To listen to US Congress members, the GOP Presidential primary leaders, and talk show talking heads, one would think that Europe in general and Belgium in specific, know diddli-squat about national security. Do you know that someone can travel from Germany to France to Spain and then to Portugal and no one needs to verify his “papers”. Hmmm. I wonder whether that like traveling from Boston to Houston and then onto Los Angeles?
Those pointing a finger at Belgium believe that Europe’s lack of border checks between European countries is paramount to an abdication of police duties. Once a terrorist gains entry to any European country, the terrorist has free movement across borders to any other European country. Now that I think about it, it is the same in the US.
Another complaint involves European security services not talking to each other. Hmmm. Does that remind one of 9/11? And critics suggest the number of police jurisdictions found in Belgium and Brussels are too many. But how does that compare to the DEA, DHS, FBI, AFT combined with State, County, and local police units. Life is complicated.
Most Americans hearing these self-serving critique of the European and Belgium security services think these foreigners have something to learn… and none better than the US to teach them. Hmmm.
As in most of life, things are the way they are for reasons. If one thinks things should be different, one must begin by understanding why things are the way they are.
Europeans and Belgians are not mentally challenged nor are they lazy. Rather they carry memories of authoritarianism common through out the histories of these countries and most recently dramatically demonstrated when the NAZIs occupied other countries during World War II. The Nazis were simply good at knowing who you were and where you were suppose to be, and if that wasn’t what they thought best, one paid a heavy price.
The recent rise of muslim terrorists, not withstanding previous colonial bouts with the IRA, Algerians, Moroccans, and Turkish extremists, has undoubtably raised the stakes in keeping track of residents who wish to act on a different agenda. The world has seen a steady increase in criminal, bordering on terrorist, activities for the last 50+ years. Plane hijackings, suitcase bombs, ransom demands, and now suicide bombers have become more frequent and more sophisticated each year.
The socialization of weapons know-how coupled with the availability of physical weapons of all types (if one has the money to afford them) has changed the balance of power. Do it yourself, buy them pre-made, or inherit them from a friend, with guns, explosives, or dare I say, poisons plentiful, is a wonder that anyone who wants to be a killer or a terrorist can obtain the tools of the trade easily.
So, the terrorism threat is not really about ISIS (as fear mongering candidates would like us to think). Separatists, anarchists, and religious zealots have all offered the disconnected a cause to give their lives meaning. And for sure ISIS does attempt to provide that type of meaning but ISIS is just another group in a long list.
We must not overlook, that it takes money, methods (training, communications), and means (guns, explosives, lethal materials) to carry out terrorist activities. Someone is providing money (even if it is someone else’s money), someone is providing weapons and lethal materials. And, of course, someone must be the person willing to give up their life to carry out the terrorist act.
The GOP political spin attempts to assign causality to ISIS (and Europe and Belgium are just too dumb to know this). Get rid of ISIS and the problem vanishes, we are told. Wrong.
The world is awash in weapons and lethal materials. Money seems also to be no obstacle, either to be available or to be delivered to feed, house and cloth terrorist and to pay on-going businesses which manufacture weapons or lethal materials. Why don’t these politicians focus on the tools of the terrorist trade and seek to shut down these operations?
The most likely answer is that the real world is far too complicated for a five second sound bite and not nearly enough of a message to rouse fear in voters. In other words, those criticizing Europe and Belgium appear unable to understand the breath and depth of terrorism and far more interested in leveraging fear to their political advantage.
I suspect Europe and Belgium could teach the US (and certainly the GOP candidates) a thing or two about how the world really operates.