Rod Dreher

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Europe At War

Soon, European publics will be doing more than this in response to terrorism (Valentina Cala/Flickr)

The Associated Press reports:

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.

Here’s John Schindler, in The Observer, pointing out that the problem is so huge that it’s no longer an intelligence one, but a political one:

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.

Read the whole thing.

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?

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110 Responses to Europe At War

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  1. Fran Macadam says:

    “But I am profoundly tired to people excusing the most inexcusable behavior by blaming everything on the victims.”

    Yep, from the first moment Europeans stepped from their ships and claimed the entire continent here for their kings, they were the victims who were only defending themselves from the natives trying to steal their land from them.

  2. KD, your latest comment is helpful. “The Left” is such an amorphous notion that its hardly worth talking about what it is or isn’t. Social differences are indeed real, and some follow racial patterns, for historical reasons that don’t go away quickly.

    I react negatively to the title of Cornel West’s book Race Matters, but I have often toyed with the obvious repartee, ‘How can you deny race matters when so many people have been murdered and exterminated and exploited on account of race?’

    My initial answer is, the Aztec gods, as far as we know, were also mythical, but the victims whose beating hearts were cut out of their living bodies on the altars of those gods were none the less dead.

    Mythologies, including race, can motivate people to do incredible damage and commit considerable carnage. The perceptions are real, the motivations are real, the acts committed are real. But just as psychoses can be cured, humanity can exist just fine without giving credence to the artificiality known as race.

    Whoever has Aztec blood running in their veins today has gotten along just fine without human sacrifice. Descendants of Spartans and Helots wouldn’t even know how to identify each other by status today.

    Man is a social animal, and always lives in groups. I suspect that the healthiest way to live is for everyone to be part of a number of overlapping groups, so that the inevitable rivalries are not inherent. E.g., my co-workers against rival companies, my church against other religions, my chess club against the poker players… but my co-workers include many religious faiths, and many preferences for recreation, my church includes people of many occupations and employers, including some of my company’s rivals, and my chess club includes people of many religious faiths, or none.

    None are the essence of what and what I am. Incidentally, I think one of the more frivolous things about the gay movement is posturing that “I like my own sex” is the essence of who and what someone is. That’s a form of tribalism on a particularly thin foundation.

  3. KD says:

    Siarlys Jenkins:

    [Blog is spamming my posts.]

    I think ethnicity is the “building block” of sociology, although ethnicity cannot itself be separated from family structures and cultural identity (the culture defines the family, kinship, inheritance, marriage patterns, etc.).

    What we talk about in America as “race” can be seen as an aggregate family of ethnic groups. I never like discussions of race because they lump too many dissimilar things together.

    On the other hand, ethnic boundaries and customs and the rest of it are not stable, ethnicities can be destroyed, dissolved, and altered, but it is not as easy some would have it.

    Certainly, in a traditional society, ethnicity and ethnic identity is fundamental, and in complex societies with cosmopolitanism and social mixtures, you often see extremes: a complete dissolution of ethnic identity into some niche subculture (for example “gay culture”), and separatist, fundamentalist type groups, the “clingers”.

    So I tend to talk about identity, because identity is more fluid than ethnicity, but post-modern identity always comes back to something that resembles a pseudo-ethnicity.

    If you throw law into the mix, I don’t know where legal norms can come from if not from some dominant ethnic or cosmopolitan identity group. Certainly, this is the legal shift in the 20th century, from an old school WASP dominance to something cosmopolitan (but just as arbitrary and provincial relative to other cultural centers).

  4. dominic1955 says:

    Europe needs to become Christendom again. The Holy League and other Catholic powers stood up to and beat the Ottoman/Muslim forces when they were explicitly trying to conquer Europe by force.

    Only if Europe again believed that the religion it holds is the One True Church outside of which there is no salvation can they have the conviction to stand up to the Mohammedan threat. The sentiments expressed by the Charlie Hebdo cartoon about Paris being “about” love and life and we don’t need prayers can be overcome by Sharia Law for all I care, it’s nothing worth fighting for and if people that express such vapid nonsense are the heirs of Europe’s greatness, they deserve the slavery that is coming.

  5. Conserving What? says:

    Pathological thinking (PT) leads to pathological outcomes. PT is the practice of trying to define reality by choice of words. Thus, when the Big Bad Wolf warns that he is going to blow the Three Little Pigs’ house down, the Pigs will not believe it; rather, the Pigs will talk about how the Wolf is an “animal of peace” (actually a vegetarian) and try to figure out how to assimilate the Wolf into Pig culture. When the Wolf eats the Pigs, it is not because the Wolf is a bad wolf; he is just a misunderstood wolf, and anyway it is the Pigs’ fault because they weren’t inclusive enough, because they are racists (well, actually, wolfists).

    The usual narrative is that radical Islam is confined to the dispossessed, the excluded, the humiliated, the downtrodden. Well, it is not so confined. Of course the upper class, intellectual Arab Muslims–including some who have long resided in the US–do not themselves strap on a bomb, but their silence should not be equated with disapproval of bombers.

