The news that the Eiffel Tower had been closed for a bomb threat gave me a bit of concern as we prepared to board our flight for Paris in early October. We were on the last leg of a two-week trip to Europe and looking forward to spending a few days in France's capital city seeing some of its world-famous sights.
A few days earlier, French police responded to a bomb threat by closing the symbol of the city. On the same day a public transportation hub was closed when an unattended package was sighted.
Warnings issued for European travel
On Oct. 3, 2010, the U.S. government issued a warning for Americans traveling to Europe to be "vigilant." Intelligence forces had determined that al-Qaeda was planning attacks on European cities similar to those carried out in Mumbai, India, in November 2008. There attackers invaded hotels frequented by Westerners, and it took three days to repel them—after massive loss of life.
While this warning contained nothing specific—and it came short of advising Americans not to travel to Europe—it nonetheless gave me, as I mentioned, a bit of concern and raised my level of situational awareness a little higher. While traveling in and around Paris over the next few days, I did observe security personnel in the tourist locations, and I did keep a sharper eye out for anything suspicious.
While it pays to be alert while traveling, there will most likely be little we can do to avert any well-planned terrorist operation. Security experts know there is not much they can do to prevent a determined group from mounting a terror attack.
Having been in an international city when terrorists struck (suicide bombers blew themselves up in three hotels near where I was staying in Amman, Jordan, in November 2005), I know from personal experience that there is little you can do other than react.
Facing an impossible challenge
These recent warnings reflect the dilemma that governments face as they combat terrorism. First, while they are extremely vigilant to target groups and questionable individuals, it is impossible to monitor and control all behavior. Determined terrorists will find a way to evade detection. You cannot monitor everyone at all times. People will slip through the net.
Second, when officials find and detain a terrorist operative, they can often extract valuable information about impending attacks. But they have to be careful in how they use that information. To reveal all they know could end the flow of information. To be too specific in a public warning will let terrorist groups know they are being monitored. That is why we often hear only general warnings without the specifics. Governments do not always reveal all they know, but they have a duty to inform the public.
Since the 9/11 hijackers crashed jets into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, we have seen smaller attacks and attempted attacks, but nothing on the scale of that day. No doubt that is in part because of the increased vigilance of world governments to hunt down terrorist operations at the source and wherever they spread. The nine years of intense vigilance has worked to a considerable degree.
But security experts know that it's an impossible task to prevent any and all terrorist operations. It would require watching millions of people and the ability to monitor every meeting of a group of people bent on planning a terrorist strike. Again, this is impossible. No one, not even the United States, can police the world in this manner.
The key to winning the war on terror is to change the radical ideology that drives it. No one has the solution for this monumental task. So the threat of attack remains, and governments must be vigilant.
Terror threat to France and Europe
French officials know they are overdue for an attack. It has been five years since the riots in Marseille, in the south of France, highlighted the growing divide between Muslim immigrants and the French.
The French government has recently placed a ban on some clothing worn by Muslim women. The ban pertains to the burka, a full-body covering that includes a mesh screen over the face, and the niqab, a full-face veil that leaves an opening only for the eyes.
French courts have upheld the law, supported by the French public by a margin of 4 to 1. Women will be fined if they break the law when it goes into effect next spring. Many suspect this law will provoke unrest, possibly even an attack by Muslims or a terrorist group. France has about 3.5 million Muslims, totaling about 6 percent of its population.
Stratfor, a global intelligence company, has recently assessed the threat to Europe and the United States and concluded that further attacks are inevitable, with accompanying loss of innocent life.
An article on Stratfor's website titled "Terrorism, Vigilance and the Limits of War on Terror" (Oct. 5, 2010) states: "The United States and Europe are going to be attacked by jihadist terrorists from time to time, and innocent people are going to be killed, perhaps in the thousands again. The United States and its allies can minimize the threat through covert actions and strong defenses, but they cannot eliminate it . . .
"[They] are therefore dealing with a threat that cannot be stopped by their actions. The only conceivably effective actions would be those taken by Muslim governments, and even those are unlikely to be effective. There is a deeply embedded element within a small segment of the Islamic world that is prepared to conduct terror attacks, and this element will occasionally be successful."
The report goes on to say that Western nations will have to live with the terrorist threat for several years to come and that America's focus on the threat will leave it vulnerable in other critical areas.
The article concludes: "The United States and the West in general cannot focus all of its power on solving a problem that is beyond its power to solve. The long war against terrorism will not be the only war fought in the coming years. The threat of jihadism must be put in perspective and the effort aligned with what is effective. The world is a dangerous place, as they say, and jihadism is only one of the dangers."
