- Politics and Social Issues
Europe/Russia/the Middle East
The EU-Bosnia Border, etc.
Like many journalists, an article was recently penned, beginning with an individual, meant to illustrate a particular situation. It is a familiar technique that either works or does not. After all, suddenly, within minutes, if the subject captures one's attention, the reader comes to know more about a stranger in Bosnia than the fella next door, whose car you see come and go. Then again, it is about terrorism, not how to save money on lawn care, so there is some logic to it after all. The material at hand has to do with a young man born in the 1990s, who came under the influence of, first, radical Islam, and second, the IS, as it is herein called. Before long, he was off to Syria, after having received training that involved the use of explosives, strapped to his own body. In other words, he must have come a long way, from wherever he started. But then, according to this selfsame journalistic technique, after the individual portrait came impersonal statistics. Bosnia has millions of residents. Half of them are Muslim. A certain portion also went to Syria. After that, their combined fates become somewhat cloudy. Recently, having watched on television the gloomy aftermath of terrorism in France and Belgium, the viewer may wonder what armed, radical Muslims are doing in Europe. Simply put, they live there.
Like Wikipedia, Der Spiegel might not be the most trustworthy source. In the limited space of seven printed pages of type, an article paints another eerie picture of Balkan-based intrigue. I still cling to my former thesis that the Middle East will not provide the source for another world war. All the same, the recruitment of the young and impressionable, who are also out-of-work, into the rank and file of armed radicalists, of whatever stamp, is a genuine concern. It is a widespread phenomenon. It also relates to an issue in our own presidential race, inasmuch as it has to do with troublesome borders. From Southeastern Europe, residents can go either way, directly into the EU, or wend their way toward the Middle East. It is not normal for high tech walls to encircle countries. For the time being, borders can still be crossed without passports or other forms of identification. The northern border from the Balkans is similar to our southern border. It is long, and, to an extent, unpoliced. Nevertheless, the demographics are different. The main point is, however, that there is no war in Europe, despite deadly outbursts, whereas in the Middle East, true combat thrives. Ordinary people do not jam the southern routes.
The Media -- What is the Message Again?
A cursory viewing of politically-motivated videos following the Wisconsin primaries showed one meant to either shock the public or urge it not to vote for Hillary Clinton. It is impossible to tell. Still, the idea that Libya is now, possibly, in part as a result of diplomatic gaffes, a chief exporter of weaponry to belligerent African and Middle Eastern nations, only enhances the notion that violence is basically contained within Islamic strongholds. Though Jihadists generally wind up killing each other (albeit while venting their wrath on the general public), they are almost exclusively the ones with an appetite for a worldwide conflagration. It is a safe bet it will never go nearly as far as they would like, in terms of territory, ideology, or theology. They are content to get their pictures in the news. That does not mean that they can be ignored with impunity. The aforementioned video, and coorelative substance, delivers more fallout from the Benghazi affair. The new global world is still fresh, but it is getting more familiar.
At the moment, not only the genesis and execution of violent actions should be studied and analyzed, but the formation of truces with shared agendas as well. For example, Balkan-based Imams must be in close communication with their compatriots in the Middle East, or adjoining nations. Who is with whom? What are their objectives? Certainly the use of car bombs and explosive belts are a constant headache, but so are unanticipated relaxations of hostility between self-absorbed militant groups. Their melding poses a possibly higher threat than what previously obtained. The recruitment and training of Jihadists perhaps explains why Bosnia is seldom heard from. Exercises and obstacles courses are not big stories. The attacks do not suddenly emerge spontaneously, but are well-planned (anybody can see as much). The incipient stages, however, are under the radar. Another German article tells of a Kurd, enlisted by Turks, trained in Kalishnikovs and Glocks, then sent to Afrin, Syria, where he subsequently had a change of heart. He turned himself in -- otherwise, who would have known?
A Quality of Life Issue
Must we simply learn to live with terrorist attacks?
