Terrorism doesn’t work, unless we let it work.
People much, much smarter and more knowledgeable than myself have made this point, over and over and over again. But today we’re going to make it with numbers.
The horrific Paris attacks last Friday night killed, as of this writing, 129 people. More were wounded, some severely. As a personal tragedy, for the victims and their families, this is a shockingly effective attack.
On a historic scale, however, it’s pathetic. There is no possible way that shooting up a concert hall, some restaurants, and setting off a few suicide bombs can in any way damage the French Republic. ISIS has not damaged France’s military, its economy, or its diplomatic clout.
While we will, and should, grieve with the victims, we should also be rolling our eyes at the sad, miserable, uselessness of ISIS’s attack.
Compare a terrorist attack – any terrorist attack – to an actual military assault on a major western country.
We can use the Blitz as a good comparison.
Between September 1940 and May 1941, Nazi Germany attacked Britain with all of its available air power, launching bombing raids on major cities, targeting industrial centres, ports, railways, and civilians in an attempt to crush British morale and ability to fight.
The Blitz was horrific. More than 40,000 people were killed. Whole areas of London were devastated. Some smaller port towns like Hull saw up to 95 per cent of their housing utterly destroyed. Coventry was gutted, Liverpool was half-smashed. Thousands of Londoners spent their nights sleeping in Tube stations or on firewatch on the roofs of buildings, trying to douse incendiary bombs.
Yet Hitler’s Germany – then one of the most powerful, most aggressive, most industrially advanced nations in the world – utterly failed in its goals.
Damaged factories were repaired. Craters in RCAF runways were filled in, usually within hours. Every time there was a serious attack, the number of people volunteering for the Home Guard or donating money to Spitfire Funds actually increased.
In other words, every time Hitler attacked, he only increased the determination to beat him.
This is exactly what happens after modern terrorist attacks. There is resistance on the official level – increased security and/or retaliation – and the public’s disdain for the attacker’s goals increases.
ISIS is a horrible organization. They kill almost indiscriminately – the majority of their victims in Syria and Iraq have been Muslims, as were some of the victims of the Paris attacks. They have a particularly ugly ideology, and calling it medieval would be an insult to the actual middle ages. They have a penchant for stonings, beheadings, and crucifixions.
But they aren’t Hitler’s Germany. They are considerably less of a threat. They don’t have an air force. They are, when it comes right down to it, a bunch of angry schmucks with AK-47s, pickup trucks, and a major grudge against anyone having fun. The Paris attacks are likely the high-water mark of what they’ll be able to achieve in attacks on Western nations.
In the meantime, efforts will redouble to stop ISIS, and not just military efforts, but through intelligence and security work, through cutting off their sources of funding and their streams of recruits, through preventing radicalization. ISIS is another example of the failure of terror.