France v. ISIS, What This Kind Of War Requires
French President Francois Hollande has declared that his nation is at war against jihadist terrorism. But how do those words translate into action?
PARIS — Elodie, Marie, Mathias, Nick, Emmanuel, Mathieu. There is inexpressible grief for these stolen lives, and anger in the face of senselessness. But there's also the belief that, despite this overwhelming tragedy, the cowardly ISIS soldiers will never be able to take from us our love of life and happiness, will never silence the music or quell the joy of being together on a Friday night or force this country to its knees.
We will not forget these faces, these smiles, these moments. The jihadists will not break down our values, or all of what builds the spirit of a nation, and especially of this France that represents everything they hate: freedom, reason, the culture that lives in every little recess of our lives, the appetite for endless debate, the capacity to joke about God and mock churches while deeply respecting the place of religion in our republic.
But to preserve these values and this identity inherited from history, we will have to fight. It is one thing to say we are at war, and these words have long been used in many ways, indeed including the most warlike. It is yet another thing to actually wage war — and that changes everything.
We didn't want this war. ISIS has designated us its enemy and is dragging us into its fight. By all means, we must face it. There may be tragedies on an even larger scale because the madness of its leaders is limitless and their reserve of soldiers of hatred, ready to "sacrifice" themselves amid an innocent crowd, is growing bigger every day.
Radical Islam is totalitarianism, just as Nazism and fascism were, that must be fought directly. It has long exploited the weakness of democracies, which are torn between resisting the "war trap" and the courage to take on the challenge.
Waging war requires knowing your enemy, which has been one of the major difficulties of such an asymmetrical conflict. The barbarians aren't just at the gate. Many of them are actually from here, raised on our soil, ever more often French citizens brainwashed by radical imams in mosques from which the moderates have long since been driven out.
Clarity and limits
Islamism is a gangrene that's gaining ground, from places of culture to places of worship, helped by increasingly better organized networks and backed by revenue generated from human and drug trafficking. These barbarians were armed here, they became ISIS soldiers right outside our windows, and it is here that their pathetic brains accumulated the images that fed their destructive madness. Their aim is to "Lebanonize" France by turning communities against each other, to destroy what we are.
Waging war also implies clarity as to the limits of the rule of law. Detaining all the suspects will not lead to much, except to reinforce the appeal of ISIS to its recruits, which relies precisely on a mechanism of victimhood. Guantanamo produced more terrorists than it destroyed.
What must be absolute priorities now are reinforcing tracking systems, constantly cross-referencing the files of suspects, closing down radical places of worship, and putting the most extreme preachers where they can't do harm. We can go much further in the fight without putting our principals in danger, so what are we waiting for?
Finally, waging war implies striking the enemy in its heart — in other words, in Iraq or Syria — in the regions where it's spreading its sinister "caliphate." The world has made the serious mistake of allowing ISIS to become a terrorist power that controls large swaths of territory. We must now come together to fight.
For Elodie, Marie, Mathias and the others, for our values, we must wage this war, whatever the cost.