November 14, 2015

A November Night in Paris

A November night in Paris: people in restaurants, on the streets. A soccer game at the stadium. A rock band is scheduled to play at a concert hall. All is normale.
And then chaos erupts. Explosions, gunfire, police in pursuit, bodies in the street and news reports of what soon becomes clear: These are multiple, coordinated terrorist attacks carried out against innocent civilians in France by forces of evil. Again.
In Paris, the city where a dozen people were killed in an attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January, there are now 129 dead, over 350 injured, countless more traumatized.
And the context: The French national soccer team was playing Germany at the stadium when a large bomb was set off just outside. Toward the center of Paris, there was shooting at a restaurant while armed attackers occupied a theater where an American rock group was due to perform. I was in my car when the chilling CNN news reports were coming in: unidentified figures, armed and in control, shooting hostages one by one. You could hear explosions in the background as the authorities tried to move in.
This is all heartbreaking and shocking. Yet it's a surprise attack that is also no surprise at all. Yesterday represented the worst terrorist incident in Europe since the Charlie Hebdo attacks. But there were other murderous assaults last year: at a museum in Brussels, at Canada's Parliament in Ottawa, and at a cafe in Sydney, Australia.
Knowing all this gives us no solace. It only affords the ability to move quickly from disbelief to resolve. The United States and its allies are engaged in worldwide conflict with a barbarous, devious enemy that is committed to violence, but not to fighting a war as we have fought others. The generals and Pentagon planners who battled previous insurgents and guerrilla armies introduced the idea of “asymmetric” warfare: surprise attacks and ambushes to make up for a lack of broad strength. What the terrorists do is worse - striking not just with surprise but with a vicious disregard for the innocent.

And so we will have a terrible Saturday in November of watching the body count in Paris, learning more about the thugs responsible and expressing our sympathies to France, a great friend and our oldest ally. Then we will move forward, committed to confronting and destroying this enemy wherever it dares to operate. Because we know that this attack in Paris was another attack on the West, on America, on the ideals of liberty, democracy and decency that bind us all together.

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