Why terrorists have attacked Brussels? Merely because it is the core of the European Union and represents Westerns values? An explanation beyond the “clash of civilizations”.
Samuel Huntington’s masterpiece Clash of Civilizations is often quoted nowadays to explain why and how the EU and the West civilization at large have become a target of islamic terrorist groups. However, this explanation exemplifies too much why the attack of March 22nd happened in Brussels. There are historical, political and security arguments that can give a powerful insight.
Historically, Belgium, like France, paid a credit with their colonial tradition, opening the border of the country to immigration in general and from past colonies in particular. The historical problem is not the colonial heritage of immigrants in itself, but it is the failure of the multicultural society, designed to received flows of immigrants during the decades. Molenbeek in Brussels, Saint Denis in Paris and to a less extent other peripheries of main cities in Europe have in common the presence of ghettos with generations of unemployed and alienated immigrants without any prospect of integration. The evolution of our society, with the affirmation of the liquid society without any strong inspirational civil value for young generation of marginalised immigrants, created the perfect humus for the proliferation and the diffusion of extremist discourses.
This point introduces another main explanation, the political one. Belgium has been deemed for years to be an example of Consensual Democracy (Arendt Lijphart). These stable and effective democracies usually have deep fractures in society, linguistic and religious ones for the Belgian case, balanced and partially composed by a collaborative behavior of political élite. In order to find valuable compromise to overcome their divergences, those political élite share power and tend to form a broad government coalition with the main parties of the political system.
In the last twenty years, this construction has faded away in Belgium. Nowadays the country has entered in a situation of democratic stalemate being unable even to form a government for a couple of years. On the other hand, the main communities in which the country is divided, the Walloon and the Flemish, required representation in the different territorial institutions and organisms, along with an effective form of communication and coordination between them. It is clear how such deficiencies have helped fundamentalist groups to thrive.
Finally, the security issue. The terrorist attacks in Brussels have confirmed the fact the EU is at war. This war is completing the evolution of war from professional war to total wars with the engagement of the civil society sharing the burden of violence. Today we are experiencing the last burden, with a war waged against civil society, the main goal of the violence.
According to Antoine Basbous, director of the Obervatoire des Pays Arabs based in Paris, Europe should engage himself in better controlling its borders, acting against the traffic of arms, and empowering police and intelligence organisms. In order to be effective, this effort has to be coordinated and agreed on a common ground. One of the weakest points of the Belgian security is the presence of multiple structures that have the responsibility to patrol and control. Moreover, this war must be grounded on the intelligence and the cooperation among the EU member states, due to its asymmetrical nature. Unfortunately, terrorists are playing on a comparative advantage. The extreme act of dying in the name of God make them more dangerous, especially when confronted with civil societies.