Our attention has been focused on Paris. But Brussels is the bigger story. Brussels exemplifies more than does Paris how a very small, generally weak minority is able to bring a very large, generally strong majority to its knees.
Brussels is not just another European city. It is large – the greater Brussels area has some 1.8 million inhabitants. It is the political, economic, and cultural hub of Belgium. It is headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). And, perhaps most importantly, certainly symbolically, the city is home to several of the European Union’s (EU) most important institutions. Brussels is considered the capital of the EU.
The fact that the authorities thought it prudent to shut down the entire city – metro, museums, malls, cafes, cinemas, every single space and place where people naturally congregate – is a stunning, even stupefying sign of the times. What happened in Bamako was obviously a tragedy. What did not happen in Brussels was less obviously a calamity.