It was Friday night in Paris, a time to go out to concerts, or to meet friends at a bar and share a glass of wine. Instead, 11/13, became France’s 9/11 as gunmen and suicide bombers methodically and randomly slaughtered more than 130 citizens at four locations around the city, wounding hundreds more.
Claiming responsibility for these attacks was the Islamic State, know as ISIS or ISIL, which has grown out of an Al Qaeda affiliate. But Friday’s organized attacks were more coordinated than most the world has seen since the group declared a caliphate, or Islamic state, in June 2014. That’s when the terrorist group began expanding beyond its base in Iraq and Syria. In the two years since, ISIS has grown in force and extremism, using well-publicized beheadings, sex slavery, kidnappings and rape as their weapons of choice.
ISIS claimed it was justified in killing hundreds of innocent people Friday in Paris, the city ISIS called the “capital of prostitution and obscenity.” And the terrorist group proudly claimed responsibility a day earlier for a suicide bombing in Lebanon that left 43 dead and two weeks earlier for the downing of a Russian jet over the Sinai Peninsula that killed 224 people. On Oct. 6, a series of bombings in Yemen’s two largest cities killed at least 25 people, and on Sept. 24, also in Yemen, 25 more people were killed when two bombs went off outside a mosque during prayers to commemorate a major Muslim holiday. The month prior, three attacks struck Egypt, and here in the U.S. this past August, a New Jersey man was arrested trying to organize support for ISIS, and on Aug. 8 a newlywed Mississippi couple were arrested on charges that they tried to travel abroad to join ISIS. Earlier this summer, on July 28, a Florida man was charged with planning to bomb a public beach in Key West to show support for the terrorist group.
What’s their objective? According to a New York Times interview with Harleen Gambhir, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, ISIS is focused on three parallel tracks: inciting regional conflicts in Iraq and Syria; building relationships with jihadist groups that carry out military operations across the Middle East and North Africa; and inspiring ISIS sympathizes to conduct attacks on the West.
“The goal,” Ms. Gambhir said, “is that through these regional affiliates and through efforts to create chaos in the wider world, the organization will be able to expand, and perhaps incite a global apocalyptic war.”
This, then, is not just France’s 9/11, it is the world’s.
France didn’t wait long to strike back by hitting the city of Raqqa, a stronghold of ISIS in Syria that is known as the group’s de facto capital, with a swift bombing attack that sought to hit a command post, jihadist recruitment center and an arms and munitions center in that city of 400,000. President Obama and the U.S. has pledged moral and military support to France, as have many nations throughout the world.
But will force be an effective response?
That’s the question leaders around the world are asking. The immediate answer, as France demonstrated, is to strike back as a show of resolve; as a way as saying that terrorism against others will make those nations stronger and more united in their efforts to rid the world of these terrorists.
But combatting terrorism with military force is like trying to pop a balloon by squeezing it. The more we squeeze, the more terrorism seems to expand elsewhere. A worldwide coordinated attack against ISIS can and will restrict its activities and it will weaken its power, for the immediate future, but as we have seen time and again, military might alone is not enough to eradicate such sickness.
One hope is to let the air out of their appeal to fanaticism, to condemn not only the actions but the motivations behind such forces, and to push the powers that be in those countries (and at all outposts throughout the world) to teach the youth that there is no glory, no honor and no salvation in killing another human being.
Until that becomes possible, we are at war.
This editorial first appeared Monday, Nov. 16, in The Addison Independent, a sister publication to The Mountain Times.