The West’s Response to Mass Murder: Pretty Lights

 

On the BBC today I heard an interview with a Belgian member of the EU parliament. (She had the wavery, unearthly voice of the Talosians who imprisoned Captain Pike.) Her prescription for a unified response going forward to deal with the repercussions of the emanating penumbras of the unpleasantness at the airport: coordination. The police services are coordinated now, but they must be coordinated more. Barriers that prevent coordination must be addressed, and uncoordinated situations must be solved, and this can be done with a concerted effort to coordinate. The host was somewhat exasperated, and noted that Belgium had a large population of individuals who had gone to ISIS-land and come back. What about them?

The MP had a ready answer. Why, the EU Parliament had passed strong measures that permitted them to follow these individuals. It permitted the police to look at them.

That was her term. I’m sure she meant “investigate,” but even so, why would this take a special act? Because automatic scrutiny of bad actors might be seen as discriminatory, marginalizing, alienating? The idea of revoking citizenship of anyone who larks off to Syria to join the Bloody-Moon Army seems simple enough. As does incarceration and deportation for any non-citizen who’s even remotely connected to a terrorist attack. Well your honor I knew he was up to something with all the meetings and the wires and the mysterious men who kept dropping by, and after the attack he asked me to hide him and go to the man who had the passports, and yes I did that. But you have to understand —

GAVEL BANG Five years. Next case.

Never happen. I’ve no doubt there are serious hard-cases in European law-enforcement and counter-terrorism who would love to go weapons-free, so to speak, on the threat — and do so without caring whether it abrades the sensibilities of the technocratic stratum whose moral preening over the virtues of the post-national multi-cultural European identity got everyone in this fix. But that’s not enough.

See, here’s the odd thing. ISIS claimed responsibility, right?

Don’t we know where ISIS is? Don’t you think we have a reasonable idea where their C&C HQs are in those cities?

I’m not talking about a cruise missile response, but a MOAB over an ISIS stronghold. It won’t make them stop, but that’s not the point. It would make them pay, which you might consider an adequate short-term response. Next time? Two MOABs, two cities. The collateral damage would be horrific. No doubt it would renew their enthusiasm. So next time they get three.

It’s brutal, yes, but there are precedents set by much-beloved Democratic presidents.

Eventually the point has to sink in: you pay. Even if it doesn’t, there’s less ISIS, which would seem to be a good thing in the long run.

Such responses, however, seem unlikely these days. Outre; too . . . Russian. Would you approve? Would you consider it descending to their level? Or is it best to absorb and mourn, coordinate and look, and be prepared for the next attack. By which I mean: they’d better have the Eiffel Tower programmed for all the European countries’ colors. You’d hate to have 400 people killed in a Swedish airport and not be able to call up the flag-profile file that night. I mean, people would think you didn’t care.

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  1. Lidens Cheng Member
    Lidens Cheng
    @LidensCheng

    And have some idiot singing Imagine after the bloodbath.

    • #1
  2. Stu In Tokyo Inactive
    Stu In Tokyo
    @StuInTokyo

    Spot on Mr. Lileks, in all accounts.

    Pundits, reporters, politicians are all saying “This is (yet another) wake up call”.

    I’ve heard this on podcasts, read it on headlines and even seen it in print here in Japan.

    Sadly a wake up call cannot wake a dead civilization.

    Domo

    • #2
  3. Hypatia Inactive
    Hypatia
    @Hypatia

    Yesterday I was challenged for saying that the Belgians would be blamed for this attack. But that’s what’s happening now, as it has after every such incident. And it seems our president is just so jealous, he can’t wait for this to happen in an American city (I mean on an even larger scale than San Bernardino). No, we need another 9/11 before he leaves office–so he can pontificate about how it’s all our fault cuz we don’t welcome the 300,000 more Islamists he (with the collaboration of spineless Republicans in Congress) is bringing in this year.
    Trump is right: the cheapest and simplest way to prevent future attacks is not to admit the attackers. Why does the Left react like that’s so crazy? It’s like when Semmelweis was driven out of the medical profession for suggesting that physician hand-washing would prevent infection. In retrospect, it will be obvious that exclusion was a logical, practical measure–if only we had taken it BEFORE Independence Hall lay in ruins!

