The French have not had it easy over the last year. Perhaps due to their involvement in Syria they have been targeted a number of times by gunmen culminating in the horrifying atrocities on Friday night. The scale of the attack and tactical decisions made by Isis have marked a sea change. No longer are they restricting themselves to targeting specific organisations or groups close to home. They are ‘going global’ and freeing their trigger fingers indiscriminately on the public, reminiscent of the London tube bombings and 9/11.
Much has been made of giving security services the powers to combat threats such as these and balancing liberty with security will keep the state and left leaning libertarians in debate for decades. While it is conceivable that attacks such as these could and perhaps have been stopped due to the diligence of our security services, it is inevitable that given sufficient determination the next attack is never too far away.
The true test of our values will be in our response. Isis have 3 aims in mind with the attack in Paris. They wish to display their reach and advertise to the world they are a force to be taken seriously. They wish to take some revenge for what they see as the crusading west, the mortal enemies of their caliphate, and finally they want to escalate the situation so that they might legitimise their agenda, win sympathy, support and polarise the world.
We must not bite. It may be a cynical view but military inaction may be the prudent course of action. It’s virtually impossible to stop a random stranger punching you in the face when caught unaware. We cannot stop the determined terrorist. By fighting back we walk in to their trap, raining down death from unmanned robot drones, crusading in to their lands with our strange customs we are hardly likely to win over the people that are undecided.
This is a war of ideology and the terrorists by taking the initiative are able to control the narrative, but only if we play along and predictably respond as we are expected to.
Unfortunately this may not be possible. While it might look like the alternative to going to war sounds like “just sit here and take it” there is legitimate action that could be taken if only we weren’t already committed to conflict in the areas that are so crucial. Terrorists need significant funding, funding that can only come from nation states and nation states find it very hard to operate in a vacuum. To suggest that the only proactive reaction is via military force is simplistic and ignores the the ramifications of further aggression.
That said, we are already bombing these people so our options are hamstrung. Perhaps reduced to the point of no return. It’s a depressing situation, the origins of which can be traced back to the original retaliation for 9/11. We do have a few things going for us. Liberty, human rights, rule of law are all things that are holding strong in the western world. This is our real fight. We must insure that what ever happens now we remain strong and unified. Protect what makes the west great, the freedoms afforded by our values, that which ISIS so abhor. That’s the narrative we can dictate.