This week in Europe provided me with multiple topics for posts – including a great horse show, food, and sightseeing, but those will wait for another week. All of the talk in Europe – and in the US press – is about the terrorists’ attack in Belgium. As an American who has a government that doesn’t seem to have a handle on how to deal with this terrorism (which is not new at all), and with candidates for the Presidency who have the lowest ratings of any presidential candidates in the past, I kept my mouth shut and just listened to those around me. All I could say was how sad it was.
It turns out that several of the terrorists were known by Turkish, American, and French governments to be on the watch list and had warned Belgium. Even one of the Belgian families whose son was a suicide bomber had told the Belgian police that he was heading to Syria but the officials did nothing. The question is if this will be the European version of 9/11 and will it galvanize the various countries to start being more organized about information sharing.
The other interesting item was the view of the Europeans about our government and our elections. First, there were jokes about Obama traveling, going to baseball games, doing the tango, and making a comment about how we are winning against ISIS. The Europeans do not agree. And the fear of what will happen if Trump wins the Presidency is overwhelming.
France was palpably different on this trip. Armed police, the CRT, roam the streets very visibly in groups, at almost every large intersection there were police vehicles fully armed and ready to engage. At restaurants and hotels, purses are checked and at events one goes through magnetic detectors. The French have decided to take the threat of future attacks very seriously.
What frustrates the Europeans – in addition to their own mistakes – seems to be America’s inability to lead as well as the original issue of opening the can of worms by going after Saddam Hussein and having no system or leaders ready to put in place of the dictator. The lack of leadership over Syria when the revolution first started adds to their exasperation since they want to help their fellow man but are threatened by the very size of the refugee population and the process of trying to vet them before allowing them into their countries.
In America, many say that it won’t happen here because we have integrated our immigrants better but that overlooks both the Boston bombers and the San Bernardino terrorists — neither of those were sent by ISIS, nor any other foreign group, to target America. They were home grown as were the Belgians. We shouldn’t be smug and, although we may be hurting the ISIS fighters in their home arena, we are not eradicating them nor are we truly dealing with their ability to recruit in our home countries. I hope soon our democratic government will take the threat more seriously before the incidents become so numerous that America turns to radical or authoritarian policies to deal with the terrorists. Then they will have won and we will have succumbed.