On Friday, November 13th, 2015, there were six separate coordinated attacks in Paris by three teams of terrorists wearing suicide vests and carrying assault rifles. So far 130 people have died from the attacks and 351 more were injured. 7 of the attackers died in the assault.
On November 18th, more members of the terrorist cell were cornered in an apartment building in a Paris suburb. 8 were captured and three were killed including the person who was believed to be the organizer and leader of the group, Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Abaaoud fought with ISIS in Syria before returning to France.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack as well as two other mass casualty terrorism incidents that happened around the same time as the Paris attacks. Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 crashed into the Sinai Peninsula on October 31 from a bomb that had been smuggled on board. 217 passengers and 7 crew members died.
Two suicide bombers killed 43 people in Beirut, Lebanon on November 12th. A Shia neighborhood was targeted. 239 more were injured.
It would seem that ISIS is implementing a strategy of dramatically increasing the impact they can make with a campaign of international terrorism.
Will they come here next? Is it really safe to allow Syrian refugees to come to this country? What additional steps will the threatened nations of the world take to counter the threat of ISIS?
These terrorism incidents have sent a shock wave around the globe. Our postmodern world with its evolving communication technology is fast becoming one unified field where anything that happens anywhere affects everyone everywhere. There is now a lot of fear in this space.
To the extent that we want to be part of a spiritually intelligent response to this crisis, it’s incumbent upon us to see if we can discern the difference between irrational fear and the realistic threats we face.
This is something that all of us have to deal with on an individual basis in our personal lives in any case. An increase in uncertainty is our modern experience.
With increased uncertainty, the unconscious will often generate fear scenarios of worst case possibilities. Then what’s remotely possible seems like an actual threat we have to guard against. Without a realistic threat assessment, we run the risk of taking actions which actually make us less safe.
Obama has proposed taking in 10,000 Syrian refugees. To be accepted into the United States, each one of these individuals will have to undergo a vetting process that takes 18 to 24 months to complete.
It’s unreasonable to assume that violent militants are going to use this route to get into the United States that involves a close scrutiny by government officials when they have other easier ways to get into the country such as student visas or coming as tourists with European passports.
Moreover, there is almost no evidence of a refugee terrorist connection. According to the Migration Policy Institute of Washington, since 9/11 there have been 784,000 refugees admitted into the United States. Only 3 have been arrested for terrorism related charges.
The House just voted on a bill that would make it practically impossible for Syrian refugees to come here. A better idea being considered is to limit visas for anyone who has traveled to Syria or Iraq within five years.
There is currently no law which restricts people on a terrorism watch list from buying guns.
If we turn away the refugees, we’ll be repeating a regrettable chapter from our past when the United States turned away Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution in 1939 because of fear that they would be Communists.
The irrational refugee phobia plays right into the ISIS ideological narrative of a war between Muslims and everyone else.
If by a mass casualty event we mean one which results in 100 total casualties or more, my intuitive reading is that we’re not going to see a mass casualty event in the United States any time soon, for at least ten years or more.
We don’t have the open border policy that Europe has that makes it easy to go from one country in Europe to another without having to stop at a border control check point. We haven’t had that many people go from the United States to Syria or Iraq to join ISIS that could return from the war there to harm us.
Currently, in our own country, our security forces have the upper hand on anyone who wants to plan a sophisticated attack.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be low casualty attacks by single individuals. We’ve had these before and we’ll have them again. But, my reading is that we won’t see anything on the scale of 9/11.
My intuition is that the ISIS group is taking on this new strategy because they are desperate. They want to provoke the West into overreacting and sending large numbers of European and American combat troops into Iraq and Syria. This sets the stage for the final battle between their perverted version of Islam and the West that is part of their apocalyptic fantasy.
They hope this will spur an influx of people to their cause.
They are running out of resources relative to their vision of what want to accomplish in establishing their caliphate. They’ve used up the money they looted from Iraq banks in the cities they took over, they’re running out of antiquities to sell, their oil production industry is being systematically destroyed, and they are in danger of running out of soldiers.
They count on recruitment from foreign countries to maintain the numbers to sustain the fiction of being a conquering army and to administer the areas they currently control.
Isis’s new strategy of international terrorism though is going to blow up in their faces. Europe is going to be safer now that France has had its 9/11 just as the United States is safer from terrorism after ours.
Russia and the United States along with other states are working together on a diplomatic initiative to end the Syrian Civil War. This will mean kicking Assad to the curb. Then every nation with a stake in Syria can fight ISIS and al-Qaeda.
Now there is a new movement of cooperation between nations to counter the ISIS threat. France has invoked Article 5 of the NATO Charter that requires every nation in NATO to help when one is attacked.
I don’t see recent events leading to a ground force of NATO and American troops in large numbers. There will be an intensification of the current efforts against ISIS and most of these will not be very visible or dramatic. But, in the long run, it will be effective, and ISIS, at least as a caliphate holding large areas of territory in Syria and Iraq, will cease to exist.
Assuming that an end to the Syrian Civil War can be achieved and there is no commitment of large numbers of Western ground forces, an effective war of attrition against ISIS can be sustained. My reading is that the demise of ISIS as a geographic entity will take about three years from the present time.
It’s important to counter ISIS militarily. If we make them look like losers on the battlefield, the aura of being an effective Muslim fighting force will fade away and their recruitment of foreign fighters will not be able to keep pace with their battlefield losses.
But military solutions are never going to be enough to defeat the appeal of their ideology. To reach this goal, we are going to need to continue to use the restraint we have in military operations that try to limit civilian causalities. It will be counterproductive to think that going to more total war will make us safer in the long run.
Terrorism and religious extremism is going to be with us for decades to come because it’s a dysfunctional reaction to the increasing rate of change in our civilization and the stress this puts on our institutions and on our habitual way of life.
The only long term solution to the problem of terrorism is to create a more just world where people feel empowered and where they feel they have a chance for a better life without having to burn down the neighborhood.
One thing you and I can do to move us towards this post terrorism future is to watch what we’re feeding the unified field of the world. When we feel fear about anything, question that emotion.
We need to ask ourselves is there a real threat here? What is the most intelligent response I can make to this disturbance I’m currently experiencing? Is there a deeper concern that I need to look at that the activating event has stimulated within me?
When you come from a place of kindness, tolerance, and acceptance of yourself and others, you’re putting good medicine into the field. Whatever we can do to heal ourselves will help heal the world.