The aftershock of last week’s attacks in Paris is still being felt in headlines around the world, and front-in-center in the talking points of political pundits. Most commentary and corporate news media is taking a somewhat subtle spin, appealing to their viewers while distracting the general public from the reality of this tragedy. The link to Syrian refugees, whether it is or is not an act of war, our strategy in Syria and the Middle East, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the West’s unshaken support for Israel–everything has been used to spread fear propaganda regarding the Paris attacks, but not much has been said on solutions for containing ISIS, and worse still is the deafening silence regarding other similar atrocities in cities such as Beirut, Kenya and Nigeria, which have received little coverage.
Suddenly, the world is interested in uniting to contain ISIS: In his upcoming meeting with President Obama, it is expected that France’s President Holland will stress cooperation with NATO. Britain continues its airstrikes in Syria while also launching an $82 billion counter-terrorism operation. Germany continues to lead the world in humanitarianism, having sheltered the vast majority of Syrian refugees, and Russia, on the heels of their own terrorist attack in the form of the bombed Russian airliner and Putin’s close relationship with Bashar al-Assad, understand that the attacks in Paris could happen closer to home and have taken the offensive to Syria.
The Obama administration has changed its course, too, since mid-summer, when it stood steadfastly against joining Russia’s campaign or even cooperating until Bashar al-Assad was out of power. In the past few days the administration has shown signs it is now willing to tackle the plague of ISIS before removal of Assad, and even possibly willing to work with Russia. But they are threading carefully, not wanting to repeat the mistakes that unleashed this can of worms (the 2003 Iraq war), but rather pinning its strategy on airstrikes and a long-term solution–aka pushing it to the next president. (But don’t tell that to France, Russia or the other Middle East countries praying for solution.)
Meanwhile, the presidential candidates are predictably using the Paris tragedy for political gains. So far, GOP ideas have fallen short of enlightenment and they seem to be mostly pandering to their hopeful electorate, a small population that carries little weight in the general election: Invade Syria, deny refugees coming from Syria, and support Israel’s apartheid are their most vocal solutions. Jeb Bush, whose campaign will soon bite the dust, is making his brother look good. As horrible as George Bush was as president, he would’ve never denied refugee status to Iraqis after his own actions had displaced them. If the Paris attack had happened earlier in the year, Jeb Bush would not be claiming the US should deny Syrian refugees. He needs to make these kinds of un-presidential statements now to catch-up with the Carsons and Trumps of this election, who have made their campaign on these sorts of controversial ‘outsider’ declarations.
So what’s next? Russia’s strategy for exiting out of Syria is unclear, but they’ve taken bold action in spite of glaring US mistakes in Iraq. We should support and work with them; abandon the fantasy of removing Assad as a pre-condition if we don’t want a repeat Iraq. Assad is not planning the next Paris, Beirut or Kenya attack, but ISIS is and we ought to be a part of the coalition to stop them.
The solutions for defeating 21st century terrorism are not too far from us, but it does mean correcting the mistakes of 20th century tactics. No more go-it-alone strategies, build coalition instead of isolation, stop our unwavering support for Israel’s atrocities and advance the creation of a Palestinian state. Even the 9/11 commission admits this conflict contributed to the events of Sept. 11 (much to the chagrin of the Republican party who has swept this part of the report under the rug). France and much of Europe have one of the largest Muslim populations in the world, and they understand that their steadfast support of Israel is not a long term strategy, as evidenced by some of the decisions made by the EU recently (labeling goods made from Israel settlements as “settlement”, Iceland’s capital Reykjavik’s boycott of Israel products, Sweden’s recognition of Palestine as a state). Our desire to spread democracy must take a back seat to the spread of diplomacy and practical solutions that promote peace and stability.