In the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, some pointed out that “the government can’t keep you safe, but it can get you killed.” The slogan referred to the fact that the United States was courting terrorism from Islamic extremist groups through the US’s own reckless foreign policy. Specifically, the US government was allied with regimes connected to terrorism and brutal authoritarianism — e.g., Saudi Arabia and Egypt — while paying billions more to Israel in military aid, and invading and bombing Iraq, bombing a pharmaceutical factory in the the Sudan, and just generally making enemies across the globe.
By: Ryan McMaken
This article first appeared at Mises.org
But, when the blowback came, the bumbling American “security” apparatus sat dumbfounded as the Twin Towers collapsed. In spite of trillions of dollars in tax revenues collected annually, and a military budget of an immense $400 billion (in 2001) that was far larger than any other country, the gargantuan US government couldn’t prevent a major attack on its own soil. And, of course, in the wake of 9/11, all those agencies that failed miserably got more money for salaries, toys, and other rewards for their incompetence.
In terms of bloodshed, the city of Brussels, with the terrorist attacks this morning in which more than two dozen have been killed, has gotten off relatively easy (so far) compared to New York. But, in the wake of Paris’s deadlier November 2015 terrorism, today’s events are just the latest example of how the regimes of Europe are too busy fiddling with their little projects for European unity and global policing while they can’t manage to even carry out the most basic functions of a state for their domestic populations. (For perspective, though, let’s keep in mind that far more people die from suicide than terrorism throughout the West.)
It wasn’t long ago that Brussels — that is, the Europhile elites — was lecturing Eastern Europe on the need to surrender more police power to Brussels while investigating the Polish regime for not being sufficiently democratic, and generally attempting to tighten the European superstate’s grip. Meanwhile, the French state destroys basic freedom of speech, and airports get blown up in Brussels. “We got this” was essentially what Brussels was saying back in January, but it’s not at all clear that they “got” much of anything.
What they especially don’t “got” is that this is just another case of blowback for Europe, and Brussels, where NATO’s headquarters is located, is a prime target.
In the wake of the Paris attacks, we noted that the French government has a long, brutal, colonial and post-colonial history that continues to this day. While the French had attempted to cultivate a reputation for minding its own business internationally, the reality was far from that, and the French regime is one of the most active European regimes in terms of occupying foreign nations and bombing foreign opponents of the French state in distant locales.
Europe’s Endless Interventionism
Belgium has been far less active than France in terms of unilateral action. Indeed, Belgium has apparently been more than happy to let the American taxpayer do the heavy lifting in terms of funding NATO’s international interventions. Belgium hasn’t even been making good on its commitment to hit NATO’s target spending of 2 percent of GDP on military expenses for each member state.
This, however, is unknown by nearly every casual observer. In spite of the Belgian state’s meager direct spending, the fact that NATO is headquartered in Brussels, and the fact that Brussels is regarded by many as “the capital of Europe” means that Brussels will be a target for blowback. Brussels is, in fact, a power center for the European elite, and one of the meeting places of the European Parliament.
Moreover, as the NATO capital, Brussels is where, seemingly, decisions are made about the West’s meddling in Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, and other places where NATO exercises its power with bombs and alliances with local enemies of extremist terrorist organizations.
As an example, we might look to NATO’s continued alliance with Turkey where the president/dictator recently declared that “democracy, freedom and the rule of law,” have “absolutely no value any longer.” Turkey is on its way to becoming a dictatorship devoted to ever harsher measures against minority ethnic groups. Disastrously, Brussels long ago decided that Turkey was an invaluable ally and the southeastern flank of NATO. Thus, every time the Turkish state crushes freedom of speech, arrests a few more journalists for thought crimes, or makes war on its own Kurdish population, the Turkish state radicalizes more dissidents. But, when the newly radicalized start looking for whom to blame, they tend to end up looking at NATO’s — and Europe’s — capital.
In just the latest favor to Ankara, NATO has been arming Turkey with new missile technology since 2012 and when the time comes for yet another bombing mission in yet another Muslim-majority country, NATO seems often to be at the forefront. Whether or not NATO is “officially” involved in a military operation remains immaterial as far as terrorist propaganda is concerned, as long as European elites continue their support of Turkish police statism and NATO “police actions” throughout the Muslim world, radicals will look to Europe.
As with aggressive American foreign policy in the 1990s, which set up American civilians as international targets of terrorism, the European elites have set up their own populations as sitting ducks for terrorist responses to their incessant meddling. This isn’t to say that people are perfectly safe if they mind their own business. That has never been true. However, effective diplomacy lies in not making enemies needlessly and in not radicalizing populations against you by invading their countries and bombing their civilians.
And what has been the outcome of all the West’s activism? With perhaps the exception of Libya — which appeared to be a European project of asserting control over North African oil — much of the intervention has been at the behest of the American regime. In lockstep with Washington — in spite of some token opposition to the 2003 Iraq invasion — the European elites have helped destabilize one country after another, from Iraq, to Libya, to Syria. In each case, Islamic extremists have rushed in to fill the power void created by the Western governments. Meanwhile, the West has managed to devastate what economic stability had existed in those parts of the world leading to refugees, radicalism, and perceived justifications for terrorism.
It’s been one failure after another, assuming the goal has been stability and peace. If the goal has been to enrich the ruling classes and to extend the power of Western regimes, though, these operations have been a success. Most of the costs have been borne — and will be borne — by ordinary taxpayers and people who can’t afford their own body guards and security details. Those who benefit from war and warmaking, on the other hand, will see an outsized benefit, and for them, it’s all been a towering success.
The Expected Response
The response to today’s bombings in Europe will be largely what we’ve come to expect from these situations. The ordinary people will pay the price in fewer civil liberties, more taxes (or fewer social benefits), and less freedom in their movements. France, of course, has already declared a more or less permanent state of emergency and is now waging war on basic civil liberties including governmental powers to “control the press” and censor plays, movies, and radio broadcasts.
We should expect similar moves from the regime in Belgium. After all, the general population will accept these restrictions in the name of “safety” and the elites of Europe will be more than happy to oblige them with a reinvigorated police state.
Where the elites will oppose any changes will be in regards to anything the imperils their European project and their efforts to extend their control over foreign regimes. In other words, it will be just more of the same in terms of foreign policy.
This article first appeared at Mises.org