Sunday, November 15, 2015

Paris, huh. What now?

By Stephen P. Pizzo 

Will this week’s Paris attacks become just the latest in pop-up terrorist attacks where we mourn the dead and move on, until the next one?


But … and this is becoming a bigger and bigger “but” with each such event ... maybe not. Maybe this time someone will come up with an actual effective response.

After all, since these fundamentalist, nihilist groups thrive in their 10th-century throwback religious, cultural venues, they will not be going away. Instead they will continue their barbarian-like crusade(s) against those they decide are unworthy of liberty or life.

Sure developed societies have more economic vim and vigor, superior infrastructures and large modern military machines. These jihadists can pose no genuine strategic threat, right?

Actually, no. They can. And, in some ways they already have. And, if they continue pulling off stunts like 9/11, Madrid and London train/subway bombings, Mumbai attack, the downing of airliners and now Paris, they will succeed. They will not succeed in taking over developed nations, but rather ruining them, destroying everything that makes them worth fighting for: freedom of speech, freedom of travel, freedom of assembly and the machinery of “business-as-usual” that lubricates the very gears of of all that in free societies.

For example, if airliners keep falling out of the sky, filling TV screens at home with the latest horror, how many ordinary folk will still want to fly to Orlando for a week at Disney World? Will happy newlyweds eagerly climb aboard a plane in Newark to honeymoon in Hawaii? How many business travelers will put up with wasting hours of their valuable time standing in increasingly intrusive security checkpoints at every port or entry or exit?

Airlines, which almost always operate on the thinnest of margins, will not be able to raise fares to make up for the dramatic plunge in revenues. And once all checked in luggage will have to be searched, all ot it, not just the 5% that are searched now, you and your luggage may never meet again, at least not at your intended destination.

It would not be more than a decade of this and the only remaining airline would be nationalized just to enable developed nations could cling to an ever-shaky claim of normality, that “the terrorists aren't winning.”

Planes will not be the only form of public transport affected. Buses, trains, urban subway systems, each offer terrorists the most bountiful of killing grounds. Imagine a New York City where working folk are too terrified to go to work because, to get there, they have to literally risk their lives underground locked in a metal tube every day. How many will take that risk just for a paycheck?

And so-call public venues will become increasingly un-public venues as attacks on large crowds chill such gatherings. The “public square” Americans are so found of celebrating... well forget about that too after more public squares run red with public blood. Rock concerts, campaign gatherings, protest marches; each suddenly takes on the potential of becoming fatal, causing even the most hardened activist to rethink their activism; “Yeah, I know I have said I am willing to die for this cause, but I'm sure as hell not willing to die for that, whatever the hell 'that' is.” And so once vibrant democracies become less and less vibrant.

No business venture is more fraught with risk than the restaurant. Even in the best of cases, restaurants come and go like buses at a bus stop. Once terrorists shoot up or bomb enough restaurants, those who do dare dining will be seated at tables far from windows or doors, to make them less attractive targets. And al fresco dining? Forget about it. Who wants to eat an meal while feeling like a sitting duck in a carnival shooting booth? (“Please pre-pay for your meal in case you have to flee before finishing.”)

Little by little, unchecked, terrorist attacks on all things modern, Western, democratic and financial, will force one developed society after another to become less and less open, less and less efficient, less and less risk-oriented, less and less fearless, less and less free.

So, if what you ever wondered if terrorism could ever pose a genuine strategic threat to modern societies, there it is. It is not a process in which modern cultures reach down raise backward cultures out of darkness, but one in which backward cultures reach out and pull modern cultures , down into their familiar darkness, their sectarian and social dysfunction, down into their hell.

I began by asking if the latest Paris attacks would spark a fresh response, or just more of the same. Well, I don't know. I tend to doubt this particular attack will result in any spectacular changes. It may take more before every nation affected understands they are the fogs in a classic “boiling-a-frog” process, as I described above.

But when the change in tactics by those being attacked does come, what on earth could it be? After all, we've tried bombing the crap out of them already. We tried ground invasions and occupations. We tried lavishing billions in cash on terrorist breeding ground regions. We tried buying off their politicians and generals. Not only has none of that worked, but it's only made matters worse.

