On Friday the thirteenth, November 2015, Paris was struck by a series of synchronized terror attacks that left 129 dead and 352 wounded, many with life-threatening injuries. In an all too familiar scenario, reminiscent of the earlier Parisian attack in January on the offices of satire magazine Charlie Hebdo, global leaders have decried the attacks, families have grieved, and civilized people of all nations are horrified and outraged while expressing their condolences and solidarity to the French people.
But it is not enough merely to change one’s Facebook profile photo to reflect the tri-colored flag of France. The citizens of the world, through their governments, must do more. As individuals, we must channel our outrage to end these attacks once and for all. Television commentators and political pundits are once again asking the perennial questions, “Why do they hate us? Why do they want to kill us?” This is not the time for questions; it is a time for action. When someone is trying to kill me, my response is to kill that person first. When I am standing over his cold, dead body, then I can allow myself the luxury, if I wish, of delving into his mind.
Make no mistake, we are at war. But unlike battles of the past, this war’s battlefield is not confined to one geographical location. Our enemies may be based in one place, but they have brought the attack to us: the synchronized attacks in Paris; the suicide bombing in Beirut, Lebanon that killed 43 and wounded 240 the day before the Parris attacks; the October downing of the Russian commercial aircraft that killed 224 passengers and crew; the October suicide bombings in Turkey that killed 102 and wounded 508; the August bombing in Thailand that killed 21 and injured 123. They have brought the war to us.
Those figures represent only the past four months and do not include the almost daily terrorist attacks in the Middle East and Africa. We know who the terrorists are and where they live. The majority of the world’s terrorist attacks are committed by ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Boko Haram. In January, Boko Haram slaughtered an estimated 2,000 people in Nigeria. How many more innocent people must die at the hands of known terrorists before the civilized world says enough is enough? What good is it to be the world’s most powerful nation if our leaders are unwilling to use that power? Must we stand impotent and watch the unabated wholesale slaughter of random innocents?
When Harry Truman decided the threat to the American people outweighed the value of the lives of civilians within our enemy’s borders, he used America’s most potent weapons to end the conflict once and for all. In doing so, he ensured it would be a long time before anyone would consider harming an American anywhere in the world. While I believe Truman was wrong to target populated cities, any target will unfortunately yield what the military calls collateral damage. There has never been a war in the history of the world in which innocent people did not die. We must accept this unfortunate fact and be as ruthless as our enemies or we shall eventually succumb to them. I have no doubt that eventually ISIS and their ilk will get their hands on chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons of mass destruction; just as I also have no doubt that the terrorists will not hesitate to use those weapons against the West.
Instead of a meaningless gesture, like changing your Facebook profile photo, contact your Congressman and tell your representative what you want your government to do. But don’t go off on a xenophobic rant against allowing refugees into our country. Not everyone from the Middle East is a terrorist. For most of them, terrorist attacks like the ones in Paris we’ve seen this week are part of their daily lives. They are fleeing their homelands because they are fleeing terrorism. They are scared, literally frightened for their lives, to the point where they have left their homes and belongings and fled their country merely for the chance to survive. These people are not our enemies; they are running away from our enemies. We need to recognize the difference. It was the French people who gave us the Statue of Liberty, which has always served as a symbolic beacon guiding the oppressed to our shores. It would be a sad irony if the attacks on Paris caused America to turn its back on all the Statue of Liberty stands for.