Tragedies lead to emotions running high. The terrorists that murdered 130 people in Paris are not to be taken lightly. Those 130 lives deserve much more than passive apathy in response to this brutality. But they also deserve more than hasty recklessness.
A foreign policy that rationally assesses its prior successes and failures, looks at the long-term consequences of its actions, and prioritizes the safety of people against terrorism is the answer to the recent barbaric Paris attacks. The temptation to immediately retaliate by bombing ISIS targets in Syria should not be pursued without careful consideration of the costs. Reason must temper our anger.
Public policy, guided by politicians focused on short-term public opinion, is often shortsighted and brash, especially in the wake of tragedies. Responding to pressure that we “must do something,” and motivated by anger and hate, people pursue thoughtless vengeance, rather than deciding on a course of action through rational deliberation.
Yes, justice should be swift, but we must figure out what justice is before acting.
The civil war that erupted as part of an “Arab Spring” didn’t have to turn into a bloodbath, costing the lives of over 100,000 people and displacing 2 million more. America’s efforts at aiding the Syrian rebels have gone seriously awry, as al Qaeda fighters have taken advantage of the Pentagon’s misguided training program. Worse still, some of the attacks on ISIS have revealed another unintended consequence of America’s war in Iraq: U.S. military hardware has made it into the hands of Islamic terrorist groups.
The West’s interventions into the Middle East have far-reaching consequences that are hardly ever anticipated because the region’s socio/political dynamics are simply too complex for politicians in far away countries to understand.
The final passage of ISIS’s post-Paris statement reveals the motivation behind the Paris attacks and is vital to crafting a better, more rational foreign policy response:
Let France and all nations following its path know that they will continue to be at the top of the target list for the Islamic State and that the scent of death will not leave their nostrils as long as they partake in the crusader campaign, as long as they dare to curse our Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), and as long as they boast about their war against Islam in France and their strikes against Muslims in the lands of the Caliphate with their jets, which were of no avail to them in the filthy streets and alleys of Paris. Indeed, this is just the beginning. It is also a warning for any who wish to take heed.
The Paris attacks didn’t have to happen. ISIS has specifically identified what it hates and what it is angered by. More “crusader campaign[s]” won’t be of any help to innocent people in Western nations. More “war[s] against Islam” won’t help keep the people of France safe. More “strikes against Muslims” aren’t the answer. Why? Because ISIS lets its anger and hate cloud its judgment.
Western bombing campaigns kill innocent people, motivating Muslims to abandon their reason and to support or join the ISIS’ cause. The number of potential recruits is sky high and the West keeps making more of them. Not taking heed of the above warning is simply strengthening ISIS’ hand.
We must not let anger and hate guide our foreign policy. More bombing won’t make anyone safer. It will kill innocent lives in the Middle East, create ideological support for violent Islamist ideas, empower terrorist organizations, and ultimately result in more blowback against the West. We must make a radical departure from the last century of constant meddling in the Middle East and try a new kind of foreign policy guided by careful deliberation, reason, and restraint.