A new kind of war
Once the victims of the November 13th attacks in Paris are buried and the debris cleaned up, the focus of the French government to seek revenge will be on everyone’s mind.
The strong desire for retaliation is understandable. As French President François Hollande said shortly after the attacks: “It is a declaration of war on France.”
In fact, it is a declaration of war not only on France and French values, it is, as US President Barack Obama declared, an attack on all humanity.
That the French are upset is understandable; someone has hit their way of life in attacking cafés and restaurants and other places of social gatherings. The targets were not randomly chosen. A lot of thought and planning went into selecting those places. As did a lot of hate.
But as waging war requires careful planning, so does the after-war. The reason yesteryears’ enemies — Japan and Germany — are today allies of their World War II foes is because much effort was placed in ensuring they prospered in peace once the war was over. The Marshall Plan was conceived and implemented. The former foes were offered an enticing alternative.
The same principles should apply in this war. All the more so as this war is very different from previous ones in which the enemy was known. It will not be a conventional war. In this new type of war, the enemy operates in the shadows. And for the moment, we don’t even know who that enemy is. So we should also plan for a different kind of peace.
As a number of officials declared shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States: “Completely new armies are needed. This is a war in which the enemies sail over borders, have no uniforms, no identity cards, no warnings. and there is a need for a completely different strategic and tactical deployment to suit the new situation.”
A lot of patience should be exercised before any retaliation. There is a tremendous amount of intelligence work that needs to be conducted before the military war machine is unleashed. When the reply does come, it should be carefully planned, with a stated goal, and carried out.
It will have to be complete. There can be no halfway measures in this conflict. There can be no stopping short of the final objective. And this means planning for the after-war with a concerted effort to address the problems that brought us to war in the first place.
While it is perhaps no longer the main leitmotif of Arab and Muslim hatred of the West, an issue that has helped fuel the Middle East violence is the continued plight of the Palestinians and their legitimate demand for a settlement in their dispute.
In the after-war, the United States should become an honest broker in mediating settlements for the Palestinians and Syrians in which their countries can prosper in dignity in a democratic world. That would greatly defuse negative energy directed against the United States and Western Europe.
Retaliation will come in due course. Preparations are very likely already under way and no doubt the French president has been conferring with other world leaders, seeking support for an eventual response to what he called “an act of war”.
Most of the world is united against terrorism but, at the same time, the world should be ready to offer an alternative — a New Marshall Plan to settle the Middle East, Palestinian territories, Iraq and Syria. Otherwise, the risk of continued conflict and terrorism will remain and this war would have been about simple revenge.