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Monday, November 16, 2015

How to Respond to the Paris Attacks

Look, even authoritarian and totalitarian states can't prevent domestic terrorism. What hope do relatively open societies have? Open societies abound with "soft targets," that is, noncombatants going about their everyday lives. They are easy hits for those determined to inflict harm, especially if the assailants seek to die in the process.

We also know, as U.S. officials acknowledge, that NATO bombing of jihadis boosts recruitment.

So if Americans and Europeans want safer societies, they must discard the old, failed playbook, which has only one play -- more violence -- and adopt a new policy: nonintervention.

But how are we to pursue this saner policy in the face of a determined refusal to understand what happened in Paris?

All too typical was a recent discussion on CNN in which an American-Muslim leader and an English former jihadi debated whether the attacks in Paris are best explained by the marginalization of France's Muslim population or by an "ideology."

Missing was any reference to France's bombing of Syria. (France is Syria's former colonial overlord.)

How could that not have been part of the CNN discussion? The answer cannot be ignorance. Indeed, throughout the weekend the bombing of Syria was often acknowledged on France 24 television. At times the Paris attacks were portrayed as acts of vengeance, however horrifyingly misguided and evil. (While attacks on noncombatants are undeniably evil, we must note that western governments incessantly claim to act on behalf of their people.)

Why do the U.S. media think Americans need not know what the French know? (I won't say America's establishment media never associate jihadi terrorism with revenge, but it's far too infrequent.)

The Islamic State's own statement made clear that the attacks were in response to the French bombing of Syria.
Let France and all nations following its path know that they will continue to be at the top of the target list for the Islamic State and that the scent of death will not leave their nostrils as long as they partake in the crusader campaign, as long as they dare to curse our Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), and as long as they boast about their war against Islam in France and their strikes against Muslims in the lands of the Caliphate with their jets, which were of no avail to them in the filthy streets and alleys of Paris. Indeed, this is just the beginning. It is also a warning for any who wish to take heed.
The New York Times reported that a witness to the Paris violence heard one perpetrator say, "What you are doing in Syria, you are going to pay for it now."

The upshot is that war on Mideast populations will not prevent terrorism against western societies. On the contrary, it will make terrorism more likely because "the action is in the reaction." Indeed, the U.S.-led coalition commits terrorism in the eyes of its victims -- so many of whom are noncombatants. Who can blame them when, for example, the Obama administration has no idea whom it kills with its "signature strikes" by drone? As the New York Times reported,
Every independent investigation of the strikes has found far more civilian casualties than administration officials admit. Gradually, it has become clear that when operators in Nevada fire missiles into remote tribal territories on the other side of the world, they often do not know who they are killing, but are making an imperfect best guess.
That is hardly the way to win hearts and minds. One might be tempted to ask if the foreign-policy elite will ever learn. But if it has no incentive to learn, why should it bother? Has it learned anything from the uninterrupted flow of money and arms to the jihadis from its allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and Turkey? Has Israel's tilt toward the radical Sunnis made any impression?

Finally, just as more war will fail to protect Americans and Europeans, so will further destruction of their liberties fail. Closing these open societies is a bizarre way to answer jihadis. Better to liquidate the self-destructive empire and privatize security. It's often said that "freedom isn't free." Fine, but must we pay monopoly prices for inferior "services"?

Sheldon Richman keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society. Become a patron today!


european said...

Thanks for writing this, Sheldon. We are slowly going back to the status quo of the 17th and 18th century, but with 21st century technology. Quite bad.

Also, no religious alternative to the State. Which is also pretty bad. Atheocracy is as bad as theocracy.

People here want less freedom and more State. More control, more "security". They don't realize the moral qualities of the functionaries, the legislators and the executives. People think "they" (the ruling class) are better and know what to do better than them. This is mostly an effect of public education.

For anyone reading this, a clarification is in order. There are many fake anti-war people in Europe. Basically, they are only against "capitalist" wars (also called: neoliberal wars, conservative wars, patriarchal wars, reactionary wars and antidemocratic wars). Most antiwar europeans have no problem with wars to establish communism, ecologism, or wars to fight the market. The only thing they hate more than free market is the "jews". Anti-semitism in Europe is today a communist/marxist/socialist earmark, for the most part. Very few "rightists" have any ill thought for the jews today. Of course, this can roll back to traditional european hate for the jews. But as long as communists hate the jews, the right-wingers and burgoisie will not show any hate towards the jews.

You will not find a real antiwar european in any university.

Shane Skekel said...

@European: You have written another one of the most poignant comments I have read so far. Speaking of fake anti-war people, it kills me that various people on Newgrounds were critical of the Iraq war, but not Clinton's No-fly Zones. (Or for that matter, Obama's drone strikes.) In other words, last decade's anti-war movement consisted mostly of frauds, intellectually dishonest cowards, and partisan hacks.