What’s Next After ISIS’s Paris Massacre?

A call to action.

The darkness of evil descended on the City of Light last Friday night as eight jihadists conducted coordinated attacks at six Paris locations. They slaughtered at least 129 people in cold blood. It was the worst such massacre in France since World War II and the deadliest jihadist incident in the West since the Madrid train bombings slightly more than a decade ago.  

The Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) claimed responsibility. In a statement it posted online, ISIS boasted that the eight “brothers” acted “in the name of Allah and Allah strengthened the hands of the warriors and put fear and terror in the hearts of the crusaders.” ISIS adherents had already jumped the gun before the official ISIS statement, creating the hashtag “Paris in flames” as the attacks were unfolding. French President Francois Hollande called the coordinated deadly attacks a “cowardly act of war” and declared a state of emergency. He promised that France “will be merciless against Islamic State’s barbarians.”  

The death tally included at least 89 persons attending a rock concert. Many were gunned down by four of the jihadists shouting “Allahu akbar.” More innocent civilians were killed when three of these murderers blew themselves up as the police raided the concert venue. The fourth jihadist was killed by the police. Suicide bombers also took several innocent lives outside the Stade de France national stadium, where French President Francois Hollande was in attendance for a soccer game. Other innocent civilians were gunned down as they sat in restaurants and cafes.

ISIS warned of more carnage to come: 

“France and those who follow its ways should know that they remain at the top of the Islamic State hit list and that the smell of death will not leave their noses as long as they continue on their crusade and continue to insult the Prophet and boast their war on Islam in France while attacking Muslims in the land of the caliphate.” 

The day before the Islamic State’s horrific attacks in Paris took place, President Obama said during an ABC interview that he did not think the Islamic State was gaining strength. “From the start, our goal has been first to contain, and we have contained them. They have not gained ground in Iraq.” This self-deluded puffery is consistent with Obama’s whole approach to ISIS.

When ISIS first emerged as a potential threat and could have been rather easily stamped out before it spread, he referred to ISIS as a JV team. He did nothing then to counter them. As ISIS expanded the territories under its control, Obama reluctantly decided to undertake a slow incremental military approach that relied on a limited number of airstrikes, supplemented over the following months by a limited number of non-combat ground forces. Not until Russian President Vladimir Putin intervened in Syria with his own airstrikes in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime against ISIS and against “moderate” rebel strongholds did Obama move towards stepping up the pace of U.S. airstrikes. He decided to send 50 special-operations troops to Syria in support of airstrikes which will soon be ramped up according to a senior U.S. military official cited by the Wall Street Journal. On Thursday, November 12th, a drone strike reportedly killed the infamous ISIS executioner known as Jihad John in the ISIS de facto capital of Raqqa. 

The juxtaposition of Obama’s ISIS containment statement with ISIS’s successful multi-pronged Paris attacks demonstrates how out of touch the president is with the enemy we are fighting. In all likelihood President Obama was thinking of the tactical victory by Kurdish and Yazidi fighters, backed by U.S. airstrikes, who managed to liberate the northern Iraqi city of Sinjar from Islamic State occupation.  He may also have had in mind the reported killing of Jihad John. As positive as those developments are, however, Obama thinks tactically and not strategically. He misses the big picture. The Islamic State is not contained. To the contrary, just within the last two weeks or so, it has managed, with the support of its “brothers” operating outside of its declared caliphate, to down a Russian jet over Egypt with an explosive device, to conduct a double suicide bombing that killed more than forty people in Beirut Lebanon, and to successfully carry out the coordinated Paris attacks.

Hillary Clinton tried to distinguish herself from President Obama, saying during the November 14th Democratic presidential debate that ISIS “cannot be contained, it must be defeated.” But following in the footsteps of Obama’s failed “leading from behind” foreign policy, she declared that “this cannot be an American fight.” If not America firmly in the lead, then whom Madame Secretary?

President Obama decried the Paris massacres as “an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share.” He promised full support to France, without specifying exactly what that meant. 

Obama still believes we are dealing with deviant violent extremists who are defying “universal values.” He still does not connect what happened in Paris to the ideology of Islam, which rejects “the universal values we share” as posited by Obama and offers an alternative worldview based on global jihad and Islamic supremacy. 

In her comments during the Democratic presidential debate, Hillary Clinton also refused to use descriptions of the enemy that included the words “Islam” or Muslim.” She hesitated to even embrace the phrase “radical Islamists.” Just like President Obama, Hillary talked instead more generically about “violent extremism,” although at one point she did describe ISIS as “a barbaric, ruthless, violent jihadist terrorist group.”  She said that we are at war with “people who use their religion for purposes of power and oppression” and referred obliquely to “the kind of radical jihadist ideology that motivates organizations like ISIS.” Her analysis of the root causes of ISIS’s rise went no further than blaming oppressive dictatorships and the “increasing globalization without any real safety valve for people to have a better life.” ISIS’s “behavior is so barbaric and so vicious,” she said, “that it doesn’t seem to have any purpose other than lust for killing and power.”

