The slaughter of innocent people in France last week has rightly earned worldwide condemnation.
Such immoral actions have no place in this world. Everyone agrees that a response to the carnage in Paris is imperative.
But beyond bringing the executioners of this grisly massacre to justice, the overarching question is: what else should be done? Here is what I think.
The sweeping curtailment of democratic and privacy rights, the racist stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims, xenophobia, closing borders to refugees, and putting boots on the ground won’t end terrorist attacks. In fact, such a response, if experience is a guide, will likely set in train a new round of violence and counter violence that will further fray the fragile bonds that bind humanity together. It will bring neither peace nor stability nor safety.
Only a turn to restraint, diplomacy, cooperation, justice, anti-racism, and the language and practice of non-violence stands a chance of eliminating terrorist attacks and defeating terrorist organizations, like ISIS. In this effort, Russia has to be a full and equal partner. Diplomatic engagement with the Iranian government, building on recent successes, is necessary too, as is the full participation of other Muslim led governments. The international community must ramp up the pressure, on Saudi Arabia to end its funding of extremist groups, and on the Netanyahu government, whose actions in the West Bank and Gaza fuel rage across the Middle East and into the Muslim/Arab diaspora. New political initiatives to resolve divisions between Shia and Sunni in Iraq and Syria are crucial as well to weakening terrorism in general and ISIS in particular.
Another dimension of this effort should be a 21st century global “New Deal,” at the core of which is a special and sustained focus on the countries of the global South and communities of immigrants in the global North. Even though poverty, unemployment, economic inequality, and scarce opportunities aren’t the organizing rationale behind terrorist actions, it seems indisputable that these conditions make it easier for extremist movements to offer rootless, angry, and racially profiled individuals a sense of self-worth, of belonging to something bigger, with the promise of a redemptive and glorious future.
Another crucial element in any international effort to end terrorism is welcoming immigrants with open arms and appreciating the material and cultural contributions that they make in their new homes.
Finally, the United Nations should play a commanding role in this undertaking, including in situations that require military responses, as is probably the case with ISIS and Boko Haram.
Of course, war hawks, right-wing and misguided politicians, and the military-industrial-energy complex will resist such an approach. They thrive in an environment of fear, hatred, suspicion, and threats. It conceals their global economic and political ambitions and becomes a rationale to build up military capacity and presence around the world. It also amplifies the voices of the right wing in the U.S. and elsewhere, and positions them to win complete control of the levers of political power.
We shouldn’t allow them to use the horror and tragedy of terrorist attacks for these ends. It’s time for restraint, cooperation, inclusiveness, economic, racial, and gender justice, peace, and a heightened appreciation of the preciousness of life.