It’s been nearly a week since the deadly attacks by Islamic jihadists of ISIS on Paris, killing at least 129 and injuring hundreds more. Today we heard more about the thwarting of alleged imminent additional attacks in the City of Lights. France has a problem. Europe has a problem. The U.S. and the rest of Christendom has a problem.
A while back I cited the 2014 Frontex report on EU borders, in which alarming trends of illegal immigration were on the upswing. The report also included a brief commentary on EU nationals traveling to Syrian to be radicalized.
According to law-enforcement authorities and experts, the number of Europeans with a jihadist agenda fighting in the conflict in Syria has significantly increased during 2013… Official figures from France and Denmark on that phenomenon have tripled and authorities in Belgium, Germany and the UK have even quadrupled their numbers… Terrorism experts and law-enforcement officials fear that some of these fighters may return to Europe ideologically and militarily trained, thus posing a terrorist threat to societies. Frontex Annual Risk Analysis 2014, p. 45
The highly charged debate about immigration will go on, and for now will be overlaid with the stark realization by France and perhaps other EU countries that the practice of uncontrolled borders is a losing proposition. The real question is, is it too late to secure borders? Nota bene, United States.
In the meantime, former NATO Allied Supreme Commander Admiral James Stavridis has called for France to invoke Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, requiring all NATO nations to come to the aid of a member that has been a target of armed aggression. As Stavridis points out, the scale of the Paris attacks are the French equivalent to America’s 9/11. He further outlines additional elements of a NATO-led campaign to dismantle and defuse ISIS across the middle east.
The Islamic State is an apocalyptic organization overdue for eradication. It has beheaded and raped citizens from around the world; has killed civilians in spectacular and horrific ways; has enslaved young women and girls and sold them in open markets; and appears to have brought down a commercial aircraft full of tourists. Now it has killed Westerners execution-style in a city theater. There is a time for soft power and playing the long game in the Middle East, but there is also a time for the ruthless application of hard power. It is NATO’s responsibility to recognize our current moment qualifies as the latter. Admiral (ret.) James Stavridis, Foreign Policy Magazine (online), November 14, 2015
If Stavridis’ proposal is adopted in some form involving a sustained attack on ISIS including “boots on the ground,” will we be in store for more debates about “just war” doctrine? As summarized in the Catechism, conditions for a legitimate defense by military force seem to be satisfied: lasting, grave and certain inflicted damage; other means of ending aggression are impractical or ineffective; serious prospects for success; and the use of arms should not produce graver evils than the original transgressions. The Admiral is known to be a proponent of what he calls “smart power,” meaning a combination of “hard” (military) and “soft” (diplomatic, economic) power. For now, he calls for hard power against ISIS.
I don’t want our children to go to war, especially in theaters where the enemy is asymmetrically embedded and the conditions for victory are nebulous. We’ve had enough of that, but truth be told the situation in Syria is of our own making via the tragically flawed tinkering of the “Arab Spring.” Unfortunately it seems we must eventually face down Islamic jihadists one way or the other.
For now, we should continue to pray for prudent policies, protection by our Holy Angels, and peace; and we should stand with France both in mourning and to combat ISIS.
Once again, “Lafayette, we are here.”