(CNSNews.com) - A significant percentage of Muslims across the globe are buying into radical ideas at a time when the technology enabling lethal weaponry is becoming more readily available, the editorial page editor for the Washington Times said Tuesday while addressing a gathering of conservative-minded college students in Washington, D.C.
The real possibility of a chemical, biological and even nuclear device being detonated in a major American city is further maximized by the unwillingness of many Bush administration critics to appreciate the dangers associated with the rise of radical Islam, Tony Blankley argued during the 29th Young America's Foundation National Conservative Student Conference.
He also said America may find itself on the receiving end of another major attack on U.S. soil before the political class accommodates itself to the necessity of certain counter-terrorism measures.
Blankley, who previously served as a press secretary to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and a policy analyst in the Reagan administration, described himself as a libertarian. Although he had long favored elevating civil liberties above "intrusive government," Blankley said, he found it necessary to rethink some of his views in the aftermath of 9/11.
"It does no good for us to be dead and theoretically free," he said. "I'd rather be alive and fight for our freedom. . . For the duration of the danger, I am in favor of more intrusion into our civil liberties as we had during World War II."
In recent years, the Internet has been used to spur radicalism among Muslims, Blankley observed. He cited poll numbers showing that anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of Muslims around the world have succumbed to "radical and violent theories" about their religion. The Internet today is as revolutionary as the printing press was in the 16th century, said Blankley.
The growth of radical Islam would be further accelerated if America were to withdraw from Iraq, said Blankley. The "symbol of an American retreat" would greatly swell the ranks of al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, and have a "hugely powerful effect on their ability to recruit," he said.
It is proper to view Iraq, Blankley added, as one front in the war on terror.
"I find it ironic the people who say we didn't think smartly when we got in are thinking remarkably stupidly in saying we should get out," he said.
Blankley also discussed the troop surge in Iraq and told students there are some encouraging signs of American military progress.
While the Republicans are beset with their own special challenges in the 2008 election cycle, Blankley said, Democrats may have put themselves in a potentially awkward spot by investing so much in the prospect of an American defeat.
Meanwhile, the Washington Times editorial page editor is encouraged by some of the rhetoric now coming out of European leaders who previously viewed the threat of radical Islam as being "overblown," he said.
There were a number of officials in Great Britain, for instance, who Blankley claimed were dismissive of the findings in his book, "The West's Last Chance: Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations?"
Most recently, Blankley visited with Ian Blair, the head of Scotland Yard, who he described in his talk as "a modern, politically correct sleek bureaucrat" many steps removed from the "cigar-smoking," "mustachio" image most Americans tend to visualize.
Blair and other Scotland Yard officials now acknowledge that the "pool of potential terrorists in England" is in the hundreds of thousands, whereas they had previously thought they were in the hundreds.
In other words, it was thought the threat of radical Islam roughly mirrored what Scotland Yard faced when it sought to track members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
The British police need about 50 agents to track a single terrorist around the clock, Blankley said. Scotland Yard had assigned about 1,500 such agents for the purpose of tracking the IRA.
At present, Blankley said, he learned that only about 2,500 such agents are available to track the hundreds of thousands of potential terrorists tied to radical Islam.
"There is more fear now in Europe," he observed. "But fear can be a healthy thing, so long as you don't let it paralyze you."
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