French deserve more than bluster from U.S.

Published 8:33 am Tuesday, November 17, 2015

High school football is usually the center of attention on Friday nights, but this past Friday the terrorist attacks on Paris made the first round of playoff games pale in significance. Throughout the evening many followed the developing news story on social media or via cable news. The death toll climbed higher and higher as details of the atrocities were described and new victims discovered. It was not long before symbols of support for Parisians were being shared by Facebook users here and across the free world.

The cold-blooded nature of the mass killings of people going about their daily lives makes the crime incomprehensible. The victims, mostly young people, were unwinding at a café after a week of work or were watching a concert or a soccer game. Eyewitness accounts say the terrorists made eye contact and took deliberate aim at their victims, shooting methodically and watching them fall. There was no emotion, no compassion. The disregard for life shown by the terrorists included their own lives, too. They knew that at the end of the evil spree they would either blow themselves up or be killed by police.

As the claims of ISIS, the so-called Islamic state centered in Syria and Iraq, began to surface taking credit for the atrocities, our thoughts began turning to how we, the civilized world, could strike back. How could we exact revenge, get justice for the French people and stop this menace that wants to cause the apocalypse? The politicians and pundits had no shortage of answers, from more bombing to sending in troops. French President Francois Hollande wasted little time in sending 10 sorties to drop 20 bombs on a town in Syria thought to be the headquarters of ISIS. But that effort was more for show than results. The U.S.-led coalition has dropped thousands of bombs on ISIS and if we or the French had information about the location of the terrorist leaders, they would join the growing list of terrorists killed by bombs.

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As our hearts go out to the French, our heads should control our reaction. The strategy of containing and destroying ISIS by building a coalition of countries in the region and across the world is slow, hard work. It does not offer the immediate gratification of a “shock and awe” campaign that the terrorists want us to launch and which could leave the region in even worse shape than it is. And if political solutions are not found to the problems that created ISIS in the first place, even if that terrorist organization is destroyed another will come along to take its place.

The French are the oldest allies of the United States. When we were fighting the Revolutionary War against the British, the French gave the colonies support that many say was decisive in our winning independence. We owe them all the help we can give. President Obama has announced that the U.S. will share intelligence with the French and we will welcome their increased involvement in the fight against ISIS. We also owe it to the French and all the world to follow a strategy that will be effective in rooting out ISIS and not be lured into fighting a war on the ground that the terrorists want.