The Way of Death
The present Washington community is unique in that it is presided over by someone who has more respect and admiration than usual for Islam than his peers. It is possible that his outspoken attitude might have staved off attacks, if Iran, Turkey, Syria, and the Balkans are playing American politics. Why not? They seem to favor Democrats, if that is any consolation. Nevertheless, a cult of personality cannot indefinitely sustain us. One cannot help but wonder if Al Qaeda would have left a Gore administration unscathed. There is no answer. What if Romney had been elected instead of Obama? Nobody knows. Insofar as my source material is mostly a popular German magazine, the consensus that Belgium had not been mindful enough -- a somewhat callous position, if I have read Spiegel's translated articles accurately -- might or might not help explain how the latest event occurred. Europe could have a long-range problem on its hands. To put it colloquially, its mind is not on the game. It follows, nonetheless, either way, that the USA must remain vigilant, too. Germany, by the way, is already on alert. We shall see how well it fares after having put Belgium down for being too lax. It is probably relevant to mention, in passing, that there are many average citizens in Belgium, and throughout Europe as well as in the USA, who work steadily on joint dialogue and mutual understanding between multi-cultural heritages. To them, the level of violence will subside. Raising consciousness is the antidote. Not everyone is bent on carnage.
Certainly, immigration and asylum for refugees is as much an issue in Belgium as anywhere. Belgium has a dense Moroccan section that lives as much apart as within the dominant culture. Some Belgians and Moroccans pass each other like ships in the night. The subject of ethnicity, though merely a single factor, only gets uglier the more it is contemplated. Still, as the saying goes, somebody has to do it. It pays to keep in mind that thus far the greater danger comes from out-of-towners, invaders, so to speak, not the indigenous population. As far as sleeper cells are concerned, these are dangerous exceptions. Comparisons to the Cold War are interesting, but hardly a vast reservoir of equivalents. Spies back then might gather information for years without letting on. Or, they might go on trading information with a minimum of cover. Read a novel or pick up a dvd. Purveyors of fiction sometimes get it right. Only once in a while can I recall an international spy exchange making the papers. In contrast, terrorists do not feed on intelligence, unless it leads to bloodshed, without which they must feel unfulfilled.
The Middle East to Europe and Vice Versa
Der Spiegel questioned the way in which Belgium bungled the protection of its borders. It has likewise complained about Greece. To some, the maps above might seem fifth gradish, a cheat sheet for a juvenile exam. But thousands of refugees are making their way northward from the southern realm, toward the middle, Balkan regions. Once there, they move toward Europe, which juggles a humanitarian crisis along with disguised militants, hard to distinguish from the rest, until it is too late. Personally, I find it queer, reading on my own, self-educating myself on the Balkans, to encounter the same countries and identical places where the Ottoman Empire, the "sick man of Europe," fought desperately in vain to salvage its lost empire. We all know what they say about good intentions, how they form the pavement to hell. Spiegel urged Greece to close the Balkan route. Thus, if implemented, Europeans would not suffer the guilt of hypocrisy. But what about the helpless, homeless, and innocuous migrants?
Back here, we have a similar task to confront. No one is able to draw the line. A border is something like a traffic light. Some want it to work in a regular fashion. Others want it to stay red for a while, as it occasionally does in small towns, to fetch a costly ticket from a lone, exasperated motorist, who eventually gives up and moves on. In brief, saving lives is not business as usual. There is no profit motive. There is some economic relief, in that host nations put newcomers to work at jobs they themselves disdain. It is an old story. The Germans do it. The French do it. They all do it. Things are getting out of hand. The right-wing is watching carefully. In southern Texas and other border states, residents are very concerned. What does this say about mobility in general? Or freedom?
America's Role in Middle Eastern Affairs
More than one elected official has called for the complete destruction of ISIS. But it remains a question as to whether or not the USA is willing to do the job. To allow ISIS free rein is quite a gamble. Do words spoken by American leaders carry weight, at least in this regard? Let's face it, they say anything on camera. It eventually washes out into a vast sea of meaningless language and imagery. It is not ISIS alone that is driving pitiful citizens northward, turning them into stateless refugees, and causing Europe a crisis it is ill-equipped to handle. But it is exemplary of the growing paralysis of America's Middle Eastern foreign policy. In fact, does it have one? Today, a Yahoo news item reminded us that Iranians are still chanting death to America. In the days ahead, the Persian nation will be looking for American weaknesses. Any hesitation or conciliatory double-speak will likely grab its attention. Anything that can be exploited, will be. Nevertheless, the whole world will not go to war over Iran's deepest desire to rise up as we gradually fade.