As regular readers know, back in May of this year the husband and I and three friends spent a week in Paris and journeyed all over the city, including to points mere blocks from some of the sites that witnessed carnage last Friday. I hear some saying that they won't be going to Paris any tie soon or may avoid going to Europe all together - which is precisely what the ISIS connected terrorists want. They want to impose fear and they want to replace freedom and openness with fear and disrupted lives. By giving into fear or by using fear mongering to exacerbate hostility to Muslims for self-promotion, those included to embrace fear and despicable Republican politicians are doing exactly what ISIS wants. I for one would go back to Paris in a heart beat - I have a higher risk of being victim of gun violence here in America. A column in the New York Times looks at the phenomenon. Here are excerpts:
Like millions of people, I’ve been obsessively following the news from Paris, putting aside other things to focus on the horror. It’s the natural human reaction. But let’s be clear: it’s also the reaction the terrorists want. And that’s something not everyone seems to understand.Take, for example, Jeb Bush’s declaration that “this is an organized attempt to destroy Western civilization.” No, it isn’t. It’s an organized attempt to sow panic, which isn’t at all the same thing. And remarks like that, which blur that distinction and make terrorists seem more powerful than they are, just help the jihadists’ cause.Think, for a moment, about what France is and what it represents. It has its problems — what nation doesn’t? — but it’s a robust democracy with a deep well of popular legitimacy. Its defense budget is small compared with ours, but it nonetheless retains a powerful military, and has the resources to make that military much stronger if it chooses. (France’s economy is around 20 times the size of Syria’s.) France is not going to be conquered by ISIS, now or ever. Destroy Western civilization? Not a chance.So what was Friday’s attack about? Killing random people in restaurants and at concerts is a strategy that reflects its perpetrators’ fundamental weakness. It isn’t going to establish a caliphate in Paris. What it can do, however, is inspire fear — which is why we call it terrorism, and shouldn’t dignify it with the name of war.The point is not to minimize the horror. It is, instead, to emphasize that the biggest danger terrorism poses to our society comes not from the direct harm inflicted, but from the wrong-headed responses it can inspire. And it’s crucial to realize that there are multiple ways the response can go wrong.
It would certainly be a very bad thing if France or other democracies responded to terrorism with appeasement . . . .
A much bigger risk, in practice, is that the targets of terrorism will try to achieve perfect security by eliminating every conceivable threat — a response that inevitably makes things worse, because it’s a big, complicated world, and even superpowers can’t set everything right. On 9/11 Donald Rumsfeld told his aides: “Sweep it up. Related and not,” and immediately suggested using the attack as an excuse to invade Iraq. The result was a disastrous war that actually empowered terrorists, and set the stage for the rise of ISIS.
[P]eople can and do exploit terrorism for political gain, including using it to justify what they imagine will be a splendid, politically beneficial little war.
Oh, and whatever people like Ted Cruz may imagine, ending our reluctance to kill innocent civilians wouldn’t remove the limits to American power. It would, however, do wonders for terrorist recruitment.Finally, terrorism is just one of many dangers in the world, and shouldn’t be allowed to divert our attention from other issues.
Paris may have changed that calculus a bit, especially when it comes to Europe’s handling of refugees, an agonizing issue that has now gotten even more fraught. And there will have to be a post-mortem on why such an elaborate plot wasn’t spotted. But do you remember all the pronouncements that 9/11 would change everything? Well, it didn’t — and neither will this atrocity.Again, the goal of terrorists is to inspire terror, because that’s all they’re capable of. And the most important thing our societies can do in response is to refuse to give in to fear.