What To Do After Paris?

Once again, France is reeling — after the second major terror attack upon defenseless Paris this year.

Eight fighters — all of them young EU citizens supposed to be working for ISIS, or Daesh — took 129 lives, with guns and suicide bombs, on Friday.

At the bloodiest site of the violence, the Bataclan concert hall, the shooters told their victims they were seeking revenge for French bombing of Syria. The next day, the embattled French President, François Hollande, responded to the attack with revenge of his own: a wave of new bombings in Syria, especially in Raqqa, Daesh’s capital city.

Hollande, who pushed for a Gallic “Patriot Act” this winter after the killings at Charlie Hebdo, has now proposed a series of changes to the French constitution designed to allow military action in a national state of emergency.

It’s a script we saw after Sept. 11: lock down at home, arm up abroad. With deep condolences for grieving France, we’re all wondering how this cycle of violence finally ends?


With Amb. Chas Freeman, a freethinking veteran of foreign service, and the French journalist Sylvain Cypel, we’re in the Open Source situation room, trying to see the tragic attacks in Paris and the force called Daesh in the right light, as a hellish problem with causes — and solutions.

First we asked tourists, students, and lunch-breakers on Boston Common for their theory on how to make it out of the terror age:

Photo by Jean Luke.

Guest List
Amb. Chas Freeman
former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, former Chinese translator for the Nixon delegation, and foreign-policy hand.
Sylvain Cypel
long-time editor at Le Monde and author of Walled: Israeli Society at an Impasse.

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  • Potter

    I am hearing a lot of ideas. Some of it based on facts that are fiction. Some based on good analysis. Also, notice how this neatly points out the difference in world views amongst us. I notice how fear based, xenophobic intolerant and racist some points of view are. For a country built with refugees from the beginning, who are we anymore?

    I recommend this interview with Noah Bonsey, Senior Analyst for Syria of the International Crisis Group from yesterday’s “the Takeaway”:

    The World Bombs Syria

  • Potter

    Panic attacks!

    Remember the great Ebola scare of 2014? The threat of a pandemic, like the threat of a terrorist attack, was real. But it was greatly exaggerated, thanks in large part to hype from the same people now hyping the terrorist danger.

    What’s more, the supposed “solutions” were similar, too, in their combination of cruelty and stupidity………

    What explains the modern right’s propensity for panic? Part of it, no doubt, is the familiar point that many bullies are also cowards. But I think it’s also linked to the apocalyptic mind-set that has developed among Republicans during the Obama years.

    The Farce Awakens

    i.e. First be aware of your own emotions and how they are being manipulated.

  • Potter

    Excellent program, both guests were wonderful. It’s about (also) how leaders betray, themselves first and then those that they lead; how they act on their first impulse/s for dubious motives maybe even unrecognized. Values go out the window.

    Informed Comment (Juan Cole’s website) published this informative article about Islam:
    How Islamic Law can take on Islam

  • The contradictions were really flying around: pirates vs statists
    vs religion. Okay, I get it, this is complicated.

    When you ask a scribe what to do, the first thing they suggest is, let’s think-off. And yes, the world would be a better place if that was how things worked.

    The first thing a politician is going to do is act strongly (Check your vehicle’s bumper, Boston Strong? ). An act of strength quells panic, not thinking-off. (Help me out – historically, list which successful politicians jumped on the situation and said, let’s all just think-off? )

    Hollande also needs to act on values: support the French Muslim community by guaranteeing their safety and support the refugees in some concrete way.

    I’m amazed by how everyone refers to Putin with a lofty sincerity “he is there to support Assad.”

    Follow the money: he is in the Middle East to influence the price of oil !

  • Cambridge Forecast


    Your point about seeking the truth amidst all the fear-mongering is very apt
    and might perhaps be expanded in these directions:

    Orhan Pamuk Novel “Snow” as Inkling Plus
    Interactive Fundamentalisms on a World Scale

    Think of Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish Nobel prize winner’s comments on his great novel.

    “Snow” by Orhan Pamuk (Author)

    “One of the pleasures of writing this novel, was to say to my Turkish readers and to
    my international audience, openly and a bit provocatively, but honestly, that
    what they call a terrorist is first of all a human being. Our secularists, who
    are always relying on the army and who are destroying Turkey’s
    democracy, hated this book because here you have a deliberate attempt by a
    person who was never religious in his life to understand why someone ends up
    being what we or the Western world calls an Islamic fundamentalist

    -Orhan Pamuk
    See: http://www.amazon.com/Snow-Orhan-Pamuk/dp/0375706860

    You may remember seeing
    Christoper Lydon’s discussion of Orhan Pamuk’s “My Name is Red” on Harvard’s Prof.
    David Damrosch’s PBS series on world literature not long ago.

