National Security & Defense

After the Paris Massacre, the Debate Is Closed — ISIS Poses a Special Threat to the West

For the past 18 months, I and others have repeatedly warned that ISIS posed a special threat to Western nations. We were often accused of scaremongering or warmongering. But then came last Friday. And now that the war has come home — to the streets of a Western city filled with sports fans and music fans and individuals celebrating democratic freedom — the debate is closed.

ISIS is at war with the West. And it must be ended. Of course, in the days ahead some will argue that we should keep “Paris in perspective.” Consider this weekend’s erudite assertions by The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf, who cautions against French retaliation because “ill-chosen wars can and do carry more costs than benefits.” This logic is grossly mistaken. Today, as surely as at Pearl Harbor, the choice of war has been imposed by the enemy.

From the relative sanctuary of its caliphate, ISIS has now invaded the West with arrogant glee. And although some will say that the terrorist threat remains small — that more people are killed by umbrellas than by terrorist attacks — this single attack of terrorism is an onslaught against our societal fabric. By murdering a range of individuals in a range of social settings and in a range of ways, ISIS is cultivating the belief that our lives are insecure.

#share#However subtle, the gross chilling effect born of this terrorism must not stand. We must annihilate ISIS before it launches new attacks on our way of life. And in France, America now has a capable European ally with which to respond. Although his domestic record is catastrophic, French president François Hollande has proven himself determined in foreign policy, deploying French military forces against al-Qaeda syndicates in Africa and challenging President Obama to take a tougher stance against Iran and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. I expect Hollande will show increasing fortitude in the days ahead.

ISIS is cultivating the belief that our lives are insecure.

After all, with his proud people shocked but angered, Hollande will want to bring physical meaning to his statement that these attacks were acts of war. And with the European Union increasingly doubted over economic and sovereignty concerns (see Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), Hollande will see this moment as a test of the EU’s resiliency. Both these considerations lead me to believe that France will significantly escalate its air campaign against ISIS and commence special-forces ground operations against ISIS leaders and infrastructure.

#related#And in this response, France deserves three forms of American support. First, President Obama, who was absent from the Charlie Hebdo memorial, should visit Paris in solidarity. If possible, he should address the French Parliament and offer France U.S. support in the form of escalated military retaliation. Second, he should respond to this attack by energizing a more aggressive and comprehensive campaign against ISIS. Third, President Obama must draw greater attention to allied successes against ISIS. This should include greater publicity (including gun-camera videos) of actions like last week’s air strike on Jihadi John. ISIS leaders and fighters must come to perceive their banner as a magnet for purposeless death, not ordained glory.

We must also challenge ISIS in other unconventional fields, such as satire. After all, while Islamic extremists hate being teased, Muslims attempting to reform political Islam deserve our confidence in free speech. Crucially, we must debate those in our own societies who push the warped delusion that misplaced political correctness can undercut Salafi jihadism.

But as a first step, we must accept the consequence of what occurred on Friday evening in the city of light. One hundred twenty-nine civilians went out that evening in pursuit of happiness and returned home in coffins.

— Tom Rogan is a writer, a panelist on The McLaughlin Group, and a fellow at the Steamboat Institute. He tweets @TomRtweets. His homepage is Tom Rogan Thinks.

Tom Rogan is a columnist for National Review Online, a contributor to the Washington Examiner, and a former panelist on The McLaughlin Group. Email him at

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