Western states spend trillions annually, purportedly in order to keep their citizens safe from terrorist attacks. One might look at events such as what occurred in Paris and suggest that this demonstrates the failure of such efforts. Another might suggest that the rarity of such attacks represents the success of these state efforts.
So, which is it, or is it something else entirely? From Spiegel comes “Europe's Jihadists: What the Paris Attacks Tell Us about IS Strategy.” This story offers an opportunity to examine possible answers to the question.
NB: in this post I am not examining this issue from a libertarian perspective; I am not questioning the official narrative. My intent is to consider the state’s stated objectives regarding keeping the citizenry secure and the effectiveness of the means and to do this via an examination of the mainstream-accepted storyline.
The article begins with an examination of Abdelhamid Abaaoud and his activities on the night of the attacks. He is the suspected leader behind the attacks. He was directly involved the killing of 39 people at La Belle Équipe, Le Carillon and Le Petit Cambodge.
…something strange happened at 10:28 p.m., a development that only came to the attention of investigators much later.
At 10:14 PM, Abaaoud jumped the turnstile at the Croix de Chavaux Metro station; this was caught on video. At 10:28 he exited at a metro station near the scene of the atrocities at the Bataclan hall. He apparently wanted to witness the aftermath of his handiwork.
Investigators later used the geolocation data from his mobile phone to trace his movements that evening. At 12:28 a.m., as anti-terror units were entering the concert hall, the phone was just next to Bataclan.
Before the night of terror, was this Abaaoud unknown to western security and investigative authorities? Hardly.
In terms of media coverage, Abaaoud had been Belgium's best-known jihadist, and yet he nevertheless managed to travel back and forth between Syria and Europe without raising attention and would ultimately conduct the Paris attacks together with an entire group of other jihadists.
Well, certainly he didn’t use the internet:
Few others have reported as openly on social media about their adventures in Syria as Abaaoud. In Dabiq magazine, an official propaganda organ of Islamic State (IS), he had boasted in January that he could "plan operations" and come and go as he pleased despite the fact that "my name and my picture have been all over the news."
The life of Abdelhamid Abaaoud of Belgium is better documented than almost any other jihadist. In spring 2014, the French journalist Étienne Huver came into possession of photos and videos that had been saved on Abaaoud's mobile phone.
These western states attempt to track everything on everybody yet fail to track specific things about specific bodies, apparently. They apparently knew more about Abaaoud than any other potential terrorist. Yet, he pulled it off.
Futility, or a scam?
The Birth of a New State
"Islamic State conceives itself as a state, it acts like a state -- and it employees [SIC] bureaucrats whose jobs do not differ much from those in the West," writes terror expert Neumann. It provides five to seven million people with food, child care, heating oil and electricity and is seeking to be the "perfect welfare state," he says.
Where and how did terrorists learn such state-building techniques?
Currently, IS counts fighters from more than 90 countries among its ranks. Extremism expert Neumann estimates this figure includes more than 20,000 foreigners who have traveled to Syria and Iraq.
As for screening these foreigners:
Once they arrive on the Turkish side of the border, jihadists are received by smugglers and brought across into Syria. Islamic State then subjects the newcomers to a security check in order to uncover possible spies. In the past, the procedure has often required newcomers to name a contact person within Islamic State.
Michael Flynn, the former head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, says of Islamic State: "They document everything. These guys are terrific about it. In their recruiting and in interviews, they ask, 'What's your background? Are you good with media? With weapons?' It's this kind of well-structured capability they have that then evolves into a very, very unconventional force."
From whom did these terrorists learn such screening techniques? When did they learn the value of extensive documentation?
It seems reasonably settled that many of the leaders of ISIS come from the disbanded Iraqi military, disbanded at the hands of the US government. A disciplined bunch, rebuilding the state forcibly removed from their control.
Radical Islam Must be Confronted
Radical Islam, or is it just disgruntled young men looking for an outlet? From a series of videos taken by Abaaoud, with and amongst his “co-religionists”:
The young men from the banlieues were discovering a life that they could never have lived back home. In Syria, they could mostly take what they wanted, justifying it as the confiscation of enemy property. As members of Islamic State, they belonged to those who held power. Others had to obey.
There is little in the videos about religion and faith. Abaaoud seemed more intent on documenting his grand adventure.
They seem to be after what many young, lost men seem to be after – albeit in a more violent setting:
Western recruits belong to the Islamic State elite. They receive privileged treatment and are allotted homes, women and higher salaries.
Sex, money, and adventure; nothing about the obligatory duty of Ṣalāh.
We Have to Fight Them Over There, So They Don’t Come Over Here
It seems Hollande should have ordered bombing runs over Paris neighborhoods, instead of over Syria.
All of those Paris attackers who have been identified spent at least some time in Syria, but they were all citizens of EU countries. They were radicalized in the societies where they grew up.
Olivier Roy, a French expert on Islamism, writes in Le Monde: "Almost all French radicals belong to one of two categories: They either come from the second generation of immigrants or they are converts." What do the two groups have in common? "They break with their parents, or, to be more precise, with that which their parents represent when it comes to culture and religion."
The west collects trillions of bits of data on virtually every connected individual on earth; yet these terrorists openly use unencrypted social media to communicate. The west has employed violence over all regions of North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia for two-hundred years – and exponentially so in the last 25 years, yet many of the radicals are grown in their own back yard.
Are the means employed by western states conducive the achieving the stated ends, or do western states have other ends in mind? Is it futility or is it a scam?
It seems the answer is self-evident.