Western Europe for decades has been very peaceful in comparison with most other parts of the world; homicide rates for Britain, France and Germany are among the lowest of any countries in the world. In fact one of the main reasons people flee from war-torn countries to Western Europe is because it is so stable and safe alongside the obvious higher standard of living. Without a doubt Europe is the safest continent in the world with increased collaboration between intelligent services making it safer and more prepared to react to acts of terrorism.
The recent attacks that have divided the continent are unlikely be the last we see on European soil however intelligent services must and will learn how to prevent such events from re-occurring. This is however no consolation to those who have been, or who could have been, or who knew or loved, the victims of the attacks on civilians that have made Europe a fearful place in the recent year. Nevertheless we must not allow those victims to die or be injured in vain; we must use each attack to gain a tactical advantage over those who wish to divide us. To gather intelligence of how and why these terrorists have chosen to carry out such barbaric attacks on innocent civilians is the only way in which we can gain an insight into the motivations of such individuals; with each piece of intelligence building a solution to combating radicalisation. The harsh reality is that the terrorists have been one step ahead of our intelligent services – the terrorists appear to be winning.
All attacks raise genuine concerns about personal safety as well as highlight the fact that they are so random, never directly provoked by the victims, except in the psychosis of the attacker. This creates an attitude of blame, do we blame the intelligent services for not detecting such attack or do we blame the attacker. The answer is we blame the attacker who without a doubt firstly wants to divide public opinion as well as kill as many innocent civilians as possible.
We must recognise that attacks are also nuanced by the fact that the countries in which such attacks take place have such different traditions and moods. With France, under a politically weak president is battling, a secular republican ethos and its recent military interventions in Africa that has divided public opinion; fuelling the fight-right movement. France has also suffered a succession of terrorist attacks including the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan assaults – in which intelligence service have appeared weak and unable to react to the threat. By contrast Germany has a generally trusted chancellor, has kept out of military interventions, has a tradition of tolerance, though not a good record on integration, and operated a temporary open-door approach to refugees and migrants at the height of the Syrian crisis – which like France divided public opinion and fuelled the far-right movement.
Yet the threat of a mass casualty terrorist attack is perceived to be a common one; in some respects rightly. Citizens in Europe, including in Britain, will look at a shopping mall shooting, a sudden attack on a train or a murderous truck assault and imagine such things happening in their communities too. That is why, while keeping these threats in perspective, governments have to take necessary preventive measures to prevent similar attacks taking place on their citizens.
Understandably many will feel anxious about going to places that appear to be potential targets for future terrorist attacks in Britain or in European counties. This fear of a terrorist attack taking place in our communities is genuine, I have no doubts that an a attack will take place in Britain however by preventing yourself from carrying out your normal day to day life you allow those who wish to divide us, truly divide us.