Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Europe is a sitting duck for terrorists

European security has collapsed, perhaps irretrievably. So many prospective terrorists are now operating in Europe that security services have lost the capacity to monitor potential threats. There is no historical yardstick against which to gauge the breakdown of law enforcement in Europe. Most remarkably, the wound is self-inflicted.

Two suicide bombers today shut down Brussels, home to NATO as well as the European Union, killing at least 21 bystanders and severely injured 35 at the city’s airport and the Maelbeek metro station. Air and rail transportation has stopped and mobile telephone networks are saturated. The authorities presume that today’s attacks avenged the capture of Salah Abdeslam, the last man at large from the cell that executed the Paris attacks last Nov. 13.

Several thousand trained terrorists reached Europe among more than a million migrants in 2015–4,000 by one account in the UK media, or 1,500 according to NATO Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove in Congressional testimony March 1. In fact, security services have no possible way to verify the bona fides of migrants. The cost of a Syrian passport and passage to Europe is about US $3,000. ISIS and other terrorist organizations can send as many terrorists as they wish to Europe, and a very small cell can shut down a major city.

That leaves the West with unpleasant choices. America has had few large-scale terrorist incidents since Sept. 11, 2001 because it spends $80 billion a year on intelligence operations, including intensive monitoring of Muslims living in the United States, and because it admits very few immigrants from prospective centers of terrorism. American public opinion overwhelming favors less immigration. One poll shows that a majority of Americans support Donald Trump’s proposal for a temporary ban on all Muslim immigration by a margin of 46% to 40% (with 14% undecided). Today’s events are good news for the Trump presidential campaign.

Europe continues to favor mass immigration on humanitarian grounds. Despite the electoral gains of the anti-immigration Allianz für Deutschland earlier this month, more than three-quarters of German voters favored candidates who support Angela Merkel’s immigration policies. The German authorities do not know who the refugees are, and in many cases where they are. According to Germany’s Die Welt, thousands of migrants have left refugee camps; at least 7,000 are missing from reception centers in the state of Brandenburg alone. Very few of these are prospective terrorists, to be sure, but the collapse of controls makes it impossible for security authorities to track prospective terrorists.

This does not necessarily imply that ISIS and other terrorists will conduct a major attack every week. The point is that the frequency of attacks is now a matter of the terrorists’ choice. Mass attacks like the November atrocity in Paris and today’s suicide bombings in Brussels establish ISIS’ credibility. But ISIS does not want to provoke a European reaction; it wants to establish a foothold in Europe so tenable that European authorities will not be able to dislodge it in the future.

Europe has the simple choice of allowing humanitarian disasters to occur on its borders, or losing control of its own security. Germany has already chosen the second alternative, and today’s events will have no effect on Berlin’s attitude towards migrants.

1 comment:

  1. We were awaiting our flight to Paris when the cancellation of the next flight to Brussels was announced. Rumors flew, but the reality turned out to be worse than anyone suspected. A couple of hours later, we were in the taxi from Charles De Gaulle Airport. One radio station said there were about 20 dead; another said 34. One of the stations announced that tonight the Eiffel Tower would be lit in the colors of the Belgian flag. Presumably, there will also be an informal moratorium for a time on Belgian jokes in France. The feeling of solidarity is real: it is only five months since the atrocities in Paris.
    Our driver was Muslim of North African origin. He was obviously a decent man, obliging and honest. He was furious at Uber, which had halved the value of his costly taxi licence. Whatever the abstract economic arguments of the case, it was difficult not to sympathize with him as a man. But it was the terrorists who exercised him more. “They are all criminals,” he said. “They’ve all been to prison.” He spoke with real feeling. “They’re traffickers, robbers.” I wanted to add that they all liked rap music, too, but I didn’t, even though, between news bulletins, the driver played Baroque music on his radio. “It has nothing to do with religion,” he said. “They go straight from crime to terrorism.”
    I thought it best, in order not to upset a man whom I liked, to say that this was a partial truth only: that Islam was not the whole explanation, certainly, but neither could it be entirely excluded from it. After all, impoverished and unemployed Christian Congolese, of whom there are many in Belgium, are not blowing themselves up in the airport and the metro. “We are reaping what we have sown,” he continued, “with all our interference in Libya and Mali.” Again, I thought the connection a tenuous one and, if it existed at all, not at all flattering to Muslim immigrants. “And how can they have let Molenbeek develop where extremism could so obviously flourish?”
    How indeed? But what to do about it now that it existed? On my visit to that quarter of Brussels a few years ago, I could see the dangers clearly enough. People like Salah Abdeslam, the terrorist arrested there a few days ago, would swim like a fish in the sea there, to use a Maoist metaphor. Between the sympathetic locals, and the rest of the population—whom they could intimidate into silence—it would be easy for them to hide. This social world is impenetrable to the forces of the state. My informant told me that the Belgian government is unable to collect taxes from businesses there—though it is, apparently, able to distribute social security.
    How do you stop ghettos like Molenbeek from forming, and what do you do about them once they have formed? The driver had no doubts: you force the residents to live elsewhere. Conceptually easy. In practice, difficult. The European Court of Human Rights recently ruled against Germany, which sought to do exactly that. Having accepted a million Syrian refugees and immigrants, the Germans wanted to prevent the development of Muslim ghettos by dispersing these immigrants throughout the country. The Court ruled that this was against their fundamental human rights, among which is the right to form several—or many—Molenbeeks.
    Theodore Dalrymple is the Dietrich Weismann Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of Not with a Bang but a Whimper: The Politics and Culture of Decline.