The aftermath of a barbaric act of Islamic terrorism in one of Europe’s great cities is undeniably rife with intense emotions and a looming sense of despair. Ever since I heard the tragic news on Tuesday morning, I have been intently following the developments regarding the Brussels attacks, which left at least 31 innocent civilians killed and over 300 injured. I have read countless tweets, op-eds, and Facebook posts condemning the evil Islamists, calling for global action, and offering thoughts and prayers for those affected. Unfortunately, I have also seen countless messages decrying Western “intolerance,” making the largely irrelevant statement that good Muslims exist, and claiming that worldwide mourning for Belgium is egregiously eurocentric. I have also listened to politicians variously grandstanding about building walls, expressing their sincere condolences, and taking 15 minutes to address the tragedy before enjoying themselves at a baseball game with the Castros.
When I later sat down to discuss the events with a close friend, trying to come up with an insightful angle to write this article from, we soon admitted that we were going in circles. All the reactions that I witnessed earlier had been expressed many times before: in London, in San Bernadino, in Cologne, twice in Paris…
We eventually came to the conclusion that, while the attacks were horribly tragic, the only shocking thing about them was that they had effectively ceased to shock us. In just over a year, the European landscape has been dramatically transformed, forced to bear the burden of millions of culturally incompatible migrants. I watch news reports from cities like Paris and Brussels – cities I have visited before and fallen in love with – and am genuinely scared to go back. Indeed, the State Department issued a travel warning for all of Europe, advising people to “exercise vigilance when in public places or using mass transportation… [be] aware of immediate surroundings and avoid crowded places… [and] exercise particular caution during religious holidays and at large festivals and events.” Terrifying, when Easter is only a few days away.
The Western world is finally starting to realize the gravity of the situation it has put itself in. When the EU powers-that-be sat in their boardrooms, making grand plans and promises about the migrant crisis, the absolute worst possible result they could fathom was a “Pandora’s Box” scenario. In their eyes, even if it turned out that the migrants had trouble integrating into European communities, the hope of forging an understanding between two fundamentally different cultures was worth “opening the lid” for. In reality, expecting to find even Hope at the bottom of that box was naïve. With the ever-increasing frequency and severity of these attacks, it is clear that the other side has no intention of compromising their beliefs to reach a middle ground.
So, what can we do to progress toward a viable solution? UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon thinks he has an answer: he “hopes those responsible will be swiftly brought to justice… [and] is confident that Belgium’s and Europe’s commitment to human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence will continue to be the true and lasting response to the hatred and violence of which they became a victim.”
A nice sentiment, perhaps, but not very convincing.
Looking to American leaders, we find strategies that are more tangible than asking ISIS very politely to please stop; nevertheless, they oversimplify this complex foreign policy issue. Military action is undoubtedly necessary, but we can’t go in alone, and certainly not as hastily as we have in the past. After urging European leaders to stem the influx of migrants, and condemning Islamic terror for what it is, the US should serve its role as the galvanizing powerhouse of worldwide progress. Calling forth an international coalition of the best and brightest minds, as we did with astounding results during the Gulf War, may be the key to toppling this regime without carving the path for something worse to take its place.