Personal website of Aurélien Vermylen

Brussels Attacks

As was expected by many terror experts, Brussels has now been hit by terror attacks just yesterday. Two bombs exploded at the international airport of Zaventem. Then, a bomb exploded in a metro that was moving between the Schuman and Maelbeek station.

This is actually the first time that I’m personally (a bit) scared of these terror attacks. I’m of course, on a general level, scared of the state of the world, the Middle East, the 20k nuclear warheads in the world etc. But this time, when I arrived at work yesterday (passing, one hour before the bomb through Schuman and Maelbeek), I actually had a little physical fear. Maybe because it was so close this time, and it hit my country, my city.


We’ve long thought in Belgium that as a small, seemingly kind country, we’d be spared from such atrocities. That feeling is now over, and we must, as Donald Trump hypocritically states, “be smart”. This is probably the only point on which the US presidential candidate is right. However, the problem is that it seems that in Belgian or European politics, nobody is smart.

What now?

What I said in the last sentence is probably wrong. Policy makers at Belgian and European level are probably smart, but sadly their interests are not aligned with those of their populations, and their statements thus can seem dumb to the educated public. Indeed, I do not consider myself an incredibly great political or terror expert, but I see that the statements and policies taken by the Belgian authorities and the European Union are flawed and doomed to fail. Well… fail in the sense of the interests of the general population, of course, not in the sense of their interests.


The populations of Europe want cheap oil, for sure, but they want peace and stability even more. As long as the policies pursued by the European Union put the priority of domination of the Middle Eastern oil resources (in co-operation with NATO and the US) above the well-being of the populations of those countries, terrorism will not stop. So let’s be smart for a minute: what are possible solutions for terrorism?

As for every criminal action, society typically has two ways of preventing them:

Now in the case of terrorism, we can easily scratch one of these solutions. Indeed the terrorists who perpetrate the crimes already give themselves the worse sentence we have in the Western world: death. They kill themselves with their victims. Obviously, fear of the death penalty will not stop terrorists.

The only other option (if we exclude, of course, barbaric means like torture), is to do prevention. In order to do prevention, we must understand the rationale of the criminals. As is clear by now, the recent terror attacks are supported (at least) or completely organized by ISIS (even though they are perpetrated by European muslims). ISIS is the Nth monster in the Middle East, after decades of horrible wars. Apparently, they’re recruting angry and unstable young men to fight, which are plenty in the region, of course, given the amount of bombs that fell there, and resulting anger in the civilian populations. Their goals are very clear according to Abu Bakr himself: establish a global Islamic Caliphate basically over the entire world (up till “Rome”, by which he probably means the West). The goals have evolved from winning battles and controlling territories, to “run a state with large towns and cities”, as can be read from CNN. This same CNN article then goes on to state that the Paris attacks were a retaliation for the French bombings in Syria. So they want to conquer the world, but first establish a running caliphate in Iraq and Syria, and if we bomb them there, they retaliate.

What do we learn from this? Apparently, François Hollande thinks that we must throw more bombs on Raqqa, and be “merciless” in our response. We will see how the Belgian authorities react, but I don’t expect them to be very “dovish” on the subject either, given our more “conservative” defense ministers recently.

Now, as I said, I’m not an expert, but it seems to me that dropping more bombs will not create the kind of serene environment in the Middle East in which it will be harder for ISIS to recruit terrorists. Maybe after these decades of violence and failed policies in the Middle East it would be time to try another approach…