    • #3
  4. Gil Reich Inactive
    Gil Reich
    @GilReich

    I hope people hear your call. It’s not enough to prepare colored lights for each potential next attack. We must also think up clever hashtags.

    • #4
  5. Stu In Tokyo Inactive
    Stu In Tokyo
    @StuInTokyo

    Hypatia:Yesterday I was challenged for saying that the Belgians would be blamed for this attack.

    –Snip–

    Why does the Left react like that’s so crazy? It’s like when Semmelweis was driven out of the medical profession for suggesting that physician hand-washing would prevent infection. In retrospect, it will be obvious that exclusion was a logical, practical measure–if only we had taken it BEFORE Independence Hall lay in ruins!

    Just like so many of the liberal elite do not suffer the consequences of their policy views, they will most likely never suffer any consequences of letting in a bunch of people who are infiltrated with these terrorists. They don’t hang out in malls, they don’t go to church on Sunday, they are not going to be caught dead at a large sporting event.

    I read that the attack just missed two US senators, I wonder who they were? Imagine if it was two fairly prominent Democratic senators, but even then, I doubt it would change anything, these rich elite Democrats will almost for sure not suffer anything from having a bunch of terrorists attack the US in the US, they live in a bubble. Just like the rich and famous are against the 2nd amendment for the regular folk, but have arms bodyguards, and they live in fenced off communities.

    Domo

    • #5
  6. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    My husband and I have just finished watching the first three seasons of Crossing Lines with Donald Sutherland. It’s about an investigation unit with the International Criminal Court, headquarters in the Hague. It’s very European PC, but it still gives viewers a glimpse of police life in Europe. (It’s an excellent show, all things considered. The settings are beautiful–I’m going watch it again with the sound off!)

    The last episode “Obscura” is about the rise of the nationalist groups, which they call “right wing,” naturally. But these groups on one side and the pro-immigrant groups on the other are a feature of modern Europe now. Most sophisticated Europeans and Americans want to think of ourselves as supremely tolerant and nonviolent. It is difficult for all of us to accept that violent evil human beings exist.

    We all need to be more objective.

    • #6
  7. Vice-Potentate Inactive
    Vice-Potentate
    @VicePotentate

    The presupposition is that we know right where Isis HQ or C&C or whatever is. I’m sure we don’t have a reasonable idea or we’d already be bombing it. If not, what can be said about western suicide that hasn’t already been said?

    • #7
  8. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    James what’s a few slaughtered peons matter when their betters need to feel superior in their inclusivity? These’leaders’ don’t think, they feel.

    • #8
  9. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    James, the problem really is that Belgium’s awfully close to a failed state. That’s the subtext of those comments and it’s why the French are now practically intimating that if the Belgians can’t get it together now, they’re going to annex it.

    The EU Parliament is irrelevant to this, but Belgium’s long history of being completely unable to deal with terrorism competently (a history that antedates ISIS and includes all kinds of terrorists, not just Islamists) is very relevant. The Turks have long wanted to invade Belgium because the Belgians just let PKK and far-left terrorists wander away during their trials instead of extraditing them. (That’s not the best link for explaining this, but it shows you it’s a problem of which we’ve long been aware). French officials spent yesterday excoriating Belgian incompetence and “lack of will” publicly, which they also did after the November attacks here, prompting the Belgians to issue a démarche.

    I can remember stories of the Belgians being institutionally unable to deal with terrorism and organized crime that go all the way back to at least the 80s and the so-called Brabant Murders. Probably other people can remember more.

    The source here is anonymous, but this is pretty much what everyone in France seems to think:

    As noted by a source close to French intelligence services, “So far we only know that ISIS has long identified France as its official enemy, and the attackers may have chosen to attack Belgium this time simply because it was more difficult for them to reach France.”

    The place on which the MOAB should be dropped, for maximum efficacy, is thus probably somewhere in Belgium. And we’re not going to do that, because we’re not monsters. However, if Belgium remains unable to govern itself to the point that it doesn’t pose a threat to its neighbors, one of its neighbors will, sooner or later, do something about it. It will probably take the external form of a very long treaty that no one understands.

    • #9
  10. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Let us all now hyperventilate that James Lileks has called for war crimes.

