One of the consistencies with regard to terrorism is that it is nearly impossible to predict, with any precision, where future attacks may occur. This is not news. What is, however, is that terrorist practitioners have sunk to a new level; even as we can’t imagine there are lower levels to which they could descend. By riding the wave of instability in the Middle East, the leading transnational terrorist organization, the so-called Islamic State, has found a way to project power into the heart of Western civilization.
European Terrorism Redux
Similar to the situation Israel has faced for years, Islamic State-inspired terrorists are becoming emboldened to attack targets ranging from the mundane to the sacred. In the U.S., we have seen mass casualty attacks such as have occurred in San Bernardino and the Orlando nightclub massacres, where ordinary people were just going about their daily lives. In Europe, attacks have occurred in restaurants, supermarkets, stadiums, on trains, on a parade route, and even in a church.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the Palestinians and their Marxist fellow travelers carried out attacks all over Europe. European governments aquiesced to their demands and began to treat Israel as the regional pariah among the Arab states. In short, terrorism worked on a strategic level. Now, we see that they have been able to latch onto a humanitarian crisis, generated by many in the region, including the Islamists themselves, in order to find a way back into Europe. Once again, the battlespace is no longer confined to the sandy deserts of the Middle East.
Western culture is the focal point for the Islamists. As more refugees are entering Western countries, they unfortunately bring with them a percentage of ISIS supporters and Salafist Jihadist sympathizers. In short, the battlefield has broadened and deepened.
The Political Implications of Economic Manipulation
With war-weary refugees streaming into Western Europe, genuine kindness and generosity are a weakness for Europeans, not a strength. ISIS has encouraged their members to harness the fruits of their penetration into the local economies in an effort to fund their nefarious activities. Many of the individuals that were involved in Paris and Brussels attacks were receiving some form of government assistance. No government leader, in a Left-leaning European country, would normally seek to stem the flow of state resources to the ‘poor’ and ‘downtrodden.’ However, when the notion that they are unwittingly funding terrorists yields to a clearer understanding that they are willfully ignoring the facts, anything other course of action seems untenable.
What is the Likelihood That Europe Will Learn a Different Lesson this Time Around?
The outcome that the Islamic State seeks, is similar to that which all terrorists seek: capitulation. Any form of it is a win for terrorism. Let Europe not make the same mistake it did a couple of decades ago. Let them not yield. ISIS is bent on dominating the physical battle space in the Arab states. Let them not dominate the ideological one in the West.
David Firester is an intelligence analysis expert in New York.