    What is to be done in Europe? I think nothing. I think it is too late for Europe. I don’t foresee an intramural war between Europeans and Muslims, because Europeans are not armed with personal weapons, and because they have disarmed themselves intellectually and morally. Rather, I foresee yet more attempts at assimilation–which will utterly fail, accompanied by further destruction of the European social fabric. Do Europeans “deserve” this? Well, after seeing the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflicts, and after witnessing America losing a 13-year war in the Middle East, and after seeing the chaos following the Arab Spring, they nonetheless chose to import an entire populace of people who despise European values. So, yes, they deserve this.

    As Europe becomes increasingly Arabized, and as conflict spreads, the European political system will tend increasingly toward appeasement.

    This raises some big questions in my mind: NATO already effectively refuses to participate in Middle East wars. What is NATO “defending”? ANSWER: An Arabized Europe. How reliable will NATO be as a US ally, especially regarding wars in the Middle East? What compromises must the US make to maintain the NATO “partnership”?

  6. What we talk about in America as “race” can be seen as an aggregate family of ethnic groups. I never like discussions of race because they lump too many dissimilar things together.

    Sound observation.

    But I don’t see a cosmopolitan society as dissolving cultures. Its just that we all like to eat at each other’s restaurants.

    Legal norms can come from what has worked well for us and what has not. By and large I prefer that the accused is presumed innocent, so I would not want to see expanded use of the Napoleonic Code. But it may have some useful features we could adapt.

    dominic, perhaps Europe needs to become the Protestant League this time? Oh, wait, there are still some Catholics in Spain and Italy, rumored to be a few in hiding in France somewhere, and there are Orthodox in southeastern Europe. Oh, and Albanians and Bosnians… What are we to do?

  7. VikingLS says:

    No, your suggestion that Orthodoxy has the closest fit to the middle East (especially since there already is an Arab Orthodoxy!) is best, and I also think you too rapidly dismiss the possibility of Catholic evangelism, perhaps from Latin American and African sources which would avoid the perception of the catholic Church as an agent of the US and EU (and also avoid the issues of Western theological liberalism)

    And I told you why it won’t happen. The only church in the Orthodox world that has the money and resources for evangelism on this scale is Russia. American and European liberals aren’t going to want a heavier Russian presence in Europe, and will suddenly notice that these converts aren’t on board with gay marriage (conveniently ignoring that they weren’t before) and abortion.

    The European Bishops of the Catholic church won’t want conservative Catholics from Asia and Latin America and will oppose their presence, particularly when their Imam friends complain.

    The problem isn’t that there aren’t Chrisians who are capable of doing the work, the problem is that liberals won’t want them there.

    And in the end, do you honestly think you’d side against the liberals?

  8. JonF says:

    Re: the problem is that liberals won’t want them there.

    The real problem has nothing to do with liberals or anyone else in the West (it isn’t always about us). It’s that Muslim nations often have strong legal strictures– even the death penalty in places– against conversion and Christian evangelism. The European powers who added Muslim nations to their empires in the 1800s were aware of that and so made very little effort to support evangelism– unlike in their African and east Asian colonies.

  9. VikingLS says:

    No JonF I’m talking about working with the Muslim population within Europe.

  10. Hector_St_Clare says:

    People gave examples from the mid-20th century, but that was another epoch, both morally and juridically. You might as well give examples from the Middle Ages

    In addition to the mid-20th century expulsion of the Germans from eastern Europe, I’d add the population exchanges between Greece and Turkey, the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries in the 1950s, etc. And so what if it was a different era? The world has changed in some ways since the mid-20th century, but not all of those changes were in a good direction, and there’s nothing to indicate that norms and laws can’t change again. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the norms of (small-l) liberalism are becoming an existential threat to Europe, so if Europe wants to preserve itself, its juridical and ‘moral’ norms had better change.

    I’ve said this numerous times before, but it’s my belief that liberalism, broadly understood, will prove to have been just a brief interlude between one one era of authoritarian moral norms and another. For that matter, it’s becoming increasingly clear that, as Chesterton hinted, in a very religiously diverse world, religious neutrality on the part of the government doesn’t really work either. You can’t be ‘neutral’ between the religious practices of the Quakers and the Thugs. Maybe cuius regio, eius religio, the Westphalian solution, is one that deserves another look.

    Europe could afford to swap its Muslims for the non-Muslim minorities of Muslim countries, and sweeten the deal with generous per capita compensation


    And finally, I don’t find your argument that you are not endorsing the sentiments in these editorials very convincing. To quote people at such length and with a minimum of commentary usually implies approval. (I grant you made a brief disclaimer in the final paragraph).

    Rod may not endorse the sentiments, but I’ll generally endorse the idea that at least some European countries need to encourage and pay their Muslim residents, citizens or not, to emigrate, and that this goes double for countries like Italy where most of them aren’t even citizens. Unless you want to see Europe disappear. Your comments here are a massive evasion of the issue: rather than actually discuss the ideas being set forth here, you’d rather call them ‘bigotry’ and try to silence them.

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