    You could use this discussion to create a “long-view historical link” with Pamuk’s “Snow” to get a sense of trajectory.

    See: http://www.learner.org/courses/worldlit/my-name-is-red/watch/

    Another view:
    Fundamentalisms arise when
    the world is changing at some foundational level and this causes infinite dread
    in parochial precincts of human psychology. It is no accident that Hindu
    fundamentalism, Islamic, Zionist, Americanist (Tea Party, Evangelicals, etc).
    etc are all bubbling along together.

    At the core of the world’s
    mess (see Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” and zoom out with it in mind, to the
    whole world) is the interactive “double helix” of Islamic and Israeli/Zionist
    apocalytptic hysteria and exclusionary and even genocidal poisonnesss. (For
    example, Paul Theroux, whom you know from the ROS talk “Zimbabwe South,”
    published a travels in Africa book a few years ago called “Bright Star” which emphasizes African sense of grievance in the face of perceived Western/Israel led belligerence.)

    In order to defeat ISIS,
    beyond futile militaristic fantasy talk, America and the West have to be
    seen as simultaneously opposed to these dual poisons.
    The encounter between Israel and the
    Palestinians is a microcosm now of world tensions because it epitomizes the modern
    West in an oppressive neo-colonial stance vis-à-vis a native population, the
    Palestinians. A militant neo-colonial settler state in an era of decolonization
    seems contra-historical.American supineness via-a-vis
    Israel will keep Isis in business “forever” no matter what Western
    military rampaging obtains. Now that we have a transnational political party,
    the Likud Republicans, the neocon dream of a global civil war seems within
    reach. Current Islamophobia pronouncements by Marco Rubio are scripted by the
    neocons behind his campaaign who foresee a post-Obama permanent war with
    Muslims, to Israel’s and their own benefit. (there was a passing mention of AIPAC and Chas. Freeman during this ROS show, you’ll remember.)

    The Isis problem is also an Isis/Netanyahu/Sabra and Shattila problem.
    9/11 was to a large extent downstream from Muslim outrage at Israel’s
    Lebanon atrocities in the 1982 invasion. Muslim inabilioty to some extent to embrace
    the modern is aof course a powerful co-factor. These factors fuse all together
    into a “bad synergy.”

    Go back in your mind also to the recent
    ROS “Demonic Males” show. When people are “driven crazy by history” they become
    one type of “demonic male” whether Germans 1933-1945, jihadi Muslims, militant Zionists.

    Think of the ROS shows as
    potential ensembles of understanding or “bundles” in this way.

    Richard Melson

    • Cambridge Forecast


      Professor Fawaz Gerges is a leading centrist analyst of Middle East
      and Arab affairs.

      He emphasizes that the real and ultimate defeat of ISIS
      depends on its being rejected, de-glamorized, rejected and spurned by the
      Arab-Muslim world itself. Smart bombs from the sky will mean a more complex “political economy” for terrorism because, despite losses, new recruits will always replace lost fighters, based on the fact that endless civilian “collateral damage” will block the hoped-for WWII-type victory for the West by de-legitimating its behavior and if anything lose more “hearts and minds.” Professor Gerges understands one must win the “perception of global justice” war of dueling narratives.

      What is the central symbol of this global justice narrative?

      The only real answer then is the coercion of Israel
      by all the various allies, led by the U.S., in the formation of a
      Palestinian state along the 1967 lines. This would be seen as the beginning of
      the removal of a profound historical injustice: the delivery to the
      Palestinians, the post-1945 “Holocaust bill.”

      Israel is seen as a US-backed ethno-cleansing state, a kind of mad Serbia II, with a leader, Netanyahu, who keeps ‘talking like Churchill and doing like Hitler.”
      Netanyahu is what might be called a “historo-path” someone willingly driven
      crazy by history and his own mind.

      A historo-path is a radical who believes that “worse is better’ since a “world on
      fire” is useful for the desired polarization and bloodshed. Netanyahu’s “dance
      partner” is ISIS.

      As mentioned before, Prof. Fawaz Gerges, introduced above, argues that military
      force without a “hearts and minds” transformation, will not work, as detailed
      in his upcoming book on Isis:

      Fawaz A. Gerges is Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and holder of the Emirates Professorship in Contemporary Middle East Studies. He was also the inaugural Director of the LSE Middle East Centre from 2010 until 2013.

