I was on a plane when the attacks in Paris occurred. I’ve had a number of shocked phone calls, texts, and e-mails since from friends.
I can’t say that I’m shocked. What surprises me is not that this happened, but that it’s taken so long for something this big to happen, particularly in Europe.
Consider what we know. Not what we guess, but what we know.
We know that ISIS and other terrorist groups have utterly and avowedly no regard for human life. Their vision of a righteous future is their boots in everyone else’s face. They feel no internal restraint against committing even the worst acts of atrocity.
We know that ISIS has a deliberate, well conceived and executed plan to attract, radicalize, and energize young Muslims in countries around the world, including Muslims in Western countries and especially Western Europe.
We know that since the Syrian civil war began, more than 20,000 foreign fighters have gone to Syria, and that thousands of them are citizens of Western countries (from testimony of the Director of National Intelligence).
We know that ISIS is calling for direct attacks against civilians in the West, including the United States.
We know that they adapt to our tactics, that they learn how to persevere and prosper in the face of drone attacks and the other antiseptic methods we have been using against them.
We know that radical Islamic terrorism is spreading. Lieutenant General Mike Flynn was the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency until he retired in August of 2014. Here is what he told Breaking Defense at the time:
I know that’s a scary thought, but in 2004, there were 21 total Islamic terrorist groups spread out in 18 countries. Today, there are 41 Islamic terrorist groups spread out in 24 countries. A lot of these groups have the intention to attack Western interests, to include Western embassies and in some cases Western countries. Some have both the intention and some capability to attack the United States homeland.
We know that these groups are extremely media savvy, that they watch what our government, and the European governments, are doing. When our President declares red lines and doesn’t enforce them, they notice. When the Congress waters down the Patriot Act, they notice. When America wins a war in Iraq and the president decides not to leave a base there because he wants to “nation build at home”, they notice. When they kill our ambassador and personnel in Libya, and the administration’s top officials call it a spontaneous reaction to a video, they notice. When the Europeans decide to allow millions of migrants into their countries, without the semblance of a system designed to weed out the radicals, they notice. When our government, in the face of a rising tide of risk around the world, cuts the defense budget by a trillion dollars, they notice.
And they conclude that their ideology is right, that we are weak, decadent, and ripe for slaughter, that we have forgotten Churchill’s admonition that “in war, it is sometimes necessary to take into account the enemy.”
They are going to keep attacking until they fear us, and they are not going to fear us until we show that we are willing to do what must be done to defeat them.
Friday night in Paris was terrible, but it can get much worse.