Last week’s two terrorist attacks were of the meanest nature – vehicles ploughing into groups of harmless, unsuspecting tourists – and have sent shock waves not only through Catalonia and Spain, but through Europe at large. Unfolding under our very eyes is the absurdest, cruelest version of asymmetrical warfare, of warfare where the civilian in his or her most relaxed state, the tourist, has become not only the main, but the sole target.
So far, no doubt has surfaced regarding the ‘Islamic State’s’ (IS) claim for responsibility, at least for the Barcelona attack. With dwindling IS relevance on the ground in Iraq and Syria, terror in Europe and elsewhere becomes the only way for IS to get back into the limelight. Earlier attacks were meant to punish the target countries, e.g., for their involvement in military action in the Middle East. The terror in Spain, where politicians made a point of not participating in the anti-IS coalition, deviates from that strategy.
As we know from IS’s strategic documents, one of its objectives is to incite religious and cultural hatred on the European continent. With the loss of territory in the Middle East, the dream of a clash of civilisations as a cleansing mechanism will become the one bond that keeps IS together. However, that conception, sick in itself as it is, contains a serious mistake: while civilisations exist indeed, the ‘Islamic State’ is none. Terrorists are non-civilised per se, whatever holy book they claim to base their acts upon.
If there is one consolation in the sea of sorrow after attacks such as last week in Spain, it is: civilisation is not threatened, be it Christian, secular, or Islamic. Not by the hands of terrorists who have nothing to offer but death and annihilation.