paris attacks memorial
Photo: CNN


Harry C. Blaney III

Almost everyone seems to agree that the attacks in Paris are a global wake-up call.  ISIS has tried to show that there is almost no limit to its power to do harm. But we need to understand, despite cries from different sides between do nothing to all out war, that other options are available and more realistic. Already, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have recently given more structure and an outline of a reinforced strategy to weaken and defeat ISIS. This was laid out with our allies in Vienna and Turkey as a strategy that prevailing, does not require large numbers of US fighting troops on the ground.

There seems at this moment a bit more unity by key countries to take on the challenge to degrade and defeat ISIS in their own territory after the Paris atrocities. France has already intensified its bombing campaign and Prime Minister David Cameron has signaled his desire to start a UK bombing campaign in Syria that earlier the House of Common rejected.

The most important development as noted was a full court press by Obama and Kerry to once again try to “herd cats” – namely Europe, Turkey, Egypt, the Gulf States including Saudi Arabia, and not least Russia, or at least to be together on the first page if not the entire book. The result was Turkey largely agreeing to close the gaps in its border with Syria, Russia to focus more, it seems, on bombing ISIS rather than its past attacks on moderate forces we have supported, who are against Assad. And now, greater Europe’s acceptance of responsibility for military action, and also humanitarian assistance and peacemaking efforts.

Russia has also acknowledged that its civilian plane over Egypt was destroyed by a terrorist bomb, and Putin has now vows he will destroy ISIS, who he said, was behind this act. But there is yet no consensus between the West and Putin on the ultimate fate of Assad, but for the moment, both sides see ISIS as the first priority.

Diplomacy is, without any doubt, the best tool we have, and as Obama and Kerry have said many times our most important means for defeating ISIS and indeed mitigating the conflicts in the Middle East. It’s work is in a most complex and difficult landscape. Yet is seems as if some progress is being made, despite republican carping, using both diplomacy as the key and a focused military element.

Further, in Europe there is ferocious debate between the forces on the far right, some of whom are urging a purely military solution, and on the left, some who want to do noting or very little at all, and those that do seek serious diplomatic efforts with a military component as needed. Many in the middle here see a reasoned two element approach of diplomacy and military action, especially an intensified bombing campaign after the Paris attacks.

The other key issues dividing citizens and parties in Europe, and are being used as partisan political subjects for narrow gain, namely immigration from conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa, is the treatment and acceptance of the Muslim population already settled in Europe,  and those simply seeking to play upon fear to obtain power.

But there is also a more kinder and thoughtful set of forces from the  Paris attacks — seen is also a a rare sense of unity with France and even in some sectors an acknowledgment that they would be stronger to withstand terrorism through cooperation and mutual help rather than the recent bouts of divisions and anti-EU sentiments and myopic prejudices directed at those from other European nations. There are even some who are pushing back against those showing hate for immigrants.  Whether these “better angles of our spirit” will prevail is still uncertain, but they need as much support from within and outside to come to an end point of common respect with increased sense of commonality and shared goals and values.

More on these forces and events at work in Europe in future blog posts from London.

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  1. Chuck Woolery November 23, 2015 / 12:01 AM

    We will need more than a “a reasoned two element approach of diplomacy and military action”. Even if ISIS is wiped off the map there will still be the gross injustices, repression, and ungoverned spaces that led to the creation and expansion of ISIS in the first place.
    There must be at least three more elements of focus for the end game post ISIS. First would be economic development with the full protection of fundamental human rights for all that survive. This would include full health and medical attention for all those physically and/or mentally injured. Second, there will need to be some consistent, fair and reliable system of justice, for addressing any kind injustices. Plus, new institutions for effectively addressing any and all grievances that arise post ISIS (and perhaps something for reconciliation of grieving parties). Ideally these would come from some form of democratic process where the people of the lands were allowed to chose their own form of governance, within the context of recognizing the value of accepting and protecting the human rights already listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
    And,last, while the anti-ISIS coalition of 65 nation states (currently) are basking in the glow of victory and rebuilding the Middle East — all leaders of the world (including the 100 plus nations where over 30,000 ISIS recruits originated from) should come together in the spirit of “prevention” and build the same level of justice and the protection of fundamental human rights in all the world’s ‘ungoverned’ and unjustly governed areas. Like the global eradication of Small Pox the eradication of extremist ideologies will only come with global justice. The best plan of action for this last goal could come from studying the report by the Commission on Global Security, Justice and Governance, (Confronting the Crisis of Global Governance) released this June by the Stimson Center and the Hague Institute for Global Justice, paying special attention to the report’s recommendations. This Human Rights Day, December 10th (7-9 PM at Montgomery College in Rockville, MD) a panel of experts will discuss this report and it’s value in building a more just and secure world for our children, If we ignore any one of these five elements our children will pay the price in blood, treasure and our most cherished freedoms.

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