Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Paris, Terrorism and Politics

On Friday the 13th the group ISIS attacked a concert hall and stadium in Paris because well that's what they do. Over one hundred people died. Many more were wounded. The proximate cause was retaliation for France's support of the bombing campaign against ISIS targets in Syria. The deeper cause could be revenge for a long history of Western intervention in the region. And the deepest cause of all could be, well that the sorts of people who attack civilian targets are cowards and a$$holes. Today France struck back on the ground.The button men are all over the street looking for anyone and everyone who had something to do with the attacks. With few exceptions, these attacks will just make most people even stronger in their previously held convictions. People across the political spectrum immediately used 11-13 to demonize their political opponents or argue that events proved their pet political theory correct. If you are on the right these attacks may have strengthened your conviction that immigration or refugee movement (particularly of racially, culturally or religiously disparate people) needs to be slowed, halted or reversed. Unlike the United States, which theoretically has no formal or informal link between race, religion, ethnicity and citizenship, many other nations in the Old World, especially in Europe, are more or less ethnic homelands of very long standing. When you say that someone is French or German or Japanese that usually brings up a different image in your mind than to say someone is American. This has changed in Europe, particularly Western Europe after WW2, but there are plenty of shall we say self-proclaimed "indigenous Europeans" who strongly dislike these changes. That at least some of the people who carried out the attacks were apparently European nationals of non-European origin will give fuel to various political parties across Europe who want to stop any further demographic transformation. Many people who will vote for a LePen or a Orban are stone cold racists. Nevertheless just as the US didn't accept massive immigration from Germany during WW2, there just might be something to be said for not accepting immigration from countries you're currently bombing. Because some of those folks will surely hold grudges. The fact that some of these grudges are beyond ridiculous (the people who carried out the Madrid bombings were still po'd about the Reconquista) doesn't matter.

Now if you are of the Left you may see attacks like this as reminders that France must try harder to live up to the slogan of "liberty, fraternity and equality". Why, for example, does France apparently have more of a problem assimilating non-white non-Christian immigrants than the US does? Why has France outlawed Muslim headwear or in some cases refused to provide non-pork meals at public schools? You may argue that France needs to do more to make its Muslim immigrants welcome so that they no longer identify with a crazy warped version of end times Islam. This is not about political correctness as much as it's about building a society that is both fair and cohesive. You might ask why has the atrocity in Paris attracted so much attention when ISIS and fellow travelers have committed similar crimes in Kenya, Nigeria, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Some French who found the ISIS attack on Russia humorous are presumably no longer laughing. The West has been bombing in the Middle East, South Asia and the Horn of Africa almost non stop over the past twenty-five years or so. Has that worked? And turning to the US in particular, although some governors have claimed that they will refuse to accept any Syrian refugees and some Presidential candidates have suggested only accepting Christian refugees, the truth is that the law doesn't allow for religious discrimination in the refugee process. And the Federal government, not the 50 states, gets to decide refugee status. Governors can talk smack but in the face of a sufficiently determined President, they would have to shut up, take it and smile. But this is just demagoguery. The US has accepted fewer than 2000 Syrian refugees. Hilarious is not the word to use but it is blackly humorous how people's willingness to restrict civil liberties depends on whether they think they will use the liberty in question. Some people on the right don't think very highly of the Fourth, Fifth or Sixth Amendments so in the wake of 11-13 there are calls from that segment of society to increase surveillance, shut down mosques, establish government backdoors to encrypted communication, consider collective punishment and generally chip away at the presumption of innocence (at least for those people). The people calling for these steps are often the same folks who stoutly resist private background checks for all gun sales and are unmoved by arguments that saving lives requires limits on gun ownership. And some other people (often but not always on the Left) who would like to strongly discourage or even eliminate private gun ownership because somewhere somebody might commit a crime appear to be blithely unconcerned about letting in people who might want to get some payback on the country that bombed theirs

So what's the answer? The problem is that there is none
Or rather there is no quick answer or one that can be sufficiently dumbed down for Ben Carson to get it. I don't think that you can ever blame any sovereign nation state for taking swift action when someone murders your citizens and basically says "Yeah we did it. So what are you going to do about it b****?" But look at the Afghanistan War. It started as a righteous crusade to get Bin Laden and put the fear of God into the people who took down the Twin Towers. It is currently in a pointless stalemate featuring moral atrocities such as the bombing of wedding parties and hospitals and US soldiers being ordered to ignore child sex abuse. ISIS would not exist if the US had not post 9-11 gotten the bright idea to invade Iraq and thus further destabilize the entire region. The Taliban would not exist if Russia had not invaded Afghanistan, causing the US and Pakistan to arm and train people who would later execute 9-11. So will more intervention solve the problem? I doubt it. The only sort of intervention that might work would be a multi-generational crusade/colonial project that would put Western troops on the ground from Aleppo to Mecca. And that's not going to happen. All that can be done now is to manage the conflict. That's unsatisfactory but that's reality. This is going to include a lot more death and mayhem before things get better. Something else we can do is to start to put the squeeze on Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States to get with the program. Some elements in those nations provide ISIS material and ideological support. Some leaders in the Middle East simply don't see ISIS as the worst group. They have other concerns. I do think that there will be some permanent changes in how European nations manage and accept refugees and immigrants. That train has left the station. Expect certain political parties in Europe to find more success with messages of unabashed nationalism, immigrant restriction, xenophobia and not so hidden bigotry.
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