At some point down the road the next attack will occur and Belgium will be another “past terrorist incident” as well. The world will move on and people will go about their daily lives once more. That is except for the victims and their families. Those that survived and the families of victims will be affected by this event until they take their last dying breath. Their pain will never go away, time may heal wounds, but one never forgets.
Politicians are talking/arguing about what occurred, mainstream media is reporting on the attack, and even I’m blogging about it. In that regard ISIS (The Islamic State), who claimed responsibility, is getting exactly what they want. Attention, and lots of it for free. Now, I’m not saying for one second we shouldn’t report what occurred, far from it. In fact, we need to talk about what happened and uncover all those responsible for these acts of violence.
But what do we do next? Do we pursue justice? Do we go after ISIS? Do we step up our intelligence gathering capabilities? How about pass new laws? Or fund new law enforcement organizations? Does Brussels or even greater Europe as a whole need to be on lockdown anytime a threat is received? ISIS would love that to occur, it would play right into their hands. It’s called terrorism for a reason. At the core terrorism is about using violence and intimidation to further political or social change. And guess what? It works. Look at 9/11 and the changes that took place in the Unites States in the aftermath: The Patriot Act, Department of Homeland Security, and Transportation Security Administration just to name a few of the government responses to 9/11. Terrorists radically changed the face of a nation virtually overnight. That’s not even addressing the War on Terror, that continues to his day, and the dual wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So what should our leaders do? After all, talk is cheap. Action speaks louder than words. And let’s face it, just because this attack took place in Europe does not mean a similar attack could not happen here. In fact, our law enforcement and intelligence agencies expect it to occur.
Some voices say we step up surveillance, root these groups out from where they hide. Stop them from having the ability to perpetrate the next attacks. Basically pour lots of money into the problem and try to spend our way into a solution. Arrest everyone we can. Sure, we can lock up many of them in prison and even throw away the key, but the hatred within them will only fester. Time will not diminish their evil desires. Bars will not hold their ideology. In fact, chances are in prison it will only grow. Weak minds will embrace this ideology. Hopelessness forces someone to grasp for something, even if that thing will do them more harm than good.
Other voices say we step up our global fight on terror. We hunt ISIS and similar groups down and we kill them. Straight up, bullets to their heads. Or better yet, drone strikes via hellfire missiles. BOOM, problem solved right? Plus, that approach has very little risk to military personnel since drones require few boots on the ground. The problem is we would have to kill all of them, not a just a few. No one even knows how many people believe, and spew forth this hatred. Do we have the stomach for that much killing? Absolutely not. Worldwide, society wouldn’t stand for that approach. We can continue to use technology like drones to do our dirty work but keep in mind there WILL be collateral damage. You want to know the best way to foster hatred (or evil) in someone’s heart? Kill their wife, daughter, husband, son, mother, or any member of their family/friends with an errant drone strike. It’s hard to turn the other cheek when those you love are wiped out. It’s much easier to strike back. Drone strikes may be effective in some cases, but they can also stir up the hornets’ nest. How many innocent people have died in drone strikes in the past decade alone? Well that’s classified.
Both those approaches are flawed, and can’t possibly contain the problem of Islamic extremism for the short or long term. We can’t arrest them all, we just can’t. I dare say we can’t even find them all. Nor can we kill them all. Besides, others will rise up, the baton will be passed. The next wave will come. It always does. History is cyclical, mankind ... predictable.
Terrorism is nothing new. Sure the name has changed, the methodologies have advanced, but at the end of the day its always been around. One difference is now we get to hear about it seconds after it occurs, no matter where it happens globally. The internet, 24-hour news cycles, smartphone, and social media have made the world much smaller, not larger. Plus, it’s much easier to commit acts of violence on a large scale. Anyone with a computer and internet access can find countless sites that explain step by step how to build bombs. But we can track all that? The NSA and FBI will catch them right? Don’t count on it. Our intelligence gathering capabilities have increased exponentially since 9/11, but our resources are not unlimited. Terrorists only have to succeed once; our government agencies must be constantly vigilant and almost perfect to prevent future attacks. That is simply not realistic.
So what can we do?
I think we need to acknowledge that this is a heart issue. An evil resides within these terrorists that can’t be altered with more surveillance or better technology.
The only sensible approach is also the hardest to implement.
These men need a metamorphosis. They need to be led away from the path of hatred and to the path of light. I’m talking about transforming these men’s lives completely. Remove the hopelessness they feel; destroy the ideology they are taught that convinces them that the murder of innocent people is acceptable under any circumstances.
Think about it. Most of these young men are indoctrinated from youth to hate the west. America, Europe, and anyone who does not agree with their ideology is their mortal enemy. They want to kill us. ALL of us. It gives them great pleasure to carry out these attacks, and they feel it is their duty to commit these acts. Why else do they proclaim "Allahu Akbar" (God is greater) as they carry out their attacks? These men need to be turned away from this path. Can all of them be transformed? Of course not. But can a concerted effort be made to help as many as possibly? Yes.
How do we move forward? Where do we start? There is no simple answer.
It’s likely that the only way to combat radical Islam is a combination that involves all of the above approaches. Some of them need to be arrested and jailed to be sure. Others need to be killed, no question about it. But, the vast majority need to be pulled off their path, and brought down another one. Again, this will be the hardest to implement. We need Muslims who abhor these violent acts to be part of the solution as well. Their voices need to be heard and respected. Their ideas need to be included in the ongoing discussions.
Hatred is something that has always resided within mankind, but it’s not irreversible. There are more powerful forces that can be harnessed.
These men need hope. What needs to die is their hatred, not more innocent victims.