A brutal attack by Islamic extremists kills scores of innocents in a European capital. There is a massive manhunt, raids uncover new suspects, even kill a few. There are candlelight vigils and demonstrations against terrorism. World leaders make defiant statements. Muslim leaders denounce the violence. There is a momentary uptick in air operations against terrorists’ strongholds. Stop me if you’ve heard any of this before. Europe’s response to terrorist incidents will not change, not until it absolutely has to.
After two world wars and a cold war, Europe has developed a high tolerance to war. Yes, many European countries have contributed to different degrees to military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Military operations overseas have cost them in lives and material, but that is not the only those direct costs they are having trouble with. Keeping up the expensive social welfare states takes money that might go towards their militaries. Greece has nearly gone bankrupt due to generous social programs, other countries are not far behind. Meanwhile, wealthier countries like Germany and France divert funds that might ordinarily go to their militaries go instead to propping up countries whose reckless spending has required bailouts. In short, Europe’s current economic situation makes it hard for them to sustain any significant military operations overseas.
There is also a lack of political will. After the 9-11 attacks, there was widespread support for a campaign in Afghanistan. The left even deemed it “the good war”. Iraq involved a completely different set of political and economic calculations. The only thing worse than America losing the war for the left, was America winning the war with George W. Bush in charge. The European and American left agreed to go back to their Vietnam-era anti-war stances to please their base constituencies. The left in Europe, as in America still holds considerable political power. Ironically, it was the misguided liberal policy of multiculturism that contributed greatly to the terrorist’s ability to plan and carry out operations in relative safety. Conservative, nationalist movements have already sprung up in many parts of Europe in response to the failed multicultural experiment.
Two European capitals have been attacked, two capitals of NATO countries, by the same Islamic terrorist group. This group holds land, has a government infrastructure, finances– it acts in every way like a nation state. It has attacked so far four NATO countries, Belgium, France, Turkey, and the U.S., yet article five of the NATO charter has yet to be invoked, the article that states an attack against one member is an attack against all. It calls for NATO to go to war. There is more than enough reason from a national defense perspective to destroy the ISIS state. The problem isn’t sufficient cause, it is the effect of questionable economic and political polices that keeps Europe, and to a lesser extent, the U.S. from taking decisive military action. At some point, the body count will unfortunately, but likely, grow so high that the continued inaction will no longer be a tenable political position. Ultra-conservative, nationalist, populist, parties will spring up different countries and continue to gain in power. Eventually those parties will hold enough power to affect change. With a lack of American leadership to hasten it, any decisive allied military action before that point will require a significant grass-roots popular movement to make it come about. In the meantime, we will see more attacks, more impromptu memorials to the slain, more raids, more defiant talk from world leaders, but no meaningful action to destroy the terror at the source.