The Islamic State group has trained at least 400 fighters to target Europe in deadly waves of attacks, deploying interlocking terror cells like the ones that struck Brussels and Paris with orders to choose the time, place and method for maximum chaos, officials have told The Associated Press.
The network of agile and semiautonomous cells shows the reach of the extremist group in Europe even as it loses ground in Syria and Iraq.
Maintaining 24/7 human and technical surveillance on just one target requires something like two dozen operatives, and even the larger European security services can effectively watch only a few handfuls of would-be terrorists at one time. Even then, mistakes will be made. To say nothing of the alarming progress made by Europe’s jihadists recently in communications security—this was a big reason why November’s Paris attackers were not stopped in time—that is blunting the effective Western counterterrorism methods that have been honed since 9/11. The depressing bottom line is that even the best intelligence cannot compensate for political failings on an epic scale.
Simply put, Europe has imported a major threat into its countries, one that did not exist a couple generations ago. It can be endlessly debated why this problem has grown so serious so quickly—for instance, how much is due to Europe’s failures at assimilation of immigrants versus the innate aggression of some of those immigrants (and their children)?—but that the threat is large and growing can no longer be denied by the sentient.
What, then, is to be done? Admitting the extent of this threat is the necessary first step, albeit one that the EU’s political class seems congenitally unable to address. Instead, the public is treated to the now-customary clichés about religion having “nothing to do with terrorism,” combined with ritual admonitions about “Islamophobia.” One wonders how much more of this organized dishonesty the European public can take.
Europe is now at war again. The threat today is less terrorism than a low-grade insurgency, a guerrilla war of sorts, that hangs over much of the continent as thousands of jihadists, made proficient killers by ISIS in Syria and Iraq, return home with visions of killing “infidels,” their former neighbors. There will be no parley or negotiation with such mass murderers. Parsing the death-cult ideology that drives ISIS fighters, with the hope of making it less noxious, makes as much sense as trying to divine the finer political points of the Manson family.
We should expect more guerrilla-like attacks like Brussels yesterday: moderate in scale, relatively easy to plan and execute against soft targets, and utterly terrifying to the public. At some point, angry Europeans, fed up with their supine political class, will begin to strike back, and that’s when the really terrifying scenarios come into play. European security services worry deeply about the next Anders Breivik targeting not fellow Europeans, but Muslim migrants. “We’re just one Baruch Goldstein away from all-out war,” explained a senior EU terrorism official, citing the American-born Israeli terrorist, fed up with Palestinian violence, who walked into a Hebron mosque in 1994, guns blazing, and murdered 29 innocent Muslims.
When that violence comes, a practically disarmed Europe will be all but powerless to stop it. To take the case of Belgium, at the Cold War’s end a generation ago, its army had seven brigades with 18 infantry battalions, plus some 30 more battalions in the reserve. Today, Belgium’s army has only two brigades and six infantry battalions, some 3,000 bayonets in all. That tiny force would have trouble exerting control over even one bumptious Brussels neighborhood in the event of serious crisis.
Back in 2012, Switzerland conducted military exercises premised on conditions in Europe getting out of control, between migration, radicalism and economic decline. They repeated those exercises the following year, and since then the Swiss, who have a knack for preparing for all contingencies, have warned that Europe’s burgeoning interlinked crises may result in major war. Such warnings were pooh-poohed by EU bien-pensants at the time; now they seem prescient.
When I was in Italy recently, I had an unexpected conversation, with someone in a position to know, about specific ISIS threats in the country that are known to Italian intelligence. I can’t be specific about them here, but they genuinely shocked me — the targets, I mean. If those Islamic terror cells activate themselves, Europe is not only going to have to worry about its train stations and airports. This would be all-out guerrilla war, and nobody would be safe.
It is hard to imagine Europe emerging out of the other side of this thing at some future date with its liberal political order intact. (Note well that by “liberal,” I don’t mean “left-of-center”.) Michael Brendan Dougherty writes:
When a sense of order and security disappears from a nation, freedom disappears soon after. Europe’s leaders denied for decades that they had problems of assimilation, then convinced themselves that radicalization within the modern European ghetto would burn itself out. Now they have almost convinced themselves that a nearly uncontrolled wave of migration carries no significant risks to Europe. But, slowly, the steady pace of attacks, the threat of popular electoral revolt, and a foreboding climate of fear and self-censorship are transforming Europe into something it never intended to be.
But unless something fortunate, unforeseen event happens, Europe is going to have to become that illiberal thing, or see itself torn to pieces by Islamic violence.
There is absolutely no room for “I told you so” gloating from American conservatives. Yes, the European elites have brought this problem onto themselves, in their ideological blindness, and exorcising this demon is going to exact a horrible cost from a lot of innocent people, Muslim and non-Muslim, who never sought war, and only wanted to live in peace.
One of these days — sooner rather than later — Europeans will tire of hashtags, candles in the square, and diversity-is-our-strength lectures from their leaders. Then what?
A Belgian reader wrote yesterday, in the immediate aftermath of the bombings (before it was known who did it):
Earlier today you made an observation that particularly resonated with me as a Belgian post-citizen:
“If the Islamic terrorists can pull this off in the heart of a European capital that is already expecting something like this (as they must have been after the arrest of Abdeslam, is anywhere in Europe safe?”
If you’ll allow me to put in my two cents: no, nowhere in Europe is safe, though on a metaphysical level the biggest threat does not originate with people like Salah Abdeslam or today’s attackers, who I’m going to speculate were not members of the Brazilian-Belgian Santo Daime or Sino-Belgian buddhist communities. The reason attacks like these have an impact far beyond their immediate human and economic toll is that we feel helpless, and we feel helpless because our mental defenses have been progressively demonized and dismantled. Ever since the november 2015 Paris attacks I have decided to steer clear of places like Antwerp and Brussels, especially airports and train stations, as much as possible due to the fact that I consider them to be the free-fire zones of a country that is profoundly diabolical in the sense you’ve earlier used the term on your blog.
