Attacks in Paris prompt writer to contemplate how to defeat terrorism

By Nicholas Riebel || Staff Writer

I was going to write an article on House Representative Joe Pitts’ announcement of his retirement and its implications. I also considered writing about the shenanigans of Donald Trump and Ben Carson, but I decided they could wait. And due to various events this week, I had to postpone the writing of my article for this issue to Saturday, and that has made a big difference in my topic choice. As I thought about that, and the effects that little things have, conspiring and colluding to make changes in the larger plans of your life, I thought about how my grandparents, until recently, lived in Paris.

    I was relieved to see that several of my friends who were in Paris at the time were alright, and that as far as I knew none of my friends or relatives seemed to have been caught in the violence there. But as of this typing more than 100 people have been killed, there is going to be a curfew in Paris, France’s borders are going to be closed, and French President François Hollande has declared a state of emergency (http://huff.to/1LfE1Jb).

    It is important to remember, I think, that the point of terrorism is to make people afraid: terrorists are, at the root, terrorizers. While it is not known yet (as of this typing) the identities of the attackers, I think it is reasonably safe to say that these were Islamic terrorists, likely members of ISIS, as they have claimed responsibility for the attack: (http://bit.ly/1Ya75eD). These attackers were likely young men, tricked and brainwashed to kill and harm others, and themselves, for no real reason. If there is a God who is just, what rational, what moral person could truly believe that that same deity would wish for them to throw not only his or her own life away, but to destroy the lives of so many innocents?

    I have written before about the overblown fears of ISIS, and yes, they are overblown. I dare question the wisdom of Ben Carson and others who believe that we must “destroy them before they destroy us” (http://bit.ly/1MJ6vAD). But ISIS is not a powerful enemy. Their best attempts to harm us is to, without warning or mercy, cowardly kill unarmed, innocent civilians.

    As we mourn the lives lost, the pain and suffering inflicted in Paris, we must remember not to act merely out of revenge, and bomb ISIS’s “caliphate.” (http://huff.to/1yt22MM). While we should help the Kurds and the Iraqis defeat ISIS’s military, we must remember that defeating their ideology and their ideas should be our focus. ISIS knows that if we bomb it backwards without any political solutions, without healing the divisions in the areas they have conquered (such as in Anbar province in Iraq) they will just come back when the Shi’ite militias and Iraqi Army leave the Sunni areas. I am speaking from the surge’s ultimate failure: in 2007, when President Bush sent more troops to Iraq, he did roll back terrorism there. But the divisions were not healed among the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds, the group reformed, took on a new name, and expanded into Syria and retook the areas of Iraq they were driven out of before.

    Only those ignorant of history, and without common knowledge, will say that we face an implacable enemy and must bomb them into oblivion so we may triumph and survive. This is impractical nonsense. If we wish to truly defeat ISIS, we must stop their terrorist attacks against us, our friends, and allies, block their ability to engage in their hybrid of guerrilla warfare and terrorism in Iraq and Syria, and work on political solutions to stop the violence in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. We must do our best to foster dialogue among the ethnic and religious groups there, so that we can help them live in peace or partition the nations if it is absolutely necessary.

    ISIS is an enemy only so long as people there believe they are the best force in the Middle East (as hard as this seems to us). When we work to strip that illusion away, they too will join the world in seeing ISIS for the atrocity it really is. As I have said before, that is when and how ISIS (and terrorists groups) will ultimately lose: not on the battlefield, but in the war of ideas.

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