Who can deny that we have entered a new period of history? The balance of power among civilizations is shifting. Asian civilizations, most notably China and India, are expanding demographically and economically, while a large swath of Islam, infected by a theology that celebrates a cult of death and a will to conquer the world, is literally exploding in demented self-intoxication.
The West's universalistic pretensions to spread the growth of democracy, human rights and the rule of law have brought it into increasing conflict with the Islamic world which, given its strategic geography, burgeoning populations and rich energy resources carries formidable weight in global affairs.
In this context, Western Europe, with its negative birthrates and self-indulging social services, is straining to integrate its millions of Muslim newcomers, with little effect. Indeed, one wonders what Europe's self-definition will be by the year 2025. What kind of a demographic complexion will it have? According to the latest official statistics, the Muslim population of the European Community has already topped 15 million.
NO WONDER Western European governments squirm uncomfortably, unready and unwilling to grasp the nettle of commitment in grappling with the elusive question of how far to go in making their Muslim immigrants feel at home.
The cynical answer is they do not have to go far at all. Muslim immigrants don't need to be made to feel at home; they make themselves at home by putting down firm ethnic roots wherever they settle. Invariably, their politics are not national but sectarian; their ethos not the public good, but their own assertive separatism.
Every Western European country has felt the tremors of this expanding Islamism, characterized at times by violent riots as in France, and by murderous terrorism as in Madrid and London. Are these the opening shots of a renewed war between Christianity and Islam?
Dame Eliza Manningham, head of Britain's MI5 (the equivalent of our Shin Bet), said in public not very long ago that Britain's security services were currently investigating 30 British-based Islamic terrorist plots and watching over 1,000 suspected terrorists and 200 terrorist networks.
THIS BROUGHT to mind a conversation I had a while ago with a retired senior MI5 director whom I have known since my ambassadorial days in London in the '80s. Highly regarded still, he remains a tall, ebullient Anglo-Irishman with a face resembling a horse and a tendency to talk in that charming ho-hum, chortling fashion of the English upper class.
Realizing that what he had to say was significant, I made a verbatim record of his remarks to share with our intelligence people back home. This is what he said:
"In this global war against the jihadists virtually all our Western state-of-the-art technology is not worth a farthing. We can deploy as much highfalutin' satellite surveillance and computer decryption as we like, it won't track down Bin Laden and his like in a month of Sundays.
"The only way to go after him and his sort is by going back to the most primitive methods of personal counter-espionage - in other words, plain, straightforward, old-fashioned spying.
"Islamists wage their holy war by simply outflanking our technology," he went on. "Allah will not be mocked. He toys around with our clever little gadgets and laughs in our faces. So what we need now are first-class operatives who look like Arabs, talk like Arabs, think like Arabs, and can infiltrate deep into their ranks. Your blokes are champions at that sort of thing."
"What do you mean by my blokes?" I asked.
"Your tribe," he answered. "In your Mossad and Shin Bet you have any number of Jews who can pass muster as Arabs - Israeli patriots who can speak native Arabic and adopt Islamic disguises at the drop of a hat. Your intelligence by infiltration, dissimulation and deception is superb. You get your killer almost every time."
"So what are you suggesting?" I asked.
"Give us some of your human assets. We need your types who can pass as Arabs, win their trust, crawl into their innards, gather hard intelligence. MI5, MI6 and the CIA simply don't have enough of them."
"Why not?" I asked.
The MI5 man leaned toward me, and in a conspiratorial manner whispered, "Because our British Muslims can't be trusted, that's why. Even those born in England, their first loyalty is to Islam, not to Britain.
"Islam poses such a powerful hold over them that we have an acute problem recruiting local Muslims as undercover agents. Walk into a Muslim neighborhood here in Britain and try making inquiries about terrorists, and you hit a stone wall.
"In every one of our cities there's an underworld of Muslim malcontents, many of them illegal border-crossers and paperless drifters seeking to avoid the attention of the authorities. As the saying goes, 'In stagnant pools scum lies.' This is the stagnant pool from which our anti-Western terrorists are fished and who recruit our home-grown terrorists. They enjoy absolute anonymity inside the protective cover of the Muslim community."
Grimly, he concluded: "We've never had a security problem like this in England before, and it's getting bigger all the time. It's the Battle of Britain, Part 2."
The writer is a veteran diplomat. [email protected])