On Friday, November 13, France faced the deadliest attack on its soil since World War 2. Individuals associated with ISIS carried out numerous bombings and gun raids across Paris, resulting in the deaths of over 100 individuals, as well as the injury of hundreds more. While this raises many issues within France and other European countries, such as policies for taking in refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern war zones, the biggest revolves around the military response to this act of terror, and the extent to which France and its allies should respond at all.
For many, the answer is easy. France has been attacked unprovoked, and as a result, it is within their right to respond with swift force, as they have already begun to do in Syria through multiple bombing missions. By this logic, it is also the responsibility of France’s allies to similarly respond. Talks have started among other international superpowers regarding military responses to ISIS in the Middle East and specifically in Syria, and while it is unclear whether a multinational coalition will be established to fight ISIS, it is clear that France will continue its operations against ISIS. In the United States, the discussion is no different.
Already, politicians in the US are using this tragedy as a platform for their own political gains. On both sides of the aisle, claims are being made of negligence and incompetence in dealing with ISIS. Republicans are lampooning President Obama and the Democrats for what they see as a weak response to this growing threat. Likewise, the Democrats are shining a light on the reticence that Republicans had in terms of funding any Democrat supported or created plans of action. But all that this finger pointing does is incite heavy-handed responses at home (mainly against those of Middle Eastern descent), and a desire to go abroad and deal with the complex issue that is being presented in such a simple way at.
We’ve seen this pattern before; after 9/11, United States citizens and politicians were nearly united in supporting military operations in the middle east, and people around the world were left questioning what their role should be in a response. For the most part, various forms of material support were given to the United States during that period, but there were many nations — Canada, Great Britain, and France to name a few — who became directly involved in the fighting that we started.
Even though this may have bolstered the ranks of those first entering Iraq and later Afghanistan, it did nothing but exacerbate the situation. In fact, many attribute the inception of ISIS to the power vacuum that was created by the multinational coalition led by the United States. While we are all sympathetic to the grief that France is facing, we need to tread carefully before we enter into another decade long conflict that does nothing but lead to violence. That isn’t to say that we should ignore what was done to France or who perpetrated those acts, nor should we cut France out and leave them on their own, however, it is most certainly not our place to step in militarily in Syria against ISIS. We need to differentiate between standing together in solidarity and retaliation, lest we further complicate the situation for ourselves and others.
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