“What are you doing in Syria? You’re going to pay now,” another attacker explained.
ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has claimed responsibility in a communiqué called yesterday’s attacks in the French capital “the first of the storm” and calling France a decadent “capital of prostitution and obscenity.”
“Ambulances screamed down the boulevards, as a stunned and confused French capital was again left to wonder: Why us? Once again?” reported The New York Times.
Amid the chaos and horror of this latest spasm of urban terrorism, it is vital to keep two key points in mind:
- Asking “Why us?”, as Americans did after 9/11, is stupid. We know why. Anyone who doesn’t know why, and why “us” — Paris, New York, the West — is willfully obtuse.
- This is nothing new. We are not/This is not [some new] “war.” After each dramatic terrorist attack, including 9/11, overcaffeinated editorialists claim that Everything Has Changed and so We Had Better Step Up and Kick Terrorist Ass. This is even stupider than asking “Why us?” Terrorism has always been with us and, unless the configuration of power dynamics defined by economic relationships internationally as well as within nations changes radically, it always will be. Paris is the latest manifestation of a cycle of violence.
First, why us.
There is no mystery about why radical Islamists carry out high-profile attacks, often involving suicide bombers, against Western targets. There’s a whole book of Osama bin Laden explaining why over and over and over. Groups like ISIS are not “evil terrorist death cults,” as the British prime minister claimed yesterday.
Terrorists are engaged in asymmetric warfare — the best strategy available to those engaged in armed conflict against an opponent with more powerful weapons, bigger armies and other structural advantages. ISIS leaders know they can’t prevail in the battlefields of Syria and Iraq against the United States and its European allies. The U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition has too many advantages, especially related to air power: an endless supply of fighter jets, drones, and missiles and bombs to drop from them. ISIS has no air force whatsoever. The Paris attacks are an attempt to sap political support — a better word might be tolerance, because the anti-ISIS war was never ratified by the people of France — for the French government’s participation in the air war against ISIS.
The attacks also serve secondary purposes as propaganda for recruitment — look, emasculated Muslims everywhere, we are fighting back against the infidel crusaders who have tortured and massacred and humiliated us, in their center of power! — as well as to make Westerners ask this very question: why us? ISIS wants France to draw the conclusion that what they are doing in Syria and Iraq is immoral and/or too costly to continue.
Why us? Or, in this case, why France? Because President Francois Hollande ordered the French air force to help the United States bomb ISIS.
ISIS says so.
So let’s not have any more of that “why us?” crap.
Second, this is not new.
President Hollande says that the attacks were “an act of war that was committed by a terrorist army, a jihadist army, Daesh, against France.” He’s wrong.
Hollande’s statement is classic colonialist bullshit. When powerful nations like France drop bombs on Syria, they want us to think, that’s not war.
I don’t know what your dictionary says. According to my understanding, when you drop bombs, especially when you do it over and over and over, that is war.
For elites like Hollande, it’s only war when the other side strikes back.
At this point, it’s necessary for me to affirm that, like everyone else, I am disgusted and appalled at ISIS’ slaughter of more than 100 innocent people in Paris yesterday. I am a dual French-U.S. citizen. I love France. These people did not have this coming.
What I am trying to point out here is that the Paris attacks do not mark the beginning of anything. They are a continuation in a cycle of violence that goes back a long time. If France was not bombing Syria, ISIS would almost certainly not be shooting Frenchmen.
France has a long history of military and colonial intervention in Syria, most notable the League of Nations mandate beginning with the Sykes-Picot Agreement during World War I and nominal independence in 1943.
Paris is the latest iteration of this circus of death. France bombs ISIS. ISIS shoots Parisians. Now, right on cue, right-wingers are calling for an escalation of the air war against ISIS.
Which will lead to more attacks by ISIS against the West.
History teaches us that the only way to break a cycle of violence is for at least one side in a conflict — usually the stronger side — to stop striking “back,” accept its losses, and lick its wounds. Unilateral ceasefire isn’t a magic recipe for peace. But it’s a required ingredient.