As details trickled out about Friday’s deadly attacks in and around Paris, observers urged world leaders to avoid knee-jerk responses both at home and abroad.
“The true test for France is how they respond to the terror attacks in the long-game—that’s the king in all this,” said analyst and former U.S. Foreign Service employee Peter Van Buren in an op-ed Sunday. “America failed this test post-9/11; yet it does not sound like France understands anything more than America. ‘We are going to lead a war which will be pitiless,’ French president [François] Hollande said outside the Bataclan concert hall, scene of the most bloodshed.”
Indeed, beating the drum for “all-out war” would not be strategically sound, critics cautioned in the wake of the attacks.
ISIS leadership “is hoping to precipitate a Western ground offensive in Syria that would be as disastrous as the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the very invasion that fed what would become the ‘Islamic State’,” wrote author and academic Jean-Pierre Filiu, a professor of Middle East studies the Paris School of International Affairs, at Politico on Sunday.
And there’s little reason to think France and its Western allies won’t take the bait. The Intercept‘s Murtaza Hussain similarly warned: “I’m pretty much certain whatever is done in response to this attack will end up further exacerbating terrorism. This is the post-9/11 model.”
“But,” Phyllis Bennis wrote for The Nation, “wars of vengeance won’t work for France anymore than they worked for the United States.”
“Terrorism survives wars; people don’t,” she said. “We saw the proof of that again last night in Paris, and we saw it the day before in Beirut. We were hearing sounds of victory from US war-makers. The Obama strategy was working, they said… Yet the war—a new version of that same ‘global war on terror’—is still being waged, and clearly it still isn’t working. Because you can’t bomb terrorism—you can only bomb people. You can bomb cities. Sometimes you might kill a terrorist—but that doesn’t end terrorism; it only encourages more of it.”
As of Sunday evening—just hours after it was launched—a petition rejecting “any attempt by political leaders to exploit tragic events to promote more war” had already garnered more than 10,000 signatures.
‘Paris Changes Everything’
Immediately in the wake of Friday’s attacks, as Hollande declared a state of emergency, re-established external border controls, and mobilized the French military, fears emerged of a backlash against refugees in Europe.
“The recent violence will help justify the policies of those who most fear the influx of refugees,” warned Cassie Werber at Quartz.
Indeed, Agence France-Presse reported Sunday that the French police’s discovery of a Syrian passport near the body of one attacker in particular “has sparked concerns that some of the assailants might have entered Europe as part of the huge influx of people fleeing Syria’s civil war.”
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