Western countries reacted with expected expression of sympathy and despair to the wanton slaughter of mostly young civilians congregated at so called “soft targets” to begin their weekend in a similar fashion to their counterparts in other European cities and America as well. The choice of Paris for the site of this planned mayhem is not a surprise, Paris has recently been a focal point for Muslim extremism; but the ruthlessness of this random celebration of hatred should be a statement not easily forgotten by liberty loving people across the world, and it will not be. Sadly, such events are foreseeable in a world subjected to terrorism.
On the tail of the first news reports of acts of terrorism Friday evening against civilians attending a concert being performed by an American heavy metal band, and at a stadium in which two European national soccer teams were competing, came announcements from the U.S. government that these events were not part of any attacks targeted against America. I don’t know how many Americans were comforted in hearing from our government that we were not targeted in this attack. But in case any were, ISIS has reassured us today that we remain on their list of targets. Some Americans are comfortable to remain in the shadow of world events, content to hold on to the notion that we are too big, too strong and too far away from the Muslim caliphate to have it really impact on their lives; despite the thousands of our troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan by their similarly motivated cousins. But those among us who can read and write know that such thinking is a fantasy and that we are in fact already at war and each day we come closer to hearing the sound of that war on our streets as we did on 911.
Most Americans have not seen or smelled the smoke of burning that lingered long after that September day, or the sight of civilians falling a hundred floors to their death to escape the inferno of office spaces that once were a spectacular sanctuary looking out over a magnificent city that never believed such an event could occur. That day, and for months that followed, added to the sight of smoke and rubble that filled our senses was the sight of hearses at the head of columns of uniformed survivors escorting victim’s and colleagues marching through New York’s local streets. Also police and fire department vehicles identified by the names of cities from across America and around the world, bore notice from the communities that sent them that New Yorkers we were part of a human family sharing a grief carried by millions. We all believed that never again would we bear witness to a similar tragedy, but we have since learned that words and sentiment are not enough and action is required in the face of terror. And so this weekend the French people witnessed some presidential leadership when the French Air Force delivered an explosive message to ISIS headquarters in Syria from Francois Hollande, president of France; delivered with the promise of more to come.
We have heard of late that bombing is an ineffective choice in a war against irregular troops who scatter or seek out under ground bunkers, tunnels and caves and then re-emerge after our aircraft have gone. But it is equally true that training camps, storage depots, vehicles and support buildings remain vulnerable and their destruction inflicts serious losses on our opponents fighting capacity. Until we are able to strike a balance between foot soldiers and aircraft the continued use of air power and the willingness to inflict collateral damage is likely to continue until we have ended the Islamic terrorism threat.