by John J. Metzler
Weirs Times Contributing Writer
UNITED NATIONS—Again the forces of terror and hate have attacked Paris. Again, and for the second time in a year, we stand in solidarity and weep for the victims. And as the barbarity of the Grim Reaper of Jihadi terror swept across Paris on a Friday night, the polite Western world is jolted into action and awareness, facing these terrorists who are trying to turn the City of Light into the Casbah of darkness and fear.
A stunningly brutal series of coordinated attacks from the national soccer stadium to bars, restaurants and a theatre killed 129 and injured hundreds of innocent civilians. France was stunned, shocked, and yet again reminded that it “can happen here.”
French President Francois Hollande has declared War on the so-called Islamic State. In a rare joint session of the National Legislature, the socialist President who is often viewed as dithering and indecisive, transformed himself into tough and seemingly decisive leader.
Hollande proclaimed that “We are at War.” In a somber address Hollande said he would call on the UN Security Council to pass a resolution to “destroy Daech (ISIL), while describing Syria as the “biggest terrorist factory the world has ever seen.”
“France is at war. But we are not engaged in a war of civilizations, because these assassins do not represent any. We are in a war against jihadist terrorism which is threatening the whole world,” he told a packed, somber chamber.
He added, ” Our enemy in Syria is Daesh (ISIL), it’s not about containing but destroying this organization.” Parliamentarians gave Hollande a standing ovation before spontaneously singing the “Marseillaise” national anthem, in an act of poignant defiance.
Hollande called for a “wide and single coalition” inducing the USA and Russia to combat ISIL.
In the meantime French fighter jets carried out punishing attacks on Islamic State targets in Syria. Russia’s current military intervention in Syria, while balked at in Washington, has now seen the role of Vladimir Putin evolve from a pariah to a partner in light of the recent attacks.
Earlier in January, Islamic radicals shot up the editorial offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and while other terrorists attacked a kosher supermarket. The world was shocked, countries mobilized in solidarity and support for France, people proclaimed “Je Suis Charlie” but then soon drifted into resignation and rationalization about the cause of Mid-East terror in the streets of a European capital. Before long, and despite many warnings, it was business as usual.
As one who regularly visits France, this writer has witnessed a quiet but growing radicalization in the banlieues (suburbs) in major cities.
Recent and brutal IS bombings in Beirut, Lebanon or the downing of a Russian airliner over Egypt killing 224 while connected were shrugged off as being “far away.” Russian President Vladimir Putin said these recent attacks were “the latest testimonial to the barbaric essence of terrorism which throws down a challenge to human civilization.”
The French police and military have mobilized and are rounding up the usual suspects; the home-grown radicalized Muslims who have become an often politely overlooked part of the suburbs in places like Paris, Brussels, and London.
French intelligence and counter terror are exceptionally good but obviously missed this latest outrage. According to the Le Figaro newspaper, “The attacks were planned in Syria, organized and Belgium, and carried out in Paris.” The attackers were nearly all European Union nationals.
But beyond proclaiming our solidarity with France by lighting monuments and buildings in the Blue, White and Red colors of the French flag, and offering tough rhetoric, we come to the new realistic stage; Defeating the death cult of Islamic State.
Despite the meteoric rise of ISIL violence in Iraq and now Syria, U.S. President Barack Obama still seems somehow detached in wanting to truly defeat this terrorist state; yes we bomb and “degrade” select IS targets and send fifty soldiers to turn the tide in this epoch Middle East conflict, and speak about multinational coalitions. But there is something missing: Willpower. In a speech at the G-20 Summit in Turkey, Obama was churlishly defensive about his stance towards IS.
Yet, the counterstrike is not exclusively America’s responsibility. France has impressive airpower and a unique asset which is being overlooked; the French Foreign Legion, tough units which fought in the first Gulf War, which are precisely trained for this type of contingency.
We are entering a dangerous but decisive period; preparing for followup violent attacks in Europe and possibly in the USA. The enemy is defined, the mission is clear, and the time is nigh.
John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China.