January 12, 2015 | Commentary on Terrorism, National Security and Defense, France

Paris killings an assault on us all

The brazen attack on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris yesterday that killed a dozen was no way to start the New Year — a highly-symbolic point in the book of time when we look to turn the page on the previous 365 days.

But for all our attempts to put last year in life’s rear view mirror, it seems that the rampant, exceedingly violent Islamist militancy that threatened and harmed so many across the globe in 2014 is still riding along with us.

In truth, this shouldn’t really surprise us.

Just think about the brutality and bloodshed last year caused by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Taliban and Haqqani Network in Pakistan and Afghanistan, al-Shabab in Somalia, lone wolves in Canada, Australia, and even here stateside.

Not to mention the thousands from the West, including the United States, who have joined these terror groups as foot soldiers or followers, violently advancing an Islamist agenda and potentially returning home to carry out attacks.

Then there’s the ongoing threat to civil aviation from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Khorasan group in Syria, reportedly building difficult-to-detect bombs of plastics or liquids or even surgically-implanted in a willing terrorist.

And so on. You get the unhappy picture.

While big-scale attacks like the 9/11 tragedy are still clearly on the Islamist terrorist “to-do” list, we’ve thankfully made it harder — but not impossible — for them to pull off these sorts of horrific acts of violence.

Now, when targeting the West, these violent Islamist extremists seem to be willing to settle for less-spectacular strikes that, though on a smaller-scale, nonetheless effectively terrorize the intended audiences.

The point of this rendering of recent terrorist treachery isn’t to make us more fearful, but to make us sober about what we’re still up against. While Islamist extremism didn’t start with 9/11, we have to question our progress in dealing with this global scourge.

Though the details of this terrible tragedy in France are still unfolding, one can’t help but feel that the sordid “success” of the violent extremists last year is a major motivator for a broad swath of bad actors to do more this year.

Regardless of the yet-to-be-fully-uncovered driver of the Paris attack, we should realize that it wasn’t just an assault on civilians, journalists, free speech and France — but on Western and Western-aspiring civilization as well.

There should be no doubt that the Islamist terrorist movements that now nearly span the globe want us to quake and cower, give up government policies, let loose of our liberties — essentially surrender our way of life to their repression and brutality.

This means that if terrorists, especially terror groups, don’t pay a pretty price for their acts, the senseless violence will only continue — the unfortunate moral hazard of not responding forcefully to the inhumanity against innocents.

 - Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.

About the Author

Peter Brookes Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy

Originally appeared in the Boston Herald