Essays on American politics and foreign policy
By Donald E. Nuechterlein
Donald Nuechterlein is a political scientist
and writer who resides near Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the
author of numerous books on American politics and foreign policy,
- Defiant Superpower: The New American Hegemony, 2005
- America Recommitted: A Superpower Assesses its Role in a Turbulent World, 2000
- A Cold War Odyssey, 1997
LESSONS LEARNED FROM TERROR ATTACKS IN PARIS
French President Francois Hollande denounced the terrorist attacks in Paris as an act of war and told his parliament "we are at war." Two days later French planes bombed Raqqa, the ISIS stronghold in northern Syria. It recalled George W. Bush's forceful response in Afghanistan to the 9-11 attacks in the U.S.
Hollande's declaration of war puts other European governments on notice about the need for clarity on their responses to Islamic terrorism. That's especially true for neighboring Belgium, where Islamic terrorists planned the attack on Paris. It also challenges EU members to ensure that terrorists do not gain entry into Europe along with the huge influx of refugees from Syria.
What lessons can we learn from events in Paris last week? Here are five suggestions:
- Arab nationalism is a powerful motivator. France was the target of three ISIS attacks this year for a reason: Islamic terrorists tell French recruits they are fighting a holy war against "crusaders" and remind them that Christian crusaders devastated Arab lands 900 years ago on their way to Jerusalem. Arab youngsters learn in school that the first crusade was led by French knights and foot soldiers. They also know that French troops occupied Syria and Lebanon after World War I.
- Fear of Muslim refugees reduces humanitarian concerns. Events in Paris triggered fear among Europeans and Americans about their own security. Some EU governments have stopped processing Syrian refugees. Many U.S. governors say their states cannot accept them because residents fear that terrorists can be disguised as refugees fleeing to Europe. For many Americans, security trumps humanitarian considerations.
- A unified Europe is floundering. The twenty year-old Schengen agreement among European states to abolish border controls is being ignored by leaders under pressure from their publics to stop an influx of refugees from the Middle East. In addition, terrorist attacks in Paris led Hollande's government to close France's borders and declare a national emergency. Europeans understand that terrorists currently have freedom to cross borders without detection.
- Military force will not defeat Islamic terrorism. Air attacks on ISIS strongholds in Syria by U.S., French, Russian and other aircraft have a limited effect on its ability to mount terrorist attacks in the West. An invasion of Syria by western troops would turn Arabs everywhere against the "new crusaders." If a ground operation is eventually mounted, as the U.S. did in Afghanistan, it should be by Muslim fighters. It might also involve Turkish troops, some of the world's best. However, diplomacy, including economic and intelligence assistance, are essential to oust ISIS from Syria and Iraq.
- International cooperation is key to defeating ISIS. Unlike the Bush administration's response to the 9-11 attacks, Barack Obama decided against sending large U.S. ground forces into Syria, and instead is mow focused on building a coalition among Arab states and Turkey. Arming Kurdish forces to fight ISIS in Syria and Iraq is part of this strategy. It's clear the U.S. public doesn't support sending ground troops into Syria, despite urgings by a few senators and pundits. The memory of the costs of the Iraq invasion in 2003 remains clear.
Implications of the Paris attacks will play a major role during the unfolding presidential campaign. Predictably, Republicans emphasize security concerns felt by voters, while Democrats don't wish to ignore traditional humanitarian values. One hopes that the state of emergency declared in France and its massive police interventions will not be necessary here. But fear is a powerful motivator when disaster strikes, as the aftermath of 9-11 demonstrated.
File last modified on Tuesday, 10-NOV-2015 9:54 AM EST