If it’s good vs. evil, only one outcome is tenable
When terrorism strikes like it did this weekend in Paris, the first reaction to the horror is shock from the utter senselessness of intentional violence against innocent people. Most of us don’t understand how anyone could do something so innately evil.
But then, as the dozens of news reports and politicizing of the tragedy wash over me, I begin to worry. Not about further terrorist attacks — which we all know are coming and unfortunately are part of the world in which we live — but for the coming epidemic of ignorance, grandstanding and bellicose chest thumping.
Just as much as the act of terrorism is incomprehensible, the immediate primal urge to begin bombing and killing those responsible for this most recent tragedy is perfectly understandable. I want someone to pay for what ISIS and its supporters did in Paris this weekend, for what they had already done in Beirut, in Egypt, in Turkey, and for what they have threatened to do to our own citizens in Washington, D.C. There just has to be a way to annihilate this enemy.
And then, mixed with anger, comes the sobering reality that this war likely won’t be won with air strikes and probably not with ground troops. We have already begun the bombing campaign, the U.S., France and Russia destroying known targets in Syria and Iraq. Perhaps we will forge some kind of alliance with Russia, which would certainly create a new geopolitical reality.
Perhaps we will send ground troops, though President Obama says that’s not likely in the near future. Ground campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq have not rid those countries of pockets of rebel armies and terrorists. We’ve had successes, but tangible problems persist. As it is now, ISIS is known to have pockets of supporters in at least half a dozen Arab countries, so rooting them all out will take years. Much of the work will be done by intelligence agencies instead of armies.
And the European Union — with its open borders, huge population of people of African and Middle Eastern descent, and the current refugee crisis — will struggle more than the U.S. to fight the kind of terrorism ISIS is promulgating. At least one of the suspected terrorists was a Belgian national of Moroccan descent, not a foreigner.
We should support a stepped-up campaign to destroy ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Here in the U.S. and in Europe there will be more police sweeps and more suspects banned from entering certain countries. I’m certain wiretaps and surveillance will increase, as will European spending for security and intelligence agencies.
I’m betting many of us will complain that civil liberties are being compromised — at least temporarily — but I think in the long run the courts and elected officials can find a middle ground in that arena. What I fear, though, is that our anger will lead some to try and make us too much like them. By that, I mean our response must protect innocent people. That’s what separates us from them.
The only way to win this war is to prepare for the long term and not lose sight of the ideals that set us apart from the terrorists. Some have called for only letting Christians immigrants come into the U.S. while others are already decrying efforts to help Middle Eastern refugees who are indeed fleeing for their own lives. Yes, we have to be careful, but we can’t condemn hundreds of thousands of people to death or torture because they worship differently from us or because they look different. We must remember this is not a war against Islam, and making it seem like one will assuredly make the terrorist problem worse.
Fear is a powerful emotion, but we can’t let it knock us off the moral high ground. If there is justice in this universe, then the terrorists, eventually, will be vanquished. That’s really the only outcome I can believe in and hope for at this point.