The Current Dilemma of the West

By: Dipak Krishnan, Contributor



The recent attack in Mali on the Radisson Blu Hotel claimed the lives of at least 21 people in an assault in Bamako, the capital city. This vicious attack, coupled with the Paris attacks, has turned the world’s attention towards solving the terror problem. This has rightfully raised the question, how can democratic societies successfully prevent Islamic extremists from carrying out these types of carefully planned and executed shootings?

After the horror of the Paris attacks, what has become apparent is that our safety and security can change in a single second. When we live in America, a comparatively much safer environment where shootings and attacks like these are mainly just happenings on the news that will never reach us, we become desensitized to the scope of the problem. 

Amid the current refugee crisis are the thousands upon thousands of refugees from Syria and Iraq and the Presidential race, which has candidates, almost exclusively GOP candidates, proposing radical, xenophobic and far-right policies that would jeopardize the state of the world we know. American Presidential candidates like Donald Trump have proposed a ‘database’ or a government registry for all the Muslims in the country, an idea that harkens back to when the Nazis had Jews register themselves with the government, making it easier for the Nazi leadership to perpetrate the crimes committed during the Holocaust.

Trump backtracked from his comments but his quick acceptance of cataloguing data on a certain ethnic or religious group was worrying. Likewise, Ben Carson compared some Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs” and questioned the acceptance of refugees. While the attacks have instilled fear in the American populace and people around the world, that fear must not manifest itself in xenophobia, as it has in some European countries.

In Sweden, political parties like the Swedish Democrats have been gaining traction for their anti-refugee policies that are increasing backlash. The Swedish Democrats now garner about 25.2% of the country’s support. A similar trend is apparent in Hungary and even more broadly, across Europe, making it more difficult for countries to hold off far-right opponents who have pledged to clamp down on the immigrant flow from the Middle East. But does that far-right viewpoint of keeping the refugees out to preserve the safety of everyone else actually have any merit?

There’s no hard evidence that any of the Paris attackers were refugees or posed as refugees to get into Europe. Yet, increasingly, that becomes the choice democratic societies face: keep all refugees out or increase the chances of a horrible terror attack happening again. The middle ground calls for increasing background checks on the refugees to decrease the possibility of extremists entering. However, there’s no guarantee of flawless results with this approach and terrorists would, theoretically, be able to evade capture while crossing borders. The specific type of shooting attack that is now much more prevalent now requires only a few perpetrators to construct the plan, heightening the danger around us because it doesn’t require the mass planning of other actions.

The US, the UK ,and other democratic societies across the world have intelligence agencies that employ the best technology, allowing them broad ranges of influence. But clearly, the increased connectivity of the world has made the job of Islamic terrorists much easier. They can radicalize young Muslims through the Internet and extend their spheres of influence. Even worse, young American or European citizens can travel to Syria and Iraq, receive training, and then come back to their home countries and execute the terror plots. There’s no denying we are in an extremely precarious position right now. The decisions regarding terror, containing the violence, and extinguishing the problem in the Middle East will surely capture the focus of the world’s leaders. In the meantime, we have to be cognizant of the problem that surrounds us while also realizing that the actions of a few do not make all Muslims responsible for the barbaric acts of terrorist groups like ISIS or Al-Qaeda.