Friday, November 27, 2015

Maybe It’s in the Waffles or the Chocolates

Belgium is a critical as a venue for both the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO headquarters is in Brussels, that nation’s capital, and NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe is the Headquarters of Allied Command Operations, one of NATO’s two strategic military commands is located in nearby Casteau, Belgium.  Brussels is also the effective capital of the European Union. “Brussels hosts the official seats of the European Commission, Council of the European Union, and European Council, as well as a seat (officially the second seat but de facto the most important one) of the European Parliament.” Wikipedia.
It is an exceptionally important venue to global politics, and roughly a quarter of that city’s population is Muslim... and growing. Someday in the not-so-distant future, they will be the majority. And like most of Europe, there has been a massive failure to assimilate this population. Belgium could easily become an Islamic nation, with a mixture of moderate and extremist views.
As recent events have so clearly illustrated, Belgium has the highest per capita number of identified terrorists and potential terrorists of any EU nation and is woefully underprepared to meet that threat. It has foundered in a massive shutdown of schools, universities, public transportation systems, sporting events and many, many business operations as they searched for high-level fomenters of the Paris attacks who made Belgium their base of operations. What is going on here?
First, you have to understand that Belgium is a very uncomfortable melding of geo-ethnic societies, French-speaking Walloons in the south and Flemish-speakers (close to Dutch) in the north, with more than a few German-speakers in the east. Historically, pieces of Belgium were territories of various other European nations and monarchs.
The last incarnation the created modern Belgium took place following the French Revolution: “The French Revolutionary wars led to Belgium becoming part of France in 1795, bringing the end of the semi-independence of areas which had belonged to the Catholic Church. After the defeat of the French in 1814, a new United Kingdom of the Netherlands was created, which eventually split one more time during the Belgian Revolution of 1830–1839, giving three modern nations, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.” Wikipedia. Belgium has been mired in a quest for its own identity in modern Europe, struggling to remain independent and neutral in the twentieth century without much luck. Its ethnic factions also have never completely gotten along.
Germany ignored Belgian “neutrality” during WWI. It was simply on the pathway toward France under Germany’s Schlieffen Plan. That lesson was apparently not fully appreciated when WWII simmered years later. As Belgium again attempted neutrality in the nascent years of Germany’s WWII invasion of Europe, the Nazi blitzkrieg (lightening war) sliced highly mobilized troops and tanks through Belgium into the heartland of France, putting a harsh end to that attempt to avoid the firestorm that embraced the rest of Europe.
So now we look at the bureaucratic quagmire that defines modern Belgium, the ineptness that allowed a couple of terrorists to shut down an entire country. “A month before the Paris terrorist attacks, Mayor Françoise Schepmans of Molenbeek, a Brussels district long notorious as a haven for jihadists, received a list with the names and addresses of more than 80 people suspected as Islamic militants living in her area.
“The list, based on information from Belgium’s security apparatus, included two brothers who would take part in the bloodshed in France on Nov. 13, as well as the man suspected of being the architect of the terrorist plot, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Molenbeek resident who had left for Syria to fight for the Islamic State in early 2014… ‘What was I supposed to do about them? It is not my job to track possible terrorists,’ Ms. Schepmans said in an interview. That, she added, ‘is the responsibility of the federal police.’
“The federal police service, for its part, reports to the interior minister, Jan Jambon, a Flemish nationalist who has doubts about whether Belgium — divided among French, Dutch and German speakers — should even exist as a single state…
“Flemish nationalists, ever eager to show that Belgium in its current form does not work, have jumped on the mess, with Karl Vanlouwe, a member of the Belgian Senate, writing in the newspaper Le Soir on Tuesday that ‘20 years of laxity’ by the French-speaking Socialist Party had turned Brussels into a ‘rear base of Islamic barbarity.’
“The perennial dysfunctions of a small country with just 11.2 million people would not normally transcend its borders, but they are now blamed for having helped turn Belgium into a hub of terrorist activity that is threatening lives as well as the Continent’s troubled enterprise of integration and intelligence sharing.” New York Times, November 24th.
If Belgium is becoming a frontline against radicalization, is there anything that they are doing about it? After all, ISIS is not just recruiting soldiers for the now; it is creating attractive YouTube and comparable videos aimed at children, their soldiers of the future. Some Muslim communities have taken it upon themselves to establish after school programs to administer what they call “vaccinations against radicalization.”
Their counter-attack is to use the Qur’an itself to teach non-violent Qur’anic values, allowing that the Paris shootings and bombings were “un-Islamic.” In one such classroom, for example, the correct phrase from the Qur’an was “If you murder one person, it's as if you killed all humanity.” But it’s the local community, and not the divided government, that is attempting to mount a stand against the otherwise twisted view of Islam. Without a savvy, clever media program to attract younger viewers, ISIS will continue to have their way with their intended recruits.
It is staggering that such internecine political struggles within Belgium’s leadership have effectively rendered a major European power a waddling helpless sanctuary to terrorists with mayhem on their minds. But then, you only have to look at how deeply divided we are as a nation, reflecting in the wanton ramblings and outrageous erroneous “facts” spouted by our own presidential candidates, reflecting our own internal irreconcilable differences.
I’m Peter Dekom, and as we confront global asymmetrical warfare by religious zealots with no seeming moral limitations, we need not only to understand our enemy… but our allies as well.

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