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Jihadists Using Refugee Flows?

Walter Russell Mead

Evidence accumulating that jihadi groups, including the one that planned the Paris attacks, are using the migration of hundreds of thousands of refugees to cover their own movements. The New York Times reports:

The investigation into the Paris terrorist attacks, previously focused on jihadist networks in France and Belgium, has widened to Eastern Europe, with a Belgian federal prosecutor announcing Friday that one of the people suspected of terrorism traveled in September by car to Hungary, where he picked up two men now believed to have links to the carnage of Nov. 13.

The disclosure of a Hungarian connection has not only dramatically expanded the scope of the investigation but has also put a spotlight on the question of whether jihadist militants have concealed themselves in a huge flow of asylum seekers passing through Eastern Europe.

A statement issued by the Belgian federal prosecutor on Friday said that Salah Abdeslam, a former Brussels resident who is the only known survivor from three terrorist squads that killed 130 people in Paris, had made two trips to the Hungarian capital, Budapest, in a rented Mercedes-Benz a few weeks before the Paris attacks.

On a drive back to Western Europe on Sept. 9, he was stopped during a routine check at Hungary’s border with Austria and found to be transporting two men using what have since turned out to be “fake Belgian identity cards.”

Europe, which just a few years ago thought that it inhabited a post-historical universe in which nothing could ever go seriously wrong, is painfully waking up from the dream. It’s now crystal clear that one can’t combine a passive foreign policy with a legalistic adherence to absolutist ideals—that, for example, one can turn a blind eye to a disintegrating Middle East and North Africa while opening the gates to every refugee and migrant that the meltdown creates.

Not far behind this lurks the realization that a cosmopolitan and tolerant society can’t thrive if it admits millions of migrants who hate and despise cosmopolitan values. Still obscure to most European elites (and to their American counterparts) is the understanding that neither the values nor the liberties of liberal civilization can long flourish if the religious and spiritual foundations of that civilization are allowed to decay, and are treated with scorn and neglect by society’s leaders.

Today’s Western elites, in the U.S. as much as in Europe, have never been so self-confident. Products of meritocratic selection who hold key positions in the social machine, the bien-pensant custodians of post-historical ideology—editorial writers at the NY Times, staffers in cultural and educational bureaucracies, Eurocratic functionaries, much of the professoriat, the human rights priesthood and so on—are utterly convinced that they see farther and deeper than the less credentialed, less educated, less tolerant and less sophisticated knuckle-dragging also-rans outside the magic circle of post historical groupthink.

And while the meritocratic priesthood isn’t wrong about everything—and the knuckle-draggers aren’t right about everything—there are a few big issues on which the priests are dead wrong and the knuckle-draggers know it. Worse, as the mass of the people become more aware that the elites are too blind and too wrapped up in the coils of elite ideology to deal effectively with society’s most urgent problems, an age of demagogues is opening up around us. People need leaders; when the meritocratic priesthood seems incapable of providing leadership, people start looking elsewhere.

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