The events in France shock and anger, yes, but a little less so with each report of some new terrorist act somewhere in the world. While one would hope the act of setting off bombs in major cities and shooting up restaurants, stadiums and concert halls will never garner a kernel of acceptance in the civilized world, desensitization creeps in with the increasing frequency.
Any lingering doubts as to the nature and organizational ability of the so-called Islamic State certainly should by now have dissipated along with the smoke over Paris. Contrary to President Barack Obama’s characterization, ISIS is not the “junior varsity” and is clearly not being contained very well. So what to do about it?
The problem has many facets — none easy to address. The approach must be comprehensive, but there is an undeniable military side. These attacks are acts of war perpetrated by a group whose only reason for being is to export its brand of barbarism and violence. But it can only do that if it has support of a nation state — like Soviet client-states in the old days or Iran today — or a relatively safe location to serve as a base of operations, as al-Qaida had in Afghanistan. ISIS now has large swaths of Syria and Western Iraq to serve as such, and western military action needs to concentrate on denying this and — this is critical — holding land taken from ISIS. We lost Western Iraq the same way we lost South Vietnam, by packing up and heading home in the seventh inning.
This will require national resolve, yes, and national resources and even manpower. It will require some imagination. Most pointedly, it will require a strategy and the will to execute that strategy, something that’s been sorely lacking the past eight years. It will mean being smart, but aggressive — and not yoking American troops with rules of engagement more suited to a law class than battlefield.
There are other considerations, among the most pressing the refugee crisis. It appears as of this writing that at least one of the Paris attackers entered among the throng of women, children and fathers desperately seeking refuge from the violence that shattered their lives. The enemy, we must be prepared to recognize, will use the western sense of compassion against us. How does a country, whether it’s France, Greece or the United States properly balance the critical need to protect its citizens with the Christian — it’s overwhelmingly Christian nations these refugees are heading to, whether we care to admit that or not — concern for what is undeniably a humanitarian crisis? There are no easy answers here, either.
Meanwhile back home, some college campuses are reeling as the spoiled brat class takes to the quads to protest — what? Their scholarships and access to university education? One of my favorite quotes from William F. Buckley goes: “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.” This was elevated to the prophetic in the foolishness manifesting itself in places like the University of Missouri and Yale, where free exchange of ideas gave way to ignorance or disregard of the First Amendment.
Now, I have often made the logical argument no freedom is absolute. But good lord, the action of these students — and some faculty — aren’t far removed from what gangs of Brownshirts did in Germany in the 1920s.
Some of these delicate flowers of academia went so far as to snivel on social media about how the terrible plight of well-fed (if hideously clothed) recipients of expensive first world college education were being shunted aside by coverage of the Paris attacks. Quarter, I pray, if I reserve my sympathies for a few hundred who were killed or wounded by terrorist bullets and shrapnel over a few hundred whose fragile sensibilities were offended by someone’s words.
As we become more desensitized to terrorist violence, we’re becoming hypersensitized to the tender egos of the radical egalitarians and self-identified “victim” class for whom social justice means forced homogenization of society. The attacks in Paris shamed and angered most of us, all the more so because of the realization that more is coming, perhaps even here. But enough to do anything about it? Or are we more inclined to be moved by shiny, if ephemeral, distractions like climate change and the perceived need for college “safe spaces?”