Why do terrorists strike more often in Europe than in the United States? Ask the experts:
Karl-Heinz Kamp, the security policy coordinator at Germany’s prestigious Konrad Adenauer research center, said it was easy to understand why. "The U.S. has a historical advantage; America is still the land of opportunity to the whole world. The people moving there believe the American dream of social mobility," he said. "In Europe, we’ve historically treated our immigrants as hired help, and waited for them to finish the work they arrived for and go home."
Bob Ayers, a security and terrorism expert with London’s Chatham House, a foreign-policy research center, thinks that immigrants to the U.S. actually become Americans, giving the United States a huge advantage in avoiding homegrown al Qaida terrorists. Europeans encourage immigrants to retain their native cultures, causing them to be ostracized more readily.
"The Islamic population in the United States is better assimilated into the general population, whereas here, in Germany, in France, they’re very much on the outside looking in," he said. "When people get disaffected, sadly, there’s not much loyalty to country in that sort of situation."
Another factor mentioned in the article: The U.S. is basically a gigantic island, making it relatively easier to control who gets into the country. A factor not mentioned in the article: American Muslims tend to be better-educated and more prosperous than the average American. Often, they’ve been specially invited into the country to fill particular highly-skilled jobs, or they establish a base in the U.S. to manage their own businesses or careers, which existed before they come Stateside. The United States offers income and opportunities to people who already have money, drive, and in-demand talent, regardless of their origins.
This helps explain why the debate over immigration is filled with much more tension and mutual suspicion in Europe than it is in the United States. There are three dynamics I’d name here off the top of my head, none of which are very original, but hey, it’s just a blog, people!
- The U.S. attracts more cosmopolitan and secular immigrants, who tend not to bring strongly characteristic cultural practices with them (such as wearing the niqab or building gigantic mosques with loud minarets). Because so many U.S. immigrants (or their children) are flexible, cosmopolitan sorts, stereotypes get eroded quickly. When you see an op-ed in the U.S. media written by someone with an Indian or Hispanic name, it could just as easily be about high-tech gadgets or tax policy as about ethnic issues. By contrast, in Europe, an article written by someone with an obviously foreign name virtually always deals with (a) politics or society in that person’s home country; or (b) their experience integrating into European society.
- Even when there are cultural conflicts, Americans tend to be more accomodating. First, because there’s less "provocation" from the side of the immigrants (see #1), second, because the "America’s a nation of immigrants" meme is deeply programmed into Americans’ way of thinking, and makes them optimistic that all new immigrants will eventually find a reasonable accomodation with the ways of their adopted homeland, since all the old ones have managed to do so.
- There is non-stop hand-wringing, pessimistic press reporting about problems with immigrants in Europe. There’s comparatively less of that in the U.S. Strongly nativist anti-immigrant voices are deliberately excluded from the mainstream U.S. media, just as, for instance, pro-death penalty voices are deliberately excluded from the mainstream European media. Regardless of the situation on the ground, this difference in reporting has real consequences.