This will be brief because there are just two or three brief ideas to articulate.
Everyone is worried about the response. How will we obliterate ISIS? How will we stop attacks like these? These questions come from a deep, deep place of imperial privilege. When 240+ Iranians are killed in a commercial airliner, shot down by the US, the Iranians don’t get to react. When at bare minimum 100,000 Iraqis are killed by foreign invasion and occupation, their only recourse is to accept it. Who says we get to punch back every time we get punched? Who says every lash we suffer gets to be responded to tenfold? No one else gets to, it is only on the virtue of power that the West thinks it should always be able to react to its wounds. Maybe that time is over. Maybe it was a bubble divorced from the realities of life on Earth. When we are wounded we hold the wound and suffer. Why should we always get to export our wounds to others?
How would destroying ISIS stop these attacks? No matter how much Earth we scorch how would terrorists ever run out of 8 guys willing to shoot up a major Western city? They never will, unless we cut off immigration, shut out refugees, make a segregationist society, etc., all repulsive actions we cannot undertake. The US has always been safe because it is an island. But as we lose our fire-with-impunity status in the world we may have to swallow the harsh pill most of the world has already swallowed – sometimes violence implodes within. And with all our domestic shootings this reality has already unfolded on a small scale. It is childish to think we can react and stop it. Childish to its core, a sobbing baby trying to punch the one who has poked it with a pin.
What did retaliation do after 9/11? It led to a Middle East on fire, and from fire rises scorched minds, deformed beings without empathy or love. History has taught us already, the failed state of Iraq was ISIS’ primordial ooze. If we continue to fail to learn then we will exhaust ourselves militarily and fulfill Al Qaeda’s 15-year grand strategy – to provoke the West into every expensive war until the debt economy can crash, until US dollars become worth less than dirt and Russia becomes the next big superpower. History moves and the weak and the powerful alike retain wounds, no hand is massive enough to stop its body from every attack. This is a reality the privileged citizens of the West have yet to truly face. This reality will break the imperial mind.
I don’t have any answers, but frankly, the search for answers is spiritual infancy. All over the world for decades upon decades billions of people have faced violence from without and within, violence that they cannot prevent. We have been lucky until now but the throne built upon bones is destined to collapse. The decline has started and now the wounds we’ve made are catching up with us. Tragic? Yes. But it is nothing new. A new dark period of powerlessness may be upon the West, it may have lived out the height of its supremacy and the amorphous nemesis of ISIS may survive every Sword of Damocles we cast its way. And for the survivors of Damocles, they too will seek to react to their wounds, and their eyes will linger upon Western shores.
There is no answer. That’s life. That’s how fire and power work. We play the game of power and we reap what we sow, until the end when we are no longer the strongest and in our decline we face the misery we have enacted upon others. Poetic justice, poetic travesty. These games require a deeper transcendence.
P.S. Everyone changing their profile pictures to the French flag are volunteering to become a part of mass-opinion marketing strategies. It’s really nothing more than that.