A couple of thoughts on the aftermath of the attacks in Paris on Friday, November 13.
What’s With This “We”?
Patrick Smith at Salon has written much on this topic since then. In one column, he rightly takes to task those who come to the issue of terrorist extremism without context; in the case of current events, without the context of Western (not the least of which, French) meddling in the Middle East and North Africa. I will not cite anything directly on this subject, but he offered an interesting point – one that some have passed through more easily than others, and more easily than Smith, apparently:
I wrote above that I fail to understand why the question of responsibility is controversial. I take it back: This is why. Facing one’s part in others’ deprivation, repression, violence and all the rest is an errand requiring humility, resolve, commitment, and an enlarged vision. We Americans score poorly on all counts these days. But summoning all four—if it helps to think of it this way—is a matter of self-interest now.
There is no “one’s part in others’ deprivation…we Americans” responsible. There are individuals, individuals who act. The point – ignored or easily missed by too many: why do so many self-identify with the state? Why are the actions of those employed by the state deemed to be “our” actions?
There are dozens of murders committed daily by every-day, ordinary criminals. Does any reasonable person attach a “we” to these?
So Much For a United Front
Again from the aforementioned Smith column, posted November 17:
First and most important, Washington seems to be opening itself at last to the idea of a united front against the Islamic State that the Russians have proposed since it emerged as a force capable of taking territory—and many lives—last year. The press picture of Obama meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 session Monday tells you all you need to know about the changing political and diplomatic environment.
To further the point, Simon Tisdall offers “Vladimir Putin: from pariah to powerbroker in one year”:
The reason is not a mystery. Under merciless attack from Islamic State, flailing on the refugee crisis, and consequently desperate to end the war in Syria, European leaders, backed by Obama, have come to an uncomfortable but, in historical terms, not wholly novel conclusion: they need Russia.
When we say “Paris changed everything,” we seem to mean more than what some of us understood 10 days ago. The complexities will be obvious, but there is a straight line now between a violence-adulating resistance movement in the Middle East, its attack on a European capital, a new resolve to defeat terrorism in Syria, the prospect of an orderly settlement and—dotted line here—a kind of latter-day Concert of Europe, which coalesced after the Congress of Vienna, included Russia and lasted a century.
All of this was before Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet.
Somebody decided to try to end this budding rapprochement before it started, apparently. Take a look at the map: even if one accepts Turkey’s version of flight paths, someone would really have to want to tear Russia and NATO apart for this airspace “violation” to result in such catastrophe – no matter how many “warnings” were offered (or not).