The Coming Battle

This just isn’t going away. 

You literally must be living under a rock if you have not yet heard of the attacks in Paris. (Or in China; the Daily was the only one I found in a quick browse of world papers that did not seem to focus on it.) I probably was not alone in being shocked at the rising death toll–when news first came around 4 or 5 pm Friday, it was at less than 20; it seems to be settled around 127.

I have to admit I found it dismaying to be passing from happy hour to party to home, watching and listening that toll climb from 18 to 100 to 127 to 153 and so on. But what is the alternative? Put life on hold because of the monsters that did this?

This was the sort of attack that counterterrorism officials seem to have nightmares about: a coordinated strike that hits multiple targets, numerous casualties all in the space of one night. It’s the nightmare that results in CT organizations increasing their power. So long as this sort of attack is a possibility, expect more security measures and new rules and more cops on the street.

I expect nothing less. If this night showed anything it is that the West’s war on terror, struggle with terrorism, whatever you call it, is far from over. Relieving the situation in Syria and Iraq–as if it’s that easy–will certainly reduce the threat of these attacks; suppressing the ideology that inspires them will be much harder. Even if a peace is brokered in Syria, we will still be so far from resolving the problems in the Middle East. There will still be political trouble over oil and lack of economic opportunity and cultural unrest and sectarian clashes.

It would be nice to completely disengage with this region–even at the expense of the people that we would abandon to monsters (though it might stop some bloodshed)–and sometimes I wonder if it’s at all practical. In fact, considering the relative lack of press coverage of the attack in Beirut, I suspect emotionally it would be quite easy for us in the West. But as with most things, I’m finding, it’s too complicated. Many neighboring countries, like the UAE, Turkey, India, would be put at risk. And even more countries would be put at risk. We have to remember that the people who do this are not satisfied with eliminating diversion from their ideology in their own region; for them, the world is not enough.

For fear of using the conservative “buzzword,” let me define freedom: the freedom to live our lives as we want, peacefully, without fear of imprisonment or death. I think we have to accept that even if it’s not an existential crisis for freedom, it is under attack.

I read “The Next 100 Years” by George Friedman, a speculative book about what will take place geopolitically in the 21st century. An interesting read: he was certainly right, back in 2009, that there would be more frozen conflict between the U.S. and Russia. However, he said that the West’s involvement in the Middle East was a temporary flare-up. I don’t know how much that’s true. I think this is going to go on for the next 20 years, minimum. This wasn’t a battle that started in 2001 but in 1979, in 1920, perhaps before, and isn’t going to end easily. And not just the West, but the entire world, the U.S. to Russia to China to Kenya to Colombia to France, as terrorism-hating people, needs to come together to address the most problematic region on Earth.


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