Friday night’s attack in Paris was another reminder that we are in a real war.
It is vital that we understand what the real war is and who the real enemy is.
The real war is not geographic and it is not defined by ISIS. The real war is worldwide and the real enemy is Islamic supremacy in all its forms. The center of gravity is not Syria. The center of gravity is the internet.
We are confronted by a virus that is closer to epidemiology than to traditional state-to-state warfare. We will have to eradicate this virulent religious intolerance and violence here at home and across the planet. This is an extraordinarily difficult challenge.
Our elites have been hiding from the real war and the real challenge because it frightens them. They keep trying to redefine the problem so it can be solved without rethinking what we are doing.
Month after month the problem grows harder, the danger grows bigger, and more radicals are recruited. The elites wring their hands and hide. Each major attack leads to anguish, statements of sympathy and expressions of condemnation, but prompts no change in strategy and no effective action. These elites could be called the ostrich generation. They bury their heads in the sand and hide from reality.
Now let’s put last weekend’s tragedy in the context of the real war. Paris was, of course, only a skirmish in the larger war.
In the last two weeks, a Russian airliner was bombed in Egypt a terrorist stabbed four people in California after planning to behead someone and praising Allah and carrying the Islamic State flag, scores were killed by car bombs in Lebanon, people continued to be killed in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan … and eight terrorists carried out very visible, ruthless attacks in Paris.
Paris was so vivid, so symbolic, and so well televised that it became the center of attention.
Suddenly French President Francois Hollande announced that these coordinated attacks by eight terrorists were an “act of war.” He promised to fight with “all the necessary means, and all terrains, inside and outside, in coordination with our allies.” Mr. Hollande promised a “pitiless” effort.
There are three key questions about Mr. Hollande’s sudden militancy.
First, why wasn’t the attack on the magazine Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish grocery store back in January an act of war?
Second, does this declaration of war by the French president mean that victory is their goal and they have thought about how painful and expensive the Russian experience in Chechnya, the Israeli experience in the Palestinian territories, the Pakistani experience in the northwest frontier and the Egyptian experience of trying to police the Sinai have been?
Third, are they as prepared to wage war at home against the internal enemy as they are to bomb Syria? Today’s announcement by the Interior Ministry that some mosques that teach sharia and jihadism would be closed was a good start. There are, however, an estimated 47 mosques dedicated to sharia and jihad in the Paris region alone. Closing all of them would be a historic struggle.
First, we have to define the real war and the real enemy.
Then, we have to define victory and establish a strategy to achieve victory.
Then, we have to ensure we have the systems and structures to implement that strategy.
If we don’t do all three, we can’t expect to start winning the real war.
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