"The lamps are going out all over Europe, and I doubt we will see them lit again in our lifetimes"
-Sir Edward Grey, 1914
The vote last week in Britain to withdraw from the EU (Brexit) was a victory for ISIS.
It was a victory for Al Qaeda.
It was a victory for terrorism.
At the Hague Congress in 1948, the nations of Western Europe, reeling from the destruction of the Second World War made a decision to change their history. They agreed to find a way to work together. This would culminate in the founding of the EU in 1957 and Britain's decision to join in 1973.
This was a remarkably brave move, a decision to break with more than 1500 years of history and regional warfare. It was a noble experiment.
What drove the creation of the EU, more than anything else, was the shattering trauma of two World Wars that between 1914 and 1945 had killed more than 100 million Europeans and left almost all of its major cities in smoldering ruins.
Nothing in American history like this has ever happened. Nothing in anyone's history like it had ever happened before. The combination of 'total war' and machinery of mass destruction effectively destroyed Europe. The devastation was catastrophic enough to change what had been 1500 years of a history of European nation going to war with other European nations: Britain against France, France against Germany, Britain against Spain, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, The Netherlands.. on and on, year after year, century after century.
Finally, after 1914-1945 the Europeans collectively said, 'never again'; from now on, we are all Europeans first and foremost.
Now, Britain has walked away from that idea.
The execution of that idea may have been flawed (what is not?), it may have had its problems (what does not?), but they pale in comparison what what European history and been for 1500 years prior to it.
Generals and politicians have always made the mistake of fighting the last war. Brexit is no exception.
It has been and remains the goal of fundamentalist Islamic terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda to destroy the west.
They don't have the weapons of the manpower to do it. What they have is fear, and they are exceptionally good a using it. Call it terror. This is what real terrorism is. The goal of terrorism is not to cut off a few heads or torture a few people or shoot up a few public spaces, frightening thought that is. The goal of terrorism is to terrorize a people or a nation into destroying themselves. It is asymmetrical warfare at its best. It doesn't need armies. Like judo, it turns a people into their own worst enemy.
The vote for Brexit, the vote to walk away from, and start the process of destroying a unified Europe is terrorism at its best.
The ill advised Bush invasion of Iraq precipitated both ISIS and Al Qaeda. ISIS and Al Qaeda precipitated, by their own actions, the exodus of nearly a million refugees headed for Europe, a bastion of security and liberalism, in the best sense of the word.
It was the very fear of those refugees, of the foreign, of a 'Muslim invasion' that more than anything else drove the surprising Brexit vote in Britain and now has set in motion a chain of events that may well lead to the fractionalization of all of Europe and the end of the great European experiment itself. It wasn't about 'bendy bananas'.
Well done ISIS. Well done Al Qaeda. Brilliant move.
What Al Qaeda and ISIS could never have accomplished from their relatively small bases in Iraq and Syria they may very well have now started to achieve, not through 'operatives' infiltrated into Britain, but rather though the British themselves, and ironically, the people who though they were most opposed to terrorism. The irony is painful.
The departure of Britain from the EU will certainly have economic consequences; Scotland may now leave the UK; the UK may in fact be shattered; France, Italy, the Netherlands and others may now begin thinking about leaving the EU as well. Nationalism and localism and fear begin to reign supreme. Donald Trump looks more and more like a possibility in the US. The influence of Putin and China have been expanded exponentially.
The terror is real and it is among us.
"You have nothing to fear but fear itself", FDR told the nation in 1932.
There are no FDRs today, and we are all very much afraid.