The Corner

National Security & Defense

Will Brussels Finally Wake Europe Up?

The latest jihadist atrocity in Brussels is a direct consequence of the poor police work manifest throughout Europe. Yes, the jihadists are at an advantage, they speak Arabic, and operate in a milieu of crooks, traitors, and double agents like the man who persuaded the Anglo-American leadership that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The failure to penetrate the milieu is costing the lives of people simply going about their lives. The Brussels bombings appear to have been organized by someone who got away after he had organized the Paris bombings that killed 130 and it further appears that he may have been shot and arrested quite by chance. Salah Abdeslam, a French citizen born in Belgium, should never have been able to leave a suicide vest in the street and drive away from Paris across the frontier into Belgium and hide out for months in the Muslim-majority suburb of Brussels in a house a few doors away from a house with some family members of his in it. Thanks to pure chance, the police picked him up.

Trying to have credit they did not deserve for wounding Abdeslam in a shoot-out and arresting him, French and Belgian politicians wallowed in the illusion of success. Twenty-four short hours later, jihadists attacked the Brussels airport and subway. The operation was on far too demanding a scale to have been improvised at the last minute to avenge the capture of Abdeslam or the simultaneous death of a second man who lived under a false name, perhaps to conceal his importance. The police had failed to identify these jihadists, to prevent them acquiring Kalashnikovs and suicide vests and also allowing them freedom of movement.

Is complacency at work, or perhaps some of the sense of superiority that Barack Obama displayed snubbing the Islamic State Caliphate soldiers as a “jayvee team”? To defeat jihadists will now involve much more thorough intelligence, probably detention centers along Guantanamo lines, and military measures, those celebrated boots on the ground. The alternative is growing numbers of bystanders killed or wounded by bombs here and there and everywhere. 

David Pryce-Jones is a British author and commentator and a senior editor of National Review.

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