This threat to Europe from radical Islam is not to be ignored. When—not if—an attack happens, it will trigger a reaction from key nations that could set in motion what is sometimes called "unintended consequences."
Unassimilated immigrants a growing problem
France is not the only nation with a large Muslim population that has not integrated into European culture. The Netherlands is facing a similar crisis (see "Eurabia: A Voice Cries Out in Defense of Europe's Heritage " in the November-December 2010 Good News).
In mid-October German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech addressing the problem of multiculturalism in Germany. Germany has had decades of immigration from Muslim countries. They came in the 1960s to provide workers for the postwar economic boom. Although many stayed, they did not blend into German culture. Many of these foreigners do not speak the native language adequately, lack many skills and have become a drain on the country's welfare system. Some politicians are calling for policies that would force immigrants to assimilate into German culture.
Chancellor Merkel's outspoken comments highlighted what many feel.
"This is a country that brought guest workers to Germany in the 1960s," she said. "For a while, we kidded ourselves into believing that they wouldn't stay and would leave. Naturally, the notion that we would become 'multiculti,' that we would live next to one another and be happy about one another, failed" ("Merkel Enters Immigration Fray," The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 18, 2010).
The fear in Germany, as with other European countries, is based on the decline of the native birthrate and the rise of the immigrant birthrate. If the trend continues, in a few years immigrants, primarily Muslim immigrants, will outnumber native populations and dominate culture and politics. With 80 million people, Germany is Europe's largest nation. But it has a very low birthrate. Immigration and the growing Islamization of Germany is a serious issue of discussion.
Catalyst for future events
The historic clash between the East and West has its front line in Europe. In the eighth century the armies of Islam, having overrun North Africa, swept up into Europe, conquering Spain and pushing into France before being defeated by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in 732. Martel's grandson, Charlemagne, came to rule over much of Central Europe as a powerful Christian king who forged a bulwark against further encroachment. The pope and the Catholic Church lent support to ensure the boundaries were maintained.
In the 16th century the armies of the Ottoman Empire under Süleyman the Magnificent conquered areas of Central Europe, sacking Budapest in 1526 and twice trying to breach the walls of Vienna before being turned back. More than once in history, armies have come from the south attempting to conquer Europe.
Radical Islam has a plan to drive Western military personnel and the influence of Western culture from the Middle East. Other areas where the foot of Islam once trod are still considered part of their world. Spain, which they called and still call "al-Andalus," was for centuries a Muslim domain. In the minds of al-Qaeda commanders, Madrid lies in Muslim territory. Whole sections of Europe, including Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia and Croatia, were once Muslim lands. Radical Islamic leaders would like to see them returned to the fold.
The mix of radical attacks and millions of unassimilated Muslim immigrants throughout Europe pose a potential catalyst for yet future events that could set the stage for one of Bible prophecy's key events.
The push from the south
Daniel 11 describes an attack in the end time from "the king of the South" against "the king of the North." This is clearly understood from history and the Bible to be forces coming from the present-day Middle East against modern Europe. History follows along prophetic pathways, and this future event will trigger key end-time movements leading to the return of Jesus Christ. Our booklet The Middle East in Bible Prophecy explains the details of this future event.
An attack by radical elements coupled with the fears generated by an unassimilated foreign population could lead to larger reactions from an as-yet-to-arise political force in Europe.
The stage is being set, and for years we have followed what we believe to be our duty in discussing this scenario in this publication. Europe will not continue to sit by and idly watch its future be threatened by an outside power. Historically, Europe eventually moves with force when threatened, even when it is divided by religion and politics and competing ideologies.
The 16th century saw Europe divided religiously by the Protestant Reformation and unable to act to prevent the loss of land to the Ottoman Empire. But it eventually came together to draw a line and to push back the threat of domination. Religion and political forces inevitably unite to preserve their culture.
Though present-day Europe has achieved a measure of political and economic unity in the EU, it is still not a union that can act decisively to project full political or military power beyond its boundaries. That can change when outside forces raise the threat to an unacceptable level. Forces can be unleashed to bring a yet unseen union together, thus creating a major geopolitical power to be reckoned with. It is, again, the matter of "unintended consequences."
That is why we pay attention to even the small threats of possible terrorist attacks. It is good to be vigilant to safeguard your immediate welfare as well as to see the larger picture these events are drawing. GN