Erroneous diagnoses of the fundamental roots of the problem lead to faulty solutions. ISIS is not motivated by a “lust for killing and power” for its own sake. It does not consist of just a bunch of violent extremists steeped in nihilism. They do reject modernity (except its technological tools such as social media). In its place, however, they operate on the basis of a wholly alternative paradigm of their own, which represents for them the perfect society. ISIS’s purpose is to build and expand its caliphate to make Islam supreme globally.   

As Graeme Wood wrote in his thorough analysis of ISIS’s ideology in The Atlantic:   

“There is a temptation to rehearse this observation—that jihadists are modern secular people, with modern political concerns, wearing medieval religious disguise—and make it fit the Islamic State. In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh -century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse…the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.”

Jihadists committed to Islamic supremacy adhere to a literal reading of Sharia law, which stands in opposition to the sacredness of life for all human beings regardless of belief. They reject the idea that all human beings are entitled to be treated with equal dignity and have inalienable rights. They respect only Allah’s divine law and the teachings of their prophet Muhammed, which separates believers from non-believers, sanctioning inferior status, if not outright death, for the latter. Belief in the validity of man made law, whether enacted through a democratic process or a dictator’s edict, is heresy. Self-government is anathema.

To believe, as President Obama does, that more jobs, economic opportunity and inclusive pluralistic governance will defeat ISIS’s ideology demonstrates the president’s utter naivete. Hillary Clinton’s reference in the debate to the need for “development aid” to help counter the ISIS threat is equally misguided. ISIS adherents are not looking for development aid from the West. They are looking for its destruction and the death of all “infidels.” Their apocalyptic vision of a global caliphate is to strip all lands of “unbelievers” or subjugate them under the caliphate’s rule.  

ISIS is spreading, not only by recruiting Westerners to fight for its caliphate in Syria and Iraq, but also to launch terrorist attacks in their own homelands. One of the attackers in Paris was reported to be a Frenchman whom had spent time in Syria nearly two years ago. 

ISIS is also using the cover of migration to enable jihadists from Syria and elsewhere to enter Europe under the guise of asylum seekers. According to a report in The Guardian, while several of the jihadists responsible for the Paris attacks may have had ties to Belgium, one was “said to be Syrian who passed through Greece on refugee route.” A Syrian passport was found near his body. The article quoted a Greek deputy minister in charge of policing, who said: “The holder of the passport passed through the island of Leros on 3 October 2015, where he was identified according to EU rules.” According to subsequent reporting, it appears that a second jihadist registered as a refugee on Leros last August. 

A Syrian operative working for ISIS has claimed that thousands of ISIS jihadists have already taken advantage of the “refugee” disguise and entered Europe. “It’s our dream that there should be a caliphate not only in Syria but in all the world,” he said, “and we will have it soon, God willing.” Perhaps that explains why the majority of “refugees” from the Middle East and North Africa migrating to Europe are males of fighting age.

As Robert Spencer wrote: “Migrant Jihad has begun.”  

Admitting masses of self-declared “refugees” from the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan into Western countries starts us down the path towards national suicide. It conflicts with the primary responsibility of every national government to protect its own citizens against invasion. The jihadists are invading. Yet the Obama administration actually intends to expand and accelerate the “refugee” admission process.

The Obama administration had previously announced its plan to admit at least 10,000 Syrian refugees next year, a six-fold increase from present numbers. And Reuters reported on November 6th that the administration is “moving to increase and accelerate the number of Syrian refugees who might be admitted into the United States by opening new screening outposts in Iraq and Lebanon.” Two senior administration officials told Reuters they are seeking ways to increase the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States from the 10,000 figure. “We want to be in a place where we can push out really ambitious goals,” said one of the officials, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity.

During Saturday night’s Democratic presidential debate, Hillary Clinton went so far as to propose that the United States admit as many as 65,000 Syrian refugees. Yes, she said they must first be very carefully vetted. However, considering that many of those claiming to be “refugees” have no documentation or are carrying false papers, successful screening will be an impossible task.

The Paris massacre should be a call for real action on multiple fronts. These include sharply stepped up military offensives concentrated against ISIS, coordinated with Russia as necessary. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is not a strategic threat to the United States. ISIS is the strategic threat. ISIS can only be defeated by understanding its animating jihadist ideology, and then undermining it by doing whatever is necessary to strip ISIS of its existing caliphate territory. ISIS’s strategy to export its jihad to the West must also be stopped in its tracks. Migration to the West from the sectarian cauldrons of the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere should be discouraged by all means necessary. Exceptions should only be made in the most serious and obvious humanitarian cases, starting with Christian and Yazidi women, children and the elderly fleeing the ISIS killing fields.

French President Hollande seems to have gotten the message. Hopefully, his decision to control France’s borders and invoke emergency powers to go after the home-grown jihadists will last more than a few days and be followed by other European countries. President Obama and the leading Democratic candidate for president, however, are still trapped in political correctness and risk aversion, which leads to paralysis in the face of evil.