Terrorism strikes Paris, the heart of cultural Europe, and Europeans awaken from a very dangerous sleep. What happened in Paris shows that European Union governments have failed their policy against the jihad; they have maintained a low level of alert, but mostly, they have left the initiative to the terrorists.
As explained by Boaz Ganor, founder and executive director of the Institute for Counter Terrorism in Herzliya (Tel Aviv), security forces must always keep the advantage and be one step ahead of terrorist organizations. Such was not the case in Paris.
The Charlie Hebdo shooters, two Algerian brothers who had declared their membership in ISIS, lived quietly in the suburbs of Paris, traveled in airplanes, and published movies and video clips of themselves singing rap music. Their profile and purpose were known not only to major U.S. intelligence agencies, but to the Algerian government and even the Italian secret service.
And yet they managed to succeed in this attack. It is clear that Europe has an obvious lack of organization, and Europeans must understand that, to combat terrorism, they must give up something. Many joint projects aimed at fighting international terrorism, promoted by the United States or Israel, have failed because certain European democracies were reluctant to commit to what they perceived as an abridgment of their citizens’ freedom.
For example, D’Amato’s proposed law (Senator Alfonse Marcello “Al” D’Amato, from New York) concerning the boycott of the countries involved in terrorism was rejected by many European countries that judged it an illiberal measure. After the Paris attack, only a few leaders (especially those of nationalist parties) have had the courage to discuss the Schengen Treaty on individuals’ free circulation. A possible suspension of the treaty immediately stirred up opposition from the French, followed by Germany and Italy.
To defeat terrorism—as argued professor Boaz Ganor—it is necessary to conduct a war that must be fought on multi-dimensional levels: military, economic, psychological, and legal. The real challenge is to win on all levels.
Sure, the peace march in Paris was a noble gesture from many states. However, the absence of President Obama, and the misunderstanding on the invitation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, gave a sign, once again, that Europe is not able to really join in a common ideal—aside from economic trade.
Rome in the line of fire
Italy could be the next target of al-Qaeda or ISIS, particularly Rome and the Vatican—both the subject of several threats by Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The action the Italian government has taken in the fight against terrorism is not enough; this is very dangerous, because every week thousands of North Africa’s fugitives (from Syria) land on the coast of southern Italy. How many of these refugees may be potential terrorists? Has the country’s law enforcement carried out all the necessary checks?
In the ’70s and ’80s, Italy faced the menace of communist Red Brigades (Brigate Rosse). In that case, parliament formed a national unity government and beat the terrorists militarily, but also in the media, causing the terrorists to lose legitimacy even among those who thought like them. Those were the years when many other Western countries were winning their battle against homegrown terrorism: Germany (against Baader-Meinhof), Britain (vs. Provisional IRA), France and the United States.
But, as we all know, Islamic fundamentalism is very different in both its means and its goals. Fighting the terrorists in Afghanistan or Iraq is essential, but this doesn’t keep extremists away from our country. Regarding overseas missions, the Italian parliament has never been cohesive in supporting a policy without equivocation. Our soldiers went to Afghanistan to fight and kill the terrorists, not just to bring humanitarian aid or support the reconstruction of the country.
In these days, danger seems closer. Rome is on alert; there is fear for the safety of the Pope, the Vatican, and the churches. There is a need for policemen, Carabinieri (the national military police of Italy), and firefighters, but the government continues to cut economic resources to law enforcement and the military. The Italian decision makers continue to believe, like many other European democracies, that to win against the terrorist threat, it is important to “teach” or export democracy to the Middle East.
Personally, I’m in agreement with Israeli decision makers and Boaz Ganor, who says that “People who have been educated from childhood to believe that becoming ‘Shahid’ (a suicide attacker) is acceptable also learn that killing civilians is not only permitted, but justified.” They can’t suddenly become democratic because we told them to.
We are all aware that it will be a long war. We must be careful; there are many people, even Italians, who fight for al-Baghdadi and would love nothing more than to raise the black flag of ISIS over Vatican City.
(Featured image courtesy of discovermilitary.com)