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The picture above was taken in Belgium just a few days ago. That’s right, Belgium: the reassuringly boring, eternally peaceful expanse between France and the Netherlands, home of world-class chocolatiers, breweries and waffle-makers; the scene of history’s most peaceful civil conflict over land; office space of the European Union.
In this photograph, what can we see? Well, as far as I can make out, it shows heavily-armed soldiers interviewing a Muslim woman on the cobbled streets of the capital city, Brussels; a scene and scenario reminiscent of the darker days of the former Soviet Union, or perhaps an upmarket area of the modern Middle East.
Though this is happening in Europe, this isn’t Europe. Europe as we know it is suspended until further notice. And with great sadness, I must speculate that this notice may not come for some time.
We have grown so used to the majority of Islamic violence taking place in the Middle East that the near future is likely to be very traumatic. Whilst the Israelis have found a way to continue their coffee and croissant culture in the midst of military checkpoints, barbed-wire fences and back-slung rifles, Europe is entirely unaccustomed to that reality. How will we cope? How will we explain the changes to our children?
It is necessary that we think about this. The explosion of Islamist activity that began with the establishment of ISIS in Iraq and which opened a broad European theatre with the attacks in Paris is not going away any time soon. This is merely the beginning, the opening act. If you were thinking the fire would die down in a few weeks, after which you could go back to worrying about the next Manchester United match, or the prospects of Andy Murray at next year’s Wimbledon, you are greatly mistaken. I predicted many months ago (in my post “ISIS and the Coming Terror Wave”) that a massive campaign of Islamist violence would be inflicted upon European cities in retaliation for the bombing of ISIS territory in Syria. I was right, as were many others. We knew that ISIS could not be contained with airstrikes. We knew that ISIS wasn’t weak or disorganised enough to be broken up by police raids or rudimentary border controls.
To repel an organisation of this kind will take bold and ruthless action – not only by the West, but Russia and allied Middle Eastern states (Israel and Jordan) also. Tens of thousands of bombs must fall. Thousands of missiles must be fired. It will take years, not months. It will cost billions, not millions.
As to the home-front, attacks like those in Paris will be attempted across the continent. Expect them. Prepare for them. Obey government orders to stay inside when they are made. Do not launch vigilante retaliations. If you do so, emergency measures enacted to deal with terrorists may be extended to contain you as well. While governments are (by their very nature) untrustworthy, our militaries are surely on our side. Put your trust in them, even if in no-one else.
For all the Islamic State’s storm and bluster, they cannot challenge the West at its peak capabilities. Our weapons are better and more plentiful than theirs. A jeep cannot repel a Raptor. An RPG cannot outwit a Tomahawk. Let’s be sure to impress the bastards, even as we dispose of them.
Let’s also take the prompt of the moment to regain pan-civilizational solidarity. Here in England, we often consider the continental nations to be slightly ridiculous, their eccentricities entrenched so deep that they limit the rationality of their general population. We consider France, for example, to be hopelessly Left-wing, prone to post-modern philosophy and addicted to leisure. We see the Dutch as pot-smoking, laid-back liberals; the Swedes as naked, free-loving Feminists; the Germans as militaristic work-robots etc… But despite these bigotries, we all secretly value the traditions of our continental neighbours. Our rivalries are friendly; our prejudices are light-hearted. This is why the descent of a state like Belgium into a ‘den of terror’ (as it has been shockingly branded since Paris) is and will be hard to take for all of us.
This is a sad time, but not yet a hopeless one. Strength lies in numbers. We are all in the same boat. And if we combine our efforts and efficiently apply them, Europe – as we knew it – will one day resume.