Liberté, égalité, fraternité
On Friday November 13, 2015 Paris experienced one of the worst tragedies in recent memory. Preliminary reports show that 129 people were killed and over 300 were injured in coordinated attacks on the 10th Arrondissement – a popular bar area – the Bataclan concert hall, a restaurant near the concert hall and the Stade de France – where France and Germany were playing. The Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) has claimed responsibility for the attacks and has promised further destruction.
France’s reactionary response was to immediately bomb ISIS targets in Raqqa, Syria in order to show its people, and the world, that these attacks will not go unpunished. The actions taken by French President Hollande seem to contradict his views on war, specifically the Middle East. In 2012 he promised an early withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan. In 2015 alone there have been six terrorist attacks in France starting with the assault on the Charlie Hebdo headquarters in January. Compare that with 5 acts of terrorism in the rest of the Western world this year.
The question remains — will this show of force prevent another attack on France or other countries around the world? Our position is no.
France’s counterattack is at once myopic and politically expedient. We as Americans know all too well the dangers of acting on impulse and emotion. The United States, along with its international coalition, has been conducting operations in the Middle East for the better of 13 years. Unfortunately the efforts of our men and women in uniform have not translated into a more stable region. In fact, our invasion of Iraq created more instability and an opportunity for extremists groups to recruit and grow.
History has shown us time and time again that we have failed to win the “hearts and minds” of the people in the region. Furthermore, we have also failed to engage our allies in the region to take a more active role in the fight that directly affects their safety and security.
We believe, instead of focusing on the military aspect of fighting terror, we should draw inspiration from the Marshall Plan when the U.S. gave $13 billion in economic support (funds for importing goods, business loans, productivity training, ect.) — which would translate to $130 billion in 2015 dollars — to Western Europe for reconstruction efforts after WWII. Our leaders at the time understood that continued military action would not lead to a stable Western Europe. As such, we need to remove ourselves from the conflict in the Middle East and assist countries in the region to enact economic policies that will help its citizens. This will lead to lower unemployment, improved infrastructure and restore trust in the government.
We cannot instill a belief in the Western ideals of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” solely through heavy bombardment. Our actions must not only show our “might” but also what makes us “right”–we need to focus on assisting the people of these regions through social programs and foreign aid. Without the above people are left without the economic infrastructure necessary for a healthy functioning state. Right now, for a lot of individuals in the Middle East it is an easy choice between joining ISIS or not being able to feed themselves and their family.