The attacks claimed by the self-described Islamic State in Paris have done more than spread fear across the West. They have upended our concepts of war, security and alliances in a connected yet disintegrating world — a world in which no superpower or group of states can impose order.
As the “End of Power” author Moisés Naím notes, ISIS has breached that perimeter that above all defines strong states: a monopoly over violence. It has shifted the battlefield to the soft targets of cafes and concert halls. As Lucia Annunziata writes from Italy, “The Third World War, whether you want to believe it or not, is already underway … and Europe is its theater.” The savvy of ISIS operatives has also called into question whether we can maintain both open borders and encrypted cyberspace. They have shown that distributed networks of angry youth at the margins of European society, who bond on the Internet instead of at the mosque, are beyond the reach of the drone strikes aimed at decapitating their leadership in the Mideast. As the Aspen Institute’s Charlie Firestone writes in his analysis of the “guerilla cyber-warfare” declared by the Anonymous hackers against ISIS: “The Westphalian concept of sovereign nations dealing with each other as states has limited application to a world where networks are the dominant form of organization.”
For Ambassador Frederic Hof, who has advised U.S. authorities on the transition of power in Syria, ISIS has demonstrated a resilience that only boots on the ground deployed to destroy their home base can overcome. Philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy echoes Hof with a sense of urgency. “No boots on their ground means more blood on ours,” he writes from Paris.
The Paris attacks have further shredded the notion, as French political insider Jacques Attali, former NATO commander Jim Stavridis, retired U.S. Brigadier General Peter Zwack and former CIA official Graham Fuller contend, that the West can somehow beat ISIS without forging a coalition with unsavory allies such as Putin’s Russia, Iran’s theocracy and, for now, even the Assad regime itself. Our vulnerability, they argue, demands partnering with anyone who is also the enemy of our enemy. The choice defies clean moral calculus. Either NATO sends in troops to rout ISIS from the territory it has seized, or the West must align with those who already have boots on the ground — including the Syrian army. To put it in the cruelly stark terms that will inform strategy considerations going forward, for all the brutality of Assad’s barrel bombs, at least they are not falling on Paris. Lebanese writer Randa Slim, who sees Assad’s continuing power in Syria as the core of the problem, adamantly counters this argument.
Writing from Beirut, former MI6 agent Alastair Crooke says now that ISIS has reached into the heart of Europe, the West must at last reconsider its long-standing relations with Saudi Arabia, which shares the Islamic State’s puritanical Wahhabi roots. Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi sees no connection between recent setbacks for ISIS in the Mideast and a new assault on “the far enemy” in Europe. Rather, he sees a failure of intelligence in Europe to stop ISIS plots that have been long in the works and even discussed publicly. Reporting from Iraq, WorldPost Middle East Correspondent Sophia Jones takes us inside the city of Sinjar that was controlled by ISIS until earlier this week, speaks to Yazidis worried about the impact French strikes will have on their relatives held by ISIS and hears from Iraqi and Syrian refugees who tell her that, despite the backlash in Europe, they will still head there because “we have nothing left here, nothing left to lose.” This photo essay illustrates the desperate conditions from which Syrian refugees are fleeing.
Writing from Amman, Jan Egeland says the proper response to the Paris attacks is to extend further, not withdraw, refugee aid. World Reporter Charlotte Alfred warns of the high civilian costs of an intensified assault on ISIS and reminds us in this week’s “Forgotten Fact” that Boko Haram kills more people in terror attacks than the Islamic State.
On home front defense in France, Attali also proposes a distributed response to distributed terrorism: reinstating mandatory military service for all citizens in the form of a civil defense training since anyone just going about their daily life is a soft target. Writing from Paris, Rokhaya Diallo and Jean-Eric Boulin report a “Tale of Two Frances” that are “divorcing” from each other, and call for an end to “Muslim bashing” in French politics that “stokes resentment” and anger in Muslim communities. While President François Hollande has announced France will take in 30,000 refugees in the coming two years, World Reporter Nick Robins-Early observes that the French National Front and other anti-immigrant parties are gaining strength by exploiting the the Paris attacks. Ambassador Akbar Ahmed adds that, “Behind the current uneasy relationship between Muslim immigrants in Europe and the host countries looms the history of European imperialism.” Daniel Marans points out that the reactions of some political leaders, such as the American governors who are refusing to allow in Muslim Syrian refugees, are playing into the hands of the Islamic State.
Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, condemns the terrorist attacks in Paris and warns against “demonizing Muslims without cause.” WorldPost Managing Editor Farah Mohamed reports on an appeal by the Ismaili Muslim leader, the Aga Khan, for greater pluralism in an increasingly fragmented world. Writing from Paris, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova similarly calls for “disarming radicalization” by teaching peace through a pluralist understanding of cultures. Iranian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo reminds us of the civilizing quality of empathy as the key to combatting the mindset of “decivilizing terrorism.” France’s most famous Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard, offers a meditation on the Paris events. “If hatred answers hatred,” he writes, “the problem will never end. The time has come to apply the balm of compassion to our wounds.” Writing from Paris, Muslim scholar Munawar Anees argues that, “the agenda for global peace is not served by making Islam a scapegoat.”
Former French environment minister Corinne Lepage looks ahead in the coming weeks to a successful Paris summit on climate change as the best response to ISIS brutality. Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, hopes the Paris summit will mean a farewell to fossil fuels. In our Third Industrial Revolution series this week, Norwegian philosopher and “Sophie’s World” author Jostein Gaarder outlines “an ethics of the future.” “We must realize,” he writes, “ that the principle of reciprocity also has a vertical dimension: you shall do to the next generation what you wished the previous generation had done to you.”
Fusion this week looks at what is behind censorship of atheist posts on Facebook in India. Finally, our Singularity series highlights the nanotechnology that is already working in humans: our own biology.
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