Ferguson opines
in the LA Times: What if the Heathrow Bombers Succeeded?
(h/t: Real Clear Politics
An 8/27 would have been diametrically different. From an American vantage point, a successful terrorist plot launched from Heathrow would have been doubly Britain's fault. Its proximate cause would have been a lapse in British security. Its root cause would have been the infiltration of British society by radical Islamism.
As details emerged about the perpetrators, Americans' worst suspicions about Britain would have been confirmed. It has been clear for a while that Britain's Muslim communities are proving fertile recruiting grounds for Islamist extremists, and that it is the disaffected sons and grandsons of Pakistani immigrants who are most susceptible.
Perhaps even more troubling, it has been evident since the arrest of attempted shoe-bomber Richard Reid that ordinary British dropouts can also be lured, via religious conversion, into the terrorist network. Imagine if it had been established that one of the perpetrators of the worst terrorist outrage since 9/11 had been the son of a respected Conservative Party official.
Far from editorializing that "We are all British now," the American media might well have reacted to 8/27 by saying, "The British are all suspects now." The Atlantic would have drastically widened.
The domestic consequences within Britain of 8/27 would have been different too. Far from rallying around a beleaguered leader, British voters would have turned on Tony Blair. Even as things stand, there is complete disillusionment with him. According to a poll published Tuesday in the Guardian newspaper, just 1% of voters think that the government's policy toward the Middle East has improved the country's safety, while 72% think it has made Britain more of a target. An earlier poll for the Spectator found that although 73% of Brits agree with President Bush that we are engaged in a "global war against Islamic terrorists," only 15% believe that Britain should continue to align itself closely with the U.S., compared with 46% who favor closer ties with Europe.
Moreover, whereas 9/11 united Americans (albeit ephemerally), Britain would have been torn apart by 8/27. According to a YouGov poll published in Friday's Daily Telegraph, nearly one in five people believe that "a large proportion of British Muslims feel no sense of loyalty to this country and are prepared to condone or even carry out acts of terrorism." Five years ago, only 32% of those polled said they felt "threatened" by Islam; today, that figure is 53%.