This last Friday marked the 2nd week since the terrorist attack in Paris that killed 130 people, injured hundreds more, and shocked the world.
Terrorism is a complex, multifaceted issue that I hope to share my thoughts about over probably many posts. For now I just wanted to share my hope that international response, both foreign and domestic, is not overly reactionary.
I am not necessarily opposed to attacking the perpetrators of these disgusting acts, nor am I opposed to strengthening domestic security. In fact I always believed much of the money spent on Iraq could’ve been put to much better use here beefing up our security. However, we should not be overly zealous to go into war, nor should we turn away people, wall off our countries or cave to forces of xenophobia, racism and discrimination, (especially on religion).
For foreign policy, it’s best to say for now I feel there is a very cyclical nature to these acts. This barely scratches the surface of all there is too discuss, but I think it’s helpful to look at this chart recently put out by The Economist, noting global deaths from terrorism since 2000. Deaths from terrorism in Iraq were virtually non existent before 2003, then takes off and builds to 2007, tapering off afterwards. The global numbers follow this trend.
I find this quite intriguing, and it should be noted that while ISIS really took off in the aftermath of US withdrawal from Iraq, it existed, (with a different name) before 9/11 even happened, and conducted suicide attacks in Iraq as early as 2003. Despite the fact ISIS and Al Qaeda have a rivalous nature now, (what was an earlier form of) ISIS originally pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda. Are both groups just separate arms of the same monster?
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks I saw comments about how we need to be angry not sad, and how this is a war on the West, or even civilization itself. That we must fight back, defend ourselves in this war. While I understand the knee jerk reaction, we, as civilized society, can’t proceed in such a manner. That is not what we’re supposed to do. The slow, often frustrating, rational and methodical methods we use were founded to hold down baser urges and to behave with thought and planning. To not behave based on anger, vengeance and impulse. It’s what makes a civilized society.
It also must be noted that terrorism wants a fight. They want to war with us. They believe we’re in a clash of civilizations. We should be very wary of potentially giving in to what they want.
This is also why we can’t abandon “Western ideals” on the home front. There have been a plethora of comments about how to proceed, including stopping all immigration and choosing refugees based on religion. I am not saying we can’t look into more stringent checks and security, including more international sharing of info, but stronger safeguards doesn’t mean closing off the borders. In fact, I feel if we are truly proud of our civilization we must uphold it, with even more support, when times are difficult.
This is why, difficult and painful as it may be, breaking the cycle, will probably have to be initiated by us. How? This can be discussed in a future time, but for now I simply say it will likely have to be us, civilized society, who starts the process of breaking the cycle, even if it’s not what feels right in the gut.
This is how civilization should defend itself.