National Security & Defense

After Brussels, Time to Get Serious

Belgian police and soldiers stand guard in Brussels. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty)

It is neither a surprise nor a mistake that the latest major Islamic terrorist attack to befall Europe targeted Brussels, the heart of European multiculturalism. Decades of willful blindness to the problem of ideological fanaticism left the capital of the European Union neglectful of serious threats to its security, and, on Tuesday, terrorists exploited that: Following the detonation of explosives at Brussels’s Zaventem Airport and a major Metro station during the morning rush hour, at least 31 people are dead and another 180 injured. The Islamic State has claimed credit for the attack.

Like Paris, where the Islamic State murdered 130 people in November, Brussels is a city in deep distress. In one part of the city reside EU bureaucrats who continue to promulgate their fanciful transnational ideals, increasingly against the evidence; in another part are roiling ghettos populated largely by Muslims from North Africa and the Middle East, many of whom have a very different vision for the future of Europe — for example, Salah Abdeslam, a Belgian-born French citizen of Moroccan descent and an accomplice in November’s Paris attack, who was captured last week in Brussels’s heavily Muslim neighborhood of Molenbeek, just a few hundred yards from his childhood home. A half century of effectively open borders, a refusal to require assimilation of immigrants into a robust notion of European culture, and an unyielding fidelity to multicultural pieties have resulted in cities fractured along ethnic lines and, as Brussels officials have admitted in the hours since Tuesday morning’s attack, overwhelmed by potential terror threats. As one official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Buzzfeed: “It’s literally an impossible situation, and, honestly, it’s very grave.”

It would be dangerously naïve to think that the Islamic State is not planning to export its brand of terror to the United States.

It would be dangerously naïve to think that the Islamic State is not planning to export its brand of terror to the United States. To that end, America cannot repeat the mistakes of Europe, beginning with irresponsible immigration and refugee-resettlement policies. (The Somali community in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, which has seen an alarming number of young men and women depart to join al-Shabaab and the Islamic State, offers an example of what can happen if large Muslim populations fail to assimilate.) Securing our borders is a crucial step in preventing the infiltration of terrorists into the country, and preventing them from radicalizing and recruiting young Muslims here. Additionally, our reliance on European intelligence to vet foreigners arriving in the United States must be reconsidered. France, Belgium, and others lack the surveillance capacities to defend their own citizens, let alone ours.

#share#Other measures are necessary. In a press conference shortly after the Brussels attack, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz stated, “We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized,” a proposal that, predictably, has the usual suspects rending their garments. But directing limited law-enforcement resources toward likely sources of radicalization — certain mosques and community centers, for example — should be common sense; responsible people know the difference between a targeted approach to thwart a real and dangerous phenomenon and an unconstitutional dragnet. Furthermore, this strategy should entail allying, wherever possible, with the many Muslims who have no interest in seeing their communities co-opted for jihadist recruitment. Under Michael Bloomberg, New York City was engaged in exactly this sort of muscular surveillance program, until Bill de Blasio shut it down earlier this year. City officials maintain that the program was vital to New York’s security. This program should be restarted, and others like it begun.

#related#These defensive measures are crucial. But defeating the Islamic State once and for all will, of course, require eradicating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Despite its rhetoric, the Obama administration has yet to carry out a robust air campaign, preferring to outsource this responsibility to Russia, which has focused not on crippling the Islamic State but on propping up Bashar al-Assad. A decisive air campaign, ultimately backed up by American forces on the ground, is the only way to rip up the Islamic State at its roots.

The current administration, Hillary Clinton, and their allies on the left are determined to maintain that the Islamic State and the other off-brand varieties of Islamic terrorism will wither away if we only close Guantanamo or provide better employment opportunities in Raqqa. But this is war, and sooner or later, that will require a serious strategy, carried out by leaders serious about keeping America safe. Ideally, they will opt to formulate and execute that strategy before the Islamic State crops up at JFK and Grand Central Terminal.

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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