[Abdullatif Al-Mannai] On the matter of terrorism: Brussels


“The intention and motivation of any terrorist action is to ensure panic and psychological trauma” (Kelshall, 2015). Such effects have occurred in Brussels on Tuesday 22 March 2016 as “twin explosions in the departure hall of Brussels Airport prompted several countries worldwide to review or tighten airport security after ISIS claimed responsibility for the explosions which killed 30 people” (Reuters, 2016). In response to the explosions “Brussels authorities . . . shut down public transportation systems. Across Europe, airports from Rome to Frankfurt to Paris were put on high alert. Trains from Paris to Brussels also were canceled, and unconfirmed reports said the border between France and Belgium was closed” (Foreign Policy, 2016).

Furthermore, “the coordinated assault triggered security alerts across (the rest of)       Europe and drew global expressions of support, four days after Brussels police had captured the prime surviving suspect in Islamic State’s attacks on Paris last November” (Reuters, 2016). The issue here is not that the bombing occurred because of the arrest but that it happened despite it (Lawfare, 2016). That is not to say that the security measures in Belgium were a failure rather that it was either the attacks that were unprecedented, or the attackers themselves. Similar to the attacks on Paris in November 2015, the bombings were coordinated by hybrid attackers whose main objective is to cause said panic and trauma. This causes not only issues of security but stability as well (Kelshall and Dittmar, 2015).

The Mayor of Brussels, Ivan Mayeur, stated in a press conference “this is an attack against our values, our freedom, and our democracy . . . we won’t let anyone attack our values in a cowardly way” (Al Jazeera, 2016). Through this speech act, he is securitizing the core values of Western liberal democracies. What occurs as a result is a shift in the state’s role in relation to organized violence as it becomes more vocal due to its experience. All the while a process of localization of the Western identity occurs in liberal democracies – that of Belgium and at the same time other Western liberal democracies because of their shared structure. What happened in Brussels could occur in other European states; a prime example would be the collective response to the refugee crisis or the response to Britain’s attempt to leave the European Union. Theoretically it causes division and disintegration with those that share differing identities and therefore lead to domestic conflicts.

According to Kaldor (2012, p. 205), globalization has had a major impact on this shift; although it can be perceived to bring the demise of the state it is actually causing it to transform as evidenced by its reaction. Using a post-structuralist perspective, we may be able to find the cause of the attack; especially when considering the genealogy of the event. It may easily be pointed out as stemming from religious or cultural differences – as far-right politicians in America have done (Salon, 2016) – however, Kaldor (2012, p.186) highlights the significance of the transnationalization of military power in the Post-Cold War period and the promulgation of the ‘War on Terror as being major influences towards the proliferation of violent behaviour due to their failure in achieving global pacification. In the most basic sense, it has now become easier to both make enemies out of anyone and to have access to the capabilities (weaponry) of destroying the perceived threat. In essence, the issue is multilayered and more complex than just another terrorist attack; the reason is because of the territory that the attack occurred in as well as the threat this poses on its allies.



Al Jazeera. (2016) Brussels attacks: Manhunt on for airport suspect. Available from: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/03/explosions-hit-brussels-zaventem-airport-160322072734305.html [Accessed: 22 March 2016].

Kelshall, C. and Dittmar, V. (2015) Hybrid Terrorism strikes Paris. Available from: http://www.bisconia.com/magazine/lite-bite/c-kelshall-and-v-dittmar-hybrid-terrorism-strikes-paris/ [Accesed: 22 March 2016].

Foreign Policy. (2016) Deadly Blasts Shock Brussels After Islamic State Militant’s Arrest. Available from: http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/03/22/deadly-blasts-shock-brussels-after-islamic-state-militants-arrest/ [Accessed: 22 March 2016].

Kaldor, M. (2012) New and Old Wars. 3rd Ed. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Kelshall, C. (2015) Hybrid terror heralds the dawn of a new phase of warfare. Available from: http://www.bisconia.com/magazine/lite-bite/candyce-kelshall-new-dawn-of-terror/ [Accessed: 22 March 2016].

Lawfare. (2016) Something is Going Wrong with International Counterterrorism Efforts: Quick Take After Brussels Attacks. Available from: https://www.lawfareblog.com/something-going-wrong-international-counterterrorism-efforts-quick-take-after-brussels-attacks [Accessed: 22 March 2016].

Reuters. (2016) Brussels attacks stir debate over airport security. Available from: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-belgium-blast-airport-security-idUSKCN0WO26R?mod=related&channelName=worldNews [Accessed: 22 March 2016].

Reuters. (2016) Islamic State claims Brussels suicide attacks, killing at least 30. Available from: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-belgium-blast-idUSKCN0WO0LB [Accessed: 22 March 2016].

Salon. (2016) After Brussels, far-right Islamophobes are doing exactly what ISIS wants them to do: threatening the “gray zone”. Available from: http://www.salon.com/2016/03/22/after_brussels_far_right_islamophobes_are_doing_exactly_what_isis_wants_them_to_do_threatening_the_gray_zone/ [Accessed: 22 March 2016].


Featured image: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-35869985


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