13 November 2015
Terror returns to Paris
As I write I'm listening to an English-language French news channel for the latest updates on multiple gun and explosion attacks in Paris tonight, including an ongoing hostage situation at a concert hall. Since I started listening the estimated body count has grown from six to thirty, with more expected. There's some inexplicable hesitation to label this a wave of terror attacks -- but just now one of the reporters spoke of a "coordinated terror attack." It certainly doesn't look like multiple coincidences. There will probably be little doubt about who did it, too. After all, since so many French people declared themselves to be "Charlie" last January, they were bound to be targeted by the same forces that targeted the actual Charlie Hebdo newspaper. By now, I think, little actual provocation is necessary for such attacks as Paris is seeing tonight. In the age of ISIS, or the days of Daesh, terror is how would-be caliphates assert themselves. The people of Paris are as eligible targets as the people of Beirut who were blown up by IS affiliates yesterday, presumably to punish them for the Lebanese Hezbollah militia's support for the Assad government in Syria, or those Russians who most likely were blown up by a bomb over Egypt on board their passenger plane. And now the death estimate is up to 40 in Paris, and there may be a hundred hostages in that concert hall, and yet another shooting is being reported. I suppose you can still interpret all this as an understandable if not excusable demand to leave some part of the world alone, but who thinks that the perpetrators of all these attacks will behave differently if let alone or, worse, allowed to win? It's most likely too late to solve the problem simply by withdrawing -- and I mean not just the U.S. or the west but every foreign power -- from one part of the world. Most of the world agrees that the Caliphists, to suggest a new term, should not be allowed to win, on the assumption that they'll behave no differently toward the rest of the world if they do win. But a lot of us aren't as serious as we should be about that priority. There's still no agreement, whether between Americans and Russians or between Sunnis and Shiites, over what horse to back against the Caliphists. But if all of the above want to crush the Caliphate in its cradle, then everyone has got to get behind Assad in Syria, whether they like him or not, and behind the Iraqi government. The U.S. didn't ask Stalin to renounce Communism or hold free elections during World War II, after all, and however bad Bashar al-Assad is, he's not as bad as Stalin. There's a chance that this little rant may prove irrelevant to what's happening in Paris tonight, but it's worth repeating just the same.