The Wall Street Journal reports: In less than two weeks, Western Europe has witnessed the calm of everyday life repeatedly shattered by high-profile, indiscriminate acts of savagery, raising the sense that violence is becoming a new normal.
After the Bastille Day massacre in Nice, then an ax attack on a German train and a shooting spree in Munich, the list of violent acts grew again on Sunday not once, but twice. One Syrian asylum-seeker allegedly hacked a woman to death with a machete in southern Germany; police said it didn’t appear connected to terrorism. Then another Syrian asylum-seeker detonated a bomb outside a concert in Ansbach, killing himself and injuring others.
The motives and circumstances of each attack were different, but the string of violence has thrown Germany — until last week, mostly untouched by the terror that has struck its neighbors — into high alert, assured France will remain in a state of emergency through year’s end and poured fuel on an already contentious debate about Europe’s migration crisis and its security.
Friday’s attack in Munich was committed by Ali David Sonboly, an 18-year-old believed to have been in psychiatric care. He had taken an interest in mass killers such as Anders Behring Breivik, the right-wing terrorist who killed 77 people in Norway exactly five years before.
The Munich attack would be an exception in a year when Islamic State has either directed or inspired most of the terror attacks in Europe. The extremist group — which investigators say orchestrated the massacres in Paris and Brussels and inspired the truck attack in Nice — has promoted a particularly brutal form of terrorism: indiscriminate targets in civilian life, with the goal of killing as many people as possible.
That separates today’s violence from terror attacks in the 1970s and 1980s, when militant groups such as The Red Brigades in Italy, the Irish Republican Army, the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany and the Basque separatist group ETA in Spain killed hundreds of people to advance their political goals.
Now the violence is an end in itself, said Raffaello Pantucci, a security expert at the Royal United Services Institute, a think tank in London.
“When they used to hijack a plane, the idea was to swap passengers for some of their imprisoned comrades,” said Mr. Pantucci. “Now, you make a statement through the number of people you kill.”
Experts note that there is a difference between terrorism and mass killings carried out by unstable individuals but say images of one high-profile attack can foment others.
Pathological would-be killers absorb the violence and aggression of these events, potentially driving them to attempt larger acts of violence, says Brice De Ruyver, a professor of criminology at University of Ghent in Belgium. [Continue reading…]