Scott Johnson at Power-Line discusses a very sensible editorial in the New York Sun: “Should Bush and Blair Consider Bombing Al-Jazeera? ” observing that the vehemence of the British government’s response [to recent press reports] alone suggests that this matter is being taken seriously both in London and in Washington.
What interests me about the conversation in dispute is why anybody… should be surprised by it. Indeed, I would be surprised if Messrs. Bush and Blair had not discussed ways of limiting the damage done by Islamist propaganda, whose main conduit is indeed Al Jazeera TV. It may well be that the thought of silencing the Arab network crossed their minds, only to be dismissed as too risky. If so, were the two leaders wrong to consider that option?
I don’t think so. That shutting down Al Jazeera would be desirable from the Anglo-American point of view is obviously true. And if Qatar, a Gulf state that is nominally an ally of America (on which it relies for its independence), has allowed its capital to become Al Qaeda’s principal propaganda base, it has no right to expect America automatically to refrain from punitive action on its territory.
The wider issues raised by the Bush-Blair Al Jazeera exchange are two. First, how far can the West tolerate the dissemination of Islamist propaganda intended to poison the minds of Muslims against Jews and “Crusaders”? Second, how much information are Western governments obliged to give about their internal decision-making process, and are they justified in suppressing sensitive information, even if this means penalizing the press, to protect Western interests?