So what's left to try? It's good to remember that every time developed nations have tried to sort out secular issues and redrawn borders “for them,” it only made matters worse for the generations that followed. Short of killing every man, woman and child in the entire region, what can/should be done?

I don't know. After attacks like the most recent one in Paris, my Sicilian genes vote loudly for the killing the whole lot of them and being done with it. Of course, once I calm down, I understand that is not a choice on anyone's to-do list. (Okay, maybe Dick Cheney.)

I do think though that, if not a nailed down solution, we can at least come up with a list of things that need to happen, one way or another:

  • Stop trying to accommodate the mass exodus flooding Europe with refugees from these troubled lands. Not because I think they pose a danger to Europe, but because letting them all leave Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan etc, is bleeding those nations, not of their terrorists, but of the very educated professional and small business classes they will need to rebuild. If allowed to continue the only people left in these countries will those who only know war, those filled with free-floating hatred of... whatever. So stop it. Yes, it will cruel to force these masses to continue living in those war zones. But they represent the future of those countries. Without them, there is no future. The other reason to make them stay is they may well prove a more effective counter-force to the ISIS types. Forced to stay they will also be forced to take stands, to fight, to organized, to resist, from within. It is, after all, their countries, their people, their wars.
  • Most European countries now have large Muslim communities. These communities tend to be separate from their host countries. This is natural and expected. Immigrants like to hang with folks that speak their native tongue, have the same customs etc. And being a non-white immigrant in a predominantly white country brings with a long list of hurdles, some expected and many unjust. Nevertheless, these Muslim communities still share a responsibility to the country housing them. If they expect to stay and work and send their kinds of public schools in the hope they will have better lives they have had, then they need to start policing their own communities, They need to aggressively finger individuals or groups within their communities that not only threaten their host country's citizens, but threaten their own dreams for a better life. If they refuse to do so then they can't complain when rightwing politicians point them out as part of the problem, and start passing laws they won't like very much.
  • France, England, Germany and Brussels all have long lists of their own Muslim citizens who have gone to the Middle East to join ISIS or al Qaeda, and worry about what will happen when they return home. Which begs the question; why do they have to be allowed to return home in the first place? If they have evidence that a citizen trying to return to Europe has been working at any level with terrorist groups, then refuse them reentry. Revoke their citizenship and let them figure out how best to get back into the good graces of the civilized world. Meanwhile them not returning home means the already overstretched security services will have one less suspect to keep an eye on. Finally, now stranded in the very “caliph” hell scape they left home to fight for, their online whining will serve a warning to anyone else thinking of taking a similar leap into that abyss.
  • It's long past time to reel in our so-called “allies” the Saudis. Their insistence on continuing to fund its radical and violent Whabbai version of Islam has been, and continues to be, a part of the problem. Any any Saudi “prince” caught funding terrorist activities or groups, needs to be blacklisted from any and all travel or financial dealings with the rest of the world. Bang. Just like that. No more coddling that pack of spoiled wastrels.

That's a start, not a solution, but a start. We have to be ready to try different things, things that have, for diplomatic reasons and political correctness have been off the table. Because if we just decide the Paris attacks and others are just part of our “new normal,” we will not care much for the world it creates, and not in some distant dystopian future, but quickly, in our own lifetimes.

And, if it is allowed to get that bad, citizens in affected developed – devolving – societies, will get very angry. And that in turn will force politicians in those countries to an all-out military response, ala World War II. Millions will die, citizens in cities like Damascus will get a taste of what it was like to have lived in Dresden in 1945. And then what?

Well, once that dust settles we'd find ourselves back in 1918, when Britain, France and Germany decided to divide up the Middle East to suit themselves, drawing borders where they liked, ignoring tribal lands, sectarian divides or the needs or wants of the indigenous populations. And all they accomplished was to set the stage for today's chaos.

So, short of “killing every man, woman and child” in that region, we need to figure this out, and soon. More of the same just ain't gonna cut it.