Belgium perfectly captures what life devolves to in a post-nation-state that has been torn apart by the sort of modern gnostic speculation that Eric Voegelin first identified and conservatives like Pat Buchanan and the late William F. Buckley, Jr. have warned the us all about for decades. Nations have been theorized as conceptually from their states (which is of course true), shoe-horning in the idea that the nation-state is to be condemned as an arbitrary and oppressive historical contingency ought to be replaced by more socially just (because in fine infinitely inclusive and thus infinitely able to transcend the national “body”) post-national societies. Which logically leads the nation, or at least its academically well-credentialed elites, to abandon its primary mental defense, the conviction that one’s nation is not the world and therefore does not a priori owe the world anything.
Politically this has translated into an intellectual forfeiture of our authority, once considered self-evident, to sovereignly decide which outsiders are to be allowed into the territory and under what conditions, to be replaced by an ongoing commitment to becoming a post-national collection of self-interested individuals. Individuals for whom Belgium and the rest of the EU are not the objects of any primordial affiliation but rather geographical areas to be efficiently exploited in the pursuit of one’s individual project of the willed self. This is not to say that Belgium does not force immigrants to attend for example mandatory “integration courses” and does not means-test them at every turn. We do, and often in the most condescending and petty ways possible so as to really stick it to them. The ultimate meaning of all such seemingly tough-on-immigrants measures in Belgium and other EU countries however lies in the fact that hey are just technocratically designed and implemented (and thus sometimes easily gamed) band-aids meant to treat the symptoms of explicitly anti-assimilationist policies and placate national electorates that are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that their elites are engaged in a diabolical project of taking apart their nations via their right to, in the nation they consider their own, discriminate (among) non-nationals on the basis of (putative) ethnic, cultural and, yes, religious affinity.
What this evolution has made me realize is that ultimately Belgium and the rest of the EU are qualitatively no different from, say, Somalia. Not because nowadays both have people that look different from me in them, which would be the left’s preferred genre since it allows the gnostic elite project of immanentizing the eschaton through national dissolution to portray all dissent as frustrated ethno-nationalism. In other words odious people resentful over being on the losing side of a universe bending towards gnostic justice. Rather it is because I have a citizen-polity relation with neither Belgium nor Somalia. And neither can count on my allegiance beyond the bare minimum required to keep me out of legal trouble. Which is why I, as a 31-year-old who is legally obligated to participate in Belgium’s democratic elections for the next half-century or so and is thus expected to care about the public good, have decided to opt out of any sincere commitment to the active public life and instead retreat into private life, much like East Bloc populations living under actually existing socialism. By doing so I hope to be able to sit out actually existing neo-liberal globalism (which, like actually existing socialism, turns out to be much less fun than advertised) without getting myself killed because I wanted to be a hero and do something for the common good that no one cares about anyway.
I do of course care about the victims of today’s terrorist attacks and their families, but am unable to imagine any path forward emerging from the elite minds of a sanctimoniously oikophobic post-nation-state like this one. Much like in the wake of the Paris attacks media, political, academic and religious (of the European moralistic therapeutic deism variety) elites are already calling upon us to “not give in to fear” and participate in all sorts of feel-good rallies and other impotent actionism. To me these elite-sanctioned responses are themselves necessarily just as diabolic as the post-nation-state condition that makes the attacks to which they are a response so impactful. Given that the non-Christian far-right have been the only ones consistently denouncing the elites’ demonization and dissolution of the nation-state, all the Enlightenment and Christian values in the name of which we are now being called upon to not give in to fear come to be seen through the lens of their instrumental finality, i.e. apologia for continued neo-liberal globalist disintegration of our nations and our selves. Which predictably will lead to intensified attacks on all dissent from the post-nation-state with its de facto open borders and right-wing populist pushback against those attacks. And thus we can expect not only more attacks like today’s but also increasing societal polarization along both the left vs. right and immigrant vs. non-immigrant axes, regardless of how well we equip law enforcement to defend us in the free-fire zones of the post-nation-state. As long as we continue to indulge gnostic speculators for whom the nation is a symbolic proxy for the loathed body to be disavowed and shed, Belgium and the EU will continue to be diabolic places where every public space can turn into a free-fire zone at any moment.
Finally on this point, here, via Gates of Vienna, is an extraordinary editorial in the Milan daily Il Giornale. The headline? “Let’s Expel Islam From Our Lands”. Expect to see more things like this. Excerpts:
Other attacks, more deaths. Now not even surprise attacks, arriving out of the blue, but they respond blow for blow, as in a war because Islam has declared war on the West. Enough with the lies of “mavericks” talking about moderate Islam, about possible dialogue. A few hours after the arrest of the beast Salah in Brussels, a member of the terrorist commandos who saw action in Paris four months ago, Islamic volunteers blew themselves up yesterday at the airport and in the metro of the Belgian capital; they were already armed and on alert. They filled their bombs with nails to cause more harm. They do not stop; they will not stop. They are not desperate; they are the bourgeoisie of Islam that some have called “integrated”, whom we are supposed to trust.
Islam and its god are incompatible with our civilization, have the blood of our children on their hands, and are not satiated. This is the problem. The rest is just chit-chat.
OK, you can revoke the citizenship of naturalized Muslim citizens, but what do you do with the millions of Muslims who were born in Europe? Has a modern state ever expelled people like them? Where would they go?