Fareed Zakaria's GPS began with an impassioned take on the Parisian terror attacks. He urged us to,
'take a moment to be stunned and saddened...These attacks were made by terrorists who did not even bother to issue demands...This is Nihilism, violence as an end in and of itself.'
It is a new form of war, where there is no soldier versus soldier scenario, replete with 'barbarity and a willingness to die.' This is precisely the methodology of ISIS, and this, by their standards, was a truly horrific success.
What will we do about this? One of the consequences, aside from a vastly greater military presence, is that France will likely trend towards the surveillance state much like the one that resulted in the United States following the Saudi-led 9-11 attacks. Zakaria explains,
'At home it will mean more domestic laws and tougher police efforts to monitor and arrest people. Given the news about terrorists posing as refugees, it could mean that borders will be closed. The government will spy on communications more intrusively. It will fuel the rise of nationalist politicians everywhere. And the mistrust between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities will grow.
It's worth asking, what does ISIS want? By most accounts, it wants all of this, a world divided between Muslims and non-Muslims. Its propaganda stresses that the West is intractably anti-Muslim. It has always openly tried to draw Western forces into Iraq and Syria hoping to make itself the great army of believers fighting the crusaders.
Imagine if the West could respond to these terror attacks with increased and more effective efforts both at home and abroad, but also with the determination to demonstrate that it would act, but not overreact. That it would reaffirm its basic values and it would strive to restore normalcy in the face of brutality.
To do this would be to understand that terrorism is unique and that it depends for its effectiveness on the response of the onlooker. If we are not terrorized, then it doesn't really work.
Imagine if the world responded without being excessively reactionary, by joining forces and doing exactly what's necessary to eradicate a Caliphate that only leaves carnage in its wake? What will likely happen is the same over-zealous, revenge-driven actions that were far more detrimental to the world than the acts of terror on 9-11. But maybe, just maybe, this Democratic President can mobilize the world to respond accordingly. Maybe it will be enough to simply neuter the culprits, not eviscerate the whole population of the region, causing intractable blowback.