One of the major distinctions pundits made between Al Qaeda and ISIS until recently is that the latter was not as fixated on the “far enemy” (the West) as the former. That seems born out by the evidence of their behavior, focusing on conquests in the Levant and Iraq, as well as ideological arguments (e.g., What ISIS Really Wants). The New York Times now seems to be making the case that that was all wrong, How ISIS Built the Machinery of Terror Under Europe’s Gaze:
For much of 2012 and 2013, the jihadist group that eventually became the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, was putting down roots in Syria. Even as the group began aggressively recruiting foreigners, especially Europeans, policy makers in the United States and Europe continued to see it as a lower-profile branch of Al Qaeda that was mostly interested in gaining and governing territory.
“All of the signals were there,” said Michael S. Smith II, a counterterrorism analyst whose firm, Kronos Advisory, began briefing the United States government in 2013 on ISIS’ aspirations to strike Europe. “For anyone paying attention, these signals became deafening by mid-2014.”
In June of 2015 The New York Times wrote about the decapitation:
… Mr. Cazeneuve emphasized that while Mr. Salhi was known to have links to Salafists, he was not believed to have links with terrorist groups.
There was no indication that Mr. Salhi was aligned with the Islamic State….
Basically the media became a telegraph service for craven politicians who didn’t want to face the crisis. I observed that The New York Times recently referred to Molenbeek as a “fifth column.” That sort of language is something that politicians and the media try to avoid, both for prudential and ideological reasons. When these “isolated” attacks occurred a few years ago the conservative press ridiculed the characterizations of the politicians and the media. It turns out that they were right, and The New York Times is admitting it. This should give us even more pause in accepting the “analysis” of the established outlets. When the evidence is confronting them this starkly they’ve had to fess up that they weren’t scratching below the surface, and perhaps even had become a cat’s-paw in the toolkit of the political class. Though I will credit The New York Times that there has been a change of direction internally when you allow Muslim communities in the West to be characterized as a possible “fifth column.” Unfortunately in Molenbeek’s case that seems operationally correct, and the evidence was too strong to obfuscate for reasons of political and ideological expedience.