    • #10
  11. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    The more I think about it, the more amazed I am that such a small country (pop. 11.2 million) has been linked to so much terrorism. Off the top of my head: Belgian networks were involved in the assassination of Massoud in Afghanistan two days before September 11; the Madrid bombings in 2004; the Verviers attack; the attack on the Thalys and the recent attacks from Paris. A Belgian was the first European to commit a suicide attack in Iraq in 2005. Mehdi Nemmouche was Belgian. The GIA had Belgian networks. And it now has the highest per-capita rate of foreign fighters in Syria in Europe. And it isn’t just Islamist terrorism: Belgium’s been a platform for Action Directe, the Red Army, ETA, the IRA. They’ve let PKK and DHKP-C terrorists wander away when they should have been in custody.

    Can anyone remember any other terrorist groups that have been traced back to Belgium? This is in French, but Google translate will give you a sense of the French view of the problem. The epicenter of European jihadism is Brussels. 

    • #11
  12. Red Fish, Blue Fish Inactive
    Red Fish, Blue Fish
    @RedFishBlueFish

    Dropping a MOAB would have the effect you are looking for in the short term.  In the long term, though, the act would generate significant pushback to US leadership worldwide.

    The US military is too scary to the rest of the world.  So we have an obligation, more so than any other nation, to avoid civilian casualties.  Its a burden that comes with having what is effectively a monopoly on force.  Others can use force, but as Russia is discovering in Syria, no one else can resolve issues with force.  That is the difference between a criminal using force and the police using force.

    That means we have a special obligation when we use it.

    • #12
  13. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    I cherish my role as Ricochet’s unofficial Steyn linker.

    • #13
  14. Flapjack Member
    Flapjack
    @Flapjack

    Red Fish — While I see your point, Mr. Lileks’ post, I think, highlights the point that the obligation to use force responsibly can be taken so far as to make force…force-less.

    The point of hitting the enemy really, really hard is to lessen the amount of death and destruction long-term.  Fighting with both hands tied behind our backs will not achieve the desired outcome – that is, we win, they lose.  Fighting to win cannot be done with kid gloves – and certainly cannot be done by watching and waiting. The former seems to result in drawn out (never ending?) conflicts and resentment.  The latter is slow-motion suicide.  In a set of unfortunate choices, a brutal decisive (and relatively short) conflict is preferable.

    But I could be wrong.

    • #14
  15. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Basil Fawlty:I cherish my role as Ricochet’s unofficial Steyn linker.

    Does anyone remember the Red Army Faction’s attempt to assassinate Al Haig in Mons in 1979? Or any of these events?

    • #15
  16. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Claire,

    Why?

    • #16
  17. Red Fish, Blue Fish Inactive
    Red Fish, Blue Fish
    @RedFishBlueFish

    Flapjack: Red Fish — While I see your point, Mr. Lileks’ post, I think, highlights the point that the obligation to use force responsibly can be taken so far as to make force…force-less.

    There is a difference in our legitimacy between dropping a big bomb and using force in a manner that is more discriminatory.  Just look at Israel.  If they were dropping big bombs regularly, they would cease to exist at this point by dint of international pressure.  But they use plenty of force.

    • #17
  18. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    James Lileks:I’m not talking about a cruise missile response, but a MOAB over an ISIS stronghold. It won’t make them stop, but that’s not the point. It would make them pay, which you might consider an adequate short-term response. Next time? Two MOABs, two cities. The collateral damage would be horrific. No doubt it would renew their enthusiasm. So next time they get three.

    […]

    Such responses, however, seem unlikely these days. Outre; too . . . Russian. Would you approve? Would you consider it descending to their level? Or is it best to absorb and mourn, coordinate and look, and be prepared for the next attack.

    I’d prefer that not to be the extent of our reaction, but sounds good to me.

    Ball Diamond Ball:Let us all now hyperventilate that James Lileks has called for war crimes.

    It strikes me that there’s a significant moral difference between targeting between targeting specific innocents and not being careful about collateral damage.

    • #18
  19. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    I Walton:Claire,

    Why?

    I’d like to see a timeline of a) terrorist violence in Europe over the past century; and b) a map of where it’s happened. I don’t know what it would show. Do you know anyone who’s put either of those together?

