Marino de Medici: War against terrorism has to be a real war

Marino de Medici

Marino de Medici

It is hard to admit it but it must be recognized that the “war” against the Islamic terrorism is undermining the foundations of the European Union itself.

The decision of French President Holland to close France’s borders reflects the realization that the proliferation of attacks that are well organized and supported by lethal equipment are facilitated by the very freedom of movement and open borders that is the trademark of European construction and development.

Frontiers are being re-instated. The next step, some fear, could be the adoption of special powers that will inevitably restrict not only the freedom of movement but most significantly some basic civil rights in Europe. The United States has paid a price after 9/11 in terms of the widespread tightening of security and the advent of a network of surveillance that has just about eliminated a great deal of the right to privacy of American citizens. Another 9/11, however, is unlikely to occur in the United States because of the very tight network of internal security.

In France, unfortunately, the danger of another massive terrorist assault cannot be discounted owing to demographic and social reasons, and above all because of the openness of a society that includes more than 6 million Muslims, 10 per cent of the nation’s population. The failure of this large swath to integrate properly in French society has not been remedied and the grievances of the deprived minority have caused the radicalization of many young Muslims. This is the seed that generated the 2005 explosion of the impoverished North African banlieues and more recently a series of attacks against the magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris.

One cannot impute the fault of what happened last week to the French security and police apparatus that is generally considered quite efficient. One thing is expecting an attack and another is preventing it. There are no fewer than 2,000 suspected Islamists in France.

Nearby Belgium, where apparently the attacks were planned and supported, has provided the proportionally highest number of Islamic volunteers who went to Syria. The conflict in Syria is unquestionably the maelstrom that is sucking Europe into a political and social crisis. The responsibilities for what Pope Francis, in an exceptional emotional cry called a “piecemeal third world war,” are multifold and the United States, the superpower that started it all in Iraq, has a large share in it.

There are two sides to consider after the massacre in the heart of Paris. The first is that French politicians are now compelled to act in ways that run counter the fundamentals of a united Europe, foremost among them the freedom of movement established at a time when Islamic terrorism was unknown. In the same vein, German Chancellor Merkel has a sudden need to revisit her compassionate stance for the unchecked waves of migrants. In France, there is the danger that the right wing Front National will win a majority in a number of regions by denouncing the inability of the political system to control immigration. It could be a huge game changer in the political history of France.

The other side is the rising imperative to destroy ISIS, which for all intents and purposes is a military power that has taken root in Syria, Iraq and Libya where it has established its economy, administration and consensus. The caliphate was born in June 2004 when it conquered Mosul and then went on to extend its territory. Combating ISIS is a true war that cannot be won by just proclaiming the virtues of democracy and freedom. The overriding strategy must be to stabilize the failed countries from where the migrants and terrorists come. This is the only relationship that one can find between uncontrolled migration and terrorism. Bombers and drones are not enough. The war against terrorism has to be a real war.

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