In the aftermath of the latest terrorist attack in Belgium, it is time to evaluate several things. One is the question of how this attack occurred in the first place. The second concerns the will of European nations to deal with terrorism and especially the source of it. Finally, it is also a fair question to ask regarding President Obama’s commitment to, or even interest in, the terrorism issue.
The first question about Belgium itself I believe is linked to the wider question of Europe. Like its neighbors, Belgium has allowed thousands of Middle Eastern Muslims into its country with hardly even a thought to screening, and knowing (at least at the top of the government) that at least some of these people were or were likely to become radicalized. When the airport terror event occurred, we found out that a few of the terrorists had been held before and then released, even as authorities knew of their radicalism. This has happened in other European nations. Moreover, some nations have adopted a special commitment to accepting refugees (not all refugees, as we have discovered) in very large numbers, again with virtually no screening. The European Union has even criticized those nations which, after the Paris attacks, thought twice about continuing their open borders policies.
We have the right to ask, What is going on? From what scholars and journalists are reporting, the European leaders have, until now at least, no will to address the roots problems causing terrorism, that is, radicalization of Muslims living in European nations now, the free admission of Muslims without any screening, allowing the persistence of “no go” zones within European national borders (where there is no rule of law except what radicals impose) and the seeming uncaring attitude toward those radical Muslims who come back into their borders after having been warned of the terrorist dispositions of the individual persons.
What then has led to those attitudes among European leaders? I am not entirely sure. Perhaps it is the basic political ideology of most of those leaders. We know they are in the tradition of Democratic Socialism, but there seems to be some additional “baggage” added in recent decades. This may have come more from philosophical shifts, particularly on the Continent. But even in England, we see shifts in thinking based, I believe, on modifications to the Modern Liberal tradition there, similar to the changes in American Liberalism. These have produced a cultural relativism, multiculturalism, a general “political correctness,” a definite religious toleration that, combined with cultural relativism, and a virulent postcolonial ideology, has paralyzed leaders from taking any action that might offend Muslim religious leaders or Muslims in general. On top of this is the “open borders” mentality, whether born of genuine compassion or driven by some other motivation. Radical open borders policies are usually associated with either Liberal/Social Democratic political ideologies or (ironically) large businesses that want cheap labor.
It is possible the roots of the problem go back even further. Perhaps there is some guilt associated with the problem. For some time, the Middle Eastern Muslim world has been angry and astonished at Western progress, which seemingly left them behind when before, they had been a highly developed civilization. This has changed since the 1500s-1700s, when the West experienced explosive economic, political, and military expansion, while the Muslim world (even before any colonization) essentially stagnated or regressed. Many Muslims have blamed this development on the West, and that attitude has played well with various radical religious Muslims over the past two centuries, but especially in the last 100 years. Europeans now may feel guilty at this historical outcome, and may be attempting to make up for what they have come to believe is their fault.
But whatever the reasons, long or short-term, Europe is in trouble now. By some estimates, there are about 6,000 radicalized Muslims living in countries like France, England and Belgium, and they are by and large, unrestrained in their behavior and unnoticed in their actions and movements. Will European leaders have the will to address the problem or will they ignore it out of fear or guilt? Will what they do influence what US leaders do?
Now I do not want to sound as if I favor some sort of military state. I am a little irritated even by the talk (after the Brussels attacks) that we just need more security, more people, more force. As some have pointed out, if we push security out to airport entrances, terrorists will simply go for the crowds beyond those points. If we start implementing more stringent security at any venue that involves a number of people, terrorists will find smaller but more frequent targets. The problem is not solved. It must be addressed at the root. We have to do something about our border policies (lax screening, mass immigration), our surveillance of radicals inside the borders, and ISIS or other Muslim terror groups in other parts of the world. I am hesitant about the idea of “boots on the ground.” I do not want a policy that says we will go to ISIS geographically, destroy them and then democratize the area. That has been tried—unsuccessfully. If we do send forces, their aim should be simply to destroy ISIS and then come home, and I will add, when engaged in this war, to follow the rules of just war (but not the ridiculous current rules of engagement in place—those ought to be scrapped).
Fighting terrorism is not an easy or quick task. And even if we destroy ISIS, we may not have addressed the ultimate problem—a religious problem. In America (and especially in Europe) as the Christian religion is marginalized, and its ethical principles disappear as a result, I can’t see things getting better. In the short term , we can eliminate one group, but in the long term, the secularization so apparently desired by many in the West will only create a void, which may well be filled by more radical groups determined to destroy us and implement their own religious and ethical system, one far removed from Christianity.