    • #19
  20. Red Fish, Blue Fish Inactive
    Red Fish, Blue Fish
    @RedFishBlueFish

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: It strikes me that there’s a significant moral difference between targeting between targeting specific innocents and not being careful about collateral damage.

    There is no moral difference between dropping a big bomb that necessarily will kill innocents and killing innocents directly and intentionally.  Both are intentional acts, and in both cases the actor is aware his actions will cause the deaths of innocent civilians.  The moral difference exists when killing the civilians is the better option to a worse outcome (e.g. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were preferable to an invasion of the Japanese main islands, bombing Dresden is preferable to house-to-house fighting).  Whether they are directly targeted or you drop a big bomb, its not materially relevant from a moral perspective.

    • #20
  21. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    “Don’t we know where ISIS is? Don’t you think we have a reasonable idea where their C&C HQs are in those cities?

    I’m not talking about a cruise missile response, but a MOAB over an ISIS stronghold.”

    Would everyone here feel comfortable with dropping that on Brussels? If not, why not?

    I wouldn’t, because of a) the certainty that it would cause immense civilian casualties and b) the degree to which it would — rightly or wrongly — immediately transform the United States into a rogue actor in the mind of every other state. The ethics and the optics would be terrible.

    • #21
  22. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: The EU Parliament is irrelevant to this …

    There’s a phrase that should appear often enough to merit its own acronym for the sake of clarity and brevity.

    But as long as there is a grocer in England who sells bananas by the pound or sparkling Italian wine being mislabeled “champagne,”  the work of the EUP is not done.

    And of course we need more coordination. And messaging. Coordinated messaging! That’ll fix them.

    • #22
  23. Red Fish, Blue Fish Inactive
    Red Fish, Blue Fish
    @RedFishBlueFish

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I wouldn’t, because of a) the certainty that it would cause immense civilian casualties and b) the degree to which it would — rightly or wrongly — immediately transform the United States into a rogue actor in the mind of every other state. The ethics and the optics would be terrible.

    Agree.  I would also apply that to Raqqa.  If you view Raqqa and Brussels differently in this exercise, its a problem unless you intend on invading one and not the other, then there may be a different moral calculus.

    • #23
  24. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Re-read the post. Lileks advocates bombing cities to break their will.
    He’s right. I just want you all to admit it.

    • #24
  25. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    James Lileks: I’m not talking about a cruise missile response, but a MOAB over an ISIS stronghold.

    Forget the MOAB.  Lets go right to the ARCLIGHT…..a_b52-bombs-away-01

    ol3sAJC

    • #25
  26. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Gil Reich:I hope people hear your call. It’s not enough to prepare colored lights for each potential next attack. We must also think up clever hashtags.

    EXACTLY!

    #AnotherCatchyHashtag!

    • #26
  27. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Perhaps Obama can send The Gap Band.

    • #27
  28. Red Fish, Blue Fish Inactive
    Red Fish, Blue Fish
    @RedFishBlueFish

    Ball Diamond Ball: Re-read the post. Lileks advocates bombing cities to break their will.
    Hes right. I just want you all to admit it.

    You don’t kill people to break their will unless breaking the will of the remaining people is in connection with saving the lives of a larger group of people.

    Breaking their will is not an end.  It’s a means to the end of staving off additional terrorist attacks.  If you kill 1000 innocent people to break the will of the remaining people and save 200 people from future terrorist attacks, you committed an immoral act.  Conversely, it’s not de facto true that killing 1000 to save 2000 would be moral, but at that point you have an argument for a moral action.

    • #28
  29. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Says you. I disagree. Proportional nonsense is the recipe for demoralization and a permanent bleeding quasi-war.
    Go to war, or don’t.

    • #29
  30. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Would everyone here feel comfortable with dropping that on Brussels? If not, why not?

    Yeah. but I’m okay with whatever the fallout and optics are over Raqqa.

    Enough.

    Red Fish, Blue Fish: Agree. I would also apply that to Raqqa. If you view Raqqa and Brussels differently in this exercise, its a problem unless you intend on invading one and not the other, then there may be a different moral calculus.

    Ones the main tumor, the other is a metastasis.  You treat them differently.

    • #30

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