The world was just starting to forget about the Russian passenger jet an ISIS bomb blew up over Sinai when the massacres happened in Paris. People started to talk about Paris being a wake-up call and a game-changer. As I write, I have no idea what else might have happened by the time you read this. I do know the world as we have known it is no more.
While terrorism is nothing new, it has grown since 9/11. Never before had we heard a political leader use the word “war” so openly and so directly. Bombs away in Iraq and Syria, and we wake up every morning remembering last year’s lone wolf terrorist attack in Ottawa and worry that worse could happen. This war with ISIS is on our doorstep.
“ISIS needs to be destroyed, decimated, made to disappear like cockroaches,” is what I heard someone say from Paris, and I shake my head and wonder how in the world that could ever be done.
The faces of the mass killers in Paris are so young. Good looking young men, most in their 20s. They so savagely slaughtered so many people and then blew themselves up for their cause of global jihad.
This war is not just about going to Syria and Iraq and bombing the enemy into submission. The enemy is everywhere. ISIS and other terrorist groups live in Paris, London, Berlin, Madrid, Brussels, Amsterdam, Stockholm, and countless other European cities, towns and villages. They are in Asia, Africa and Australia – and in Canada and the United States. ISIS is not a nationality, it is an ideology. There are no borders. This is not a conventional war.
People have drawn a comparison to the twisted ideology and the brutality of the Nazis, but it is difficult to see too many similarities. The Nazis were geographically limited, and it was at a time when winning a war was determined by which side had more fire power. This war is being waged with handheld computer technology.
The jihadi soldiers, followers and sympathizers are scattered across the world, and they are recruited and linked by social media. The top people, the commandos, are technologically savvy, and with Silicon Valley’s inadvertent help, intelligence agencies can no longer tap into the terrorists’ encrypted communications.
The carnage in Paris happened for many reasons, among them the fact that French intelligence officials were in the dark. They knew something was coming, but couldn’t follow the trail. They lost this round in the battle of technology.
What is most troubling is how there are so many possible jihadists living in places like Paris and Brussels. There are simply not enough security resources to conduct surveillance. There are also laws in those countries – laws the West is proud of – that protect citizens from unlawful searches and detention.
Why do people, particularly young people, turn to jihad?
People give many reasons. And there are many, some complicated, others not. Clearly, the promise of Muslim glory is more appealing than what their lives have to offer them now. The glory they see is the Hollywood version that ISIS so slickly produces on digital video.
Ultimately, the problem with trying to make ISIS disappear is that countries would have to bring war to their own territories. Arresting their own passport-carrying citizens and putting them in prison is a recipe for radicalizing them and many others even further. It is noteworthy that terrorist cells are often composed of young people who first met in prison while serving time for drugs or petty crimes. Street gang members become terrorists in prison.
It is so easy to say we are at war, but how to wage and win that war is a whole other thing, especially when circumstances are such that power and control have been taken out of our hands.
It is interesting to see politicians react when there are no easy answers, and perhaps no answers at all. French President François Hollande looked shaken and overwhelmed in the early days of his country’s great loss. Who wouldn’t have been?
He declared war, and the world wonders where the battlefield is.