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From Raqqa To Rome, Only Clarity Of Purpose Can Defeat ISIS

In Brussels, the jihadists have again shown they have a plan, which extends from the Middle East to the heart of Europe. The West must urgently get one of its own.

Italian military on high alert in Rome
Italian military on high alert in Rome
Maurizio Molinari*


TURIN — In Brussels, just like in Paris before — Europe is under attack. A well-trained commando of followers of the caliphate of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State (ISIS), developed a minutely detailed plan to strike and cause the greatest possible number of civilian casualties, unleashing chaos and pointedly revealing the inability of local security forces to defend their territory. It's a guerrilla tactic that originates in the jihadist training camps of the caliphate, in Syrian and Iraqi territories, and it reveals the creation of a kind of "Ministry of Foreign Operations" in Raqqa, capable of issuing orders and following operations at a distance. It also suggests that a campaign of attacks against European cities is already well underway.

ISIS is a bloodthirsty, adaptable adversary, because it's capable of adjusting its combat methods to different battlegrounds. In the desert, it relies on small groups of fighters to control resources and communication channels, eluding enemy raids. In the West, it goes after major cities with assault groups capable of using various types of arms, because in these cities they have an abundance of targets — namely, civilians.

The jihadist campaign against our cities has three goals.

First: to incite ISIS followers and thereby multiply the number of recruits in Europe; that is, to reinforce the terrorist cells operating within Europe's Muslim community, which by and large has not been contaminated by the caliphate's totalitarian ideology.

Second: to demonstrate in the Middle East and North Africa that ISIS is the most powerful jihadist organization, and so convince rivals and adversaries from within the fundamentalist galaxy to submit to its authority, over that of organizations such as al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Third: to terrify Europeans, governments and citizens alike, pushing them into a feeling of helplessness and weakness that will pave the way for the scenario the jihadists so fervently desire — that is, the economic and human sacking of the Old Continent.

If on Sept. 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden attacked America to try to force the West to leave Islamic territories, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is pursuing the apolitical project of a jihadist caliphate that can ultimately subjugate Europe — Rome included — to avenge the fall of Constantinople.

ISIS documents, videos and testimonies offer a treasure of information, almost always accessible online, that allows us to see the shocking clarity of the caliphate's terror project. Such clarity of intent clashes with the confusion that rules our democracies as a group.

For nearly two years, Europe and the United States have been fighting a listless and disorganized war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. In Africa, they've left the initiative to jihadists in Libya and Mali. And on the home front, they're divided over security policies that in the best of cases are uncoordinated, and in the worst of cases are directly in contrast with one another. This allows the jihadists to have more means and opportunities to strike in a borderless battleground. That's why democracies need a new coalition to face and fight the singular totalitarian adversary of the 21st century.

The precedents from the last century hint at the right path to follow: We must come to an agreement over the definition of our enemy, to understand it inside and out and then adopt a security doctrine capable of defeating it.

To fight against the caliphate with last century's arsenal of ideas, strategies and arms would only condemn us to enduring other massacres. Right now, our united democracies seem devoid of politicians capable of taking on such a challenge, but history teaches us that it is often crises and wars that shape the next generations of leaders.

*Maurizio Molinari is La Stampa"s editor-in-chief

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What's Spoiling The Kids: The Big Tech v. Bad Parenting Debate

Without an extended family network, modern parents have sought to raise happy kids in a "hostile" world. It's a tall order, when youngsters absorb the fears (and devices) around them like a sponge.

Image of a kid wearing a blue striped sweater, using an ipad.

Children exposed to technology at a very young age are prominent today.

Julián de Zubiría Samper


BOGOTÁ — A 2021 report from the United States (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that 42% of the country's high-school students persistently felt sad and 22% had thought about suicide. In other words, almost half of the country's young people are living in despair and a fifth of them have thought about killing themselves.

Such chilling figures are unprecedented in history. Many have suggested that this might be the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but sadly, we can see depression has deeper causes, and the pandemic merely illustrated its complexity.

I have written before on possible links between severe depression and the time young people spend on social media. But this is just one aspect of the problem. Today, young people suffer frequent and intense emotional crises, and not just for all the hours spent staring at a screen. Another, possibly more important cause may lie in changes to the family composition and authority patterns at home.

Firstly: Families today have fewer members, who communicate less among themselves.

Young people marry at a later age, have fewer children and many opt for personal projects and pets instead of having children. Families are more diverse and flexible. In many countries, the number of children per woman is close to or less than one (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong among others).

In Colombia, women have on average 1.9 children, compared to 7.6 in 1970. Worldwide, women aged 15 to 49 years have on average 2.4 children, or half the average figure for 1970. The changes are much more pronounced in cities and among middle and upper-income groups.

Of further concern today is the decline in communication time at home, notably between parents and children. This is difficult to quantify, but reasons may include fewer household members, pervasive use of screens, mothers going to work, microwave ovens that have eliminated family cooking and meals and, thanks to new technologies, an increase in time spent on work, even at home. Our society is addicted to work and devotes little time to minors.

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