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Bleak Thoughts on the First Decade: Reflections and Predictions

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The suicide bomber is the new and most dangerous weapon of the twenty-first century. Not that it's entirely new or hasn't been used to great effect before, but now it has grown so pervasive that it has made scattered bands of warriors improbably powerful. Asymmetrical warfare is the order of the day. Good defenses are rare.

We've seen these human missiles spread from Palestine to the Middle East generally into America and Europe. Where will they turn up next?

Security measures are bound to remain inefficient. The worst security measure is certainly the one we've taken. Adding layers of bureaucracy to existing spy agencies will make us -- and has probably made us -- less safe. The more organizations are involved, the less likely they are to "connect the dots."

I wrote as much four years ago when I warned that structural solutions, tinkering with organizational systems, never work. Unfortunately that is the solution to which America always gravitates.

Just as a suicide bomber can do incalculable damage, so can a small group of determined fanatics. The Jihadist movement is hydra-headed. Afghanistan, then Pakistan, now Yemen. How many really belong to the Taliban in Pakistan? Not many, and yet look at what they have achieved against a large state. I daresay not only the US but India is watching Pakistan with the gravest apprehension. Could it really live with a Taliban-dominated Pakistan next door?

The odd thing for any student of history or human psychology, or even any onlooker, is how deeply unattractive these ideologies truly are. They preach a lack of freedom, and they practice the destruction of pleasure. Their most precious commodity is fear. But some human beings embrace such punitive ideologies with relish.

Like the Puritans in seventeenth century Europe, or the early twentieth century communists, they are strong because they live a crazed, passionate dream and regard themselves as the elect. They will use any means necessary. It will all end only when they spend themselves, or some other attractive notion comes along to defeat this one or make it irrelevant.

Until then I fear the most calamitous spreading of the plague. Predictions are hazardous, of course, but I think the next battleground will be Europe.

Face it, Europe is the prize. Fortress America will remain a fortress for a while, except for a 9/11 here or there; but Europe is actually vulnerable to a combination of extremist attack and inner weakness. First terrorism, then an appeal to local sensibilities.

Europeans may well surrender some of their freedoms through the ballot. I'm not speaking, of course, of perfectly assimilated Muslims being elected to high office. These people are loyal and believe in a post-Enlightenment European dream.

I am speaking of large segments of the European population with a heavy Muslim presence voting for the partial adoption of Sharia law, or the institutionalization of local restrictions against women and gays, or the gradual erosion by legal means of other hard-won rights and freedoms. Those might spell the beginning of the end, though, as mentioned before, that curtain of darkness will not last forever either.

But while it lasts, what an intolerably dark time it will be.

Manfred Wolf is a columnist for the West Portal Monthly. He published "Almost a Foreign Country" last year.


Manfred Wolf grew up in the Netherlands and in the Dutch West Indies, and came to the U.S. at seventeen. He is a university professor, columnist, translator, and freelance writer, whose work has been published in numerous European and American (more...)
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