      Gerges’ upcoming books:

      ISIS: A Short History (Princeton University Press, 2015)

      The Struggle for the Arab World: The Nationalist-Islamist Long War

      (Princeton University Press, 2016).

      Both ISIS and the Netanyahu/neocon alliance want to “set the world on fire” since as radical anti-systemic phenomena, “worse is better.”

      The real game-changer would be the creration of 1967 Palestine which would represent the defeat of both of these historical malignancies, represented by ISIs as well as Netanyahu/neoconservatism (which gave us the Iraq War which they see as Chapter One in the “mayhemization” of the world. These “chaos-mongerers”, Zionist and Islamist, must be defeated or they will derail world history
      which is what they in fact intend.
      Richard Melson

      • Potter

        Is this what Gerges said or what you are saying above? The only real answer then is the coercion of Israel…..

        I have heard Gerges recently ( who I always appreciate) and I heard nothing about Israel and certainly nothing about confronting Netanyahu as “the only real answer”. So I am confused if this is so and maybe you can link to something.

        Regarding what Gerges says about ISIS, sounds right; it echoes Noah Bonsey (linked below) and others (Matthew Levitt of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy today on “Here and Now”).

        That is NOT to say that a differently behaving Israel and a US policy that dealt Israel some very tough love to foster that would not help Israel, the Palestinians, and the US.

  • Cambridge Forecast


    To contextualize the excellent ROS show on ISIS and the Paris violence, the following synoptic view (from my own blog) might help:

    The complexities of globalization will mean massive and continuing coordination
    between the West, Opec, and the Third World.

    This means the neocon dream of neoimperial subjugation is blocking this rendezvous
    and is in fact intended to destroy, delay or fend off this rapprochement process.

    At the very epicenter of this tectonic “traffic jam” is the Palestine problem which is the
    main “cancer on world politics.”

    Footnote for current ROS Discussion on ISIS:

    This strategy of “mayhemization”of the world by the neocons in alliance with Netanyahu and
    the creeping annexation of Palestine by Israel means that the Alqaeda and ISIS
    malignancies have an “eternal grievance” and symbol of Muslim indignity in
    their ideological and propaganda portfolio. Failure to come to grips with this
    and the rise of the Likud-Republicans as a transnational political blocking intransigence
    machine means that ISIS will keep mutating and cannot be defeated in the
    absence of global Muslim support.

    See: http://cambridgeforecast.org/blog2/2011/07/24/globalization-and-the-rendezvous-of-civilizations-2/

    Richard Melson

  • Pete Crangle

    A fine discussion. One fit for the ‘War on Terror’ epoch. However, it is somewhat incomplete. No mention is made of the effect of anthropogenic climate change and it’s role in the current conflagration (perhaps, I missed it). An important oversight. Focusing on cultural values, ideological forces, and geo-political strategy and tactics is an important, yet incomplete picture. The so called ‘clash of civilization’ is driven not only by elements of inchoate religious revival, neoliberal political-economics, or media cycles of spectacle, but also by the interaction between humanity and its habitat. Perhaps, ROS can do a show on climate change and its effects on the geo-political landscape as seen in the degradation of land, water, and atmosphere. This would be a useful addition to this discussion.

    As resource cultivation, extraction, and harvesting are attended to by hording (always in tension with cooperation), ramped up to meet the environmental challenges of diminishing stable habitat and increased resource insecurity, one should expect a forecast where these types of conflagrations, as well as, destabilized domestic eruptions, to ignite with frequency and amplitude across the globe. We have been, and will continue to be, riding the curve of decline, exhaustion, localized catastrophe, and possible partial or total global failure and collapse (of most, if not all, institutions of power and control). As we enter the accelerated part of the climate change curve, destabilization and ad hoc strategic violence and suppression will play key roles of call-and-response. Organs of violent mischief-making will be pitted against the august organs of enlightenment. It is not a rosy picture, but a bleak one. We are experiencing a microcosm in the regions of Syria, Iraq, and Jordan, not to mention the South Sudan. We are left with tragic fall-out and human scattershot across the globe, especially in regards to refugee policy. We find our means of containment of such problems woefully porous.

  • Potter

    Canada is going to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees by March. Trudeau, shirtsleeves rolled up, is shown welcoming the first few 163 of them, helping to fit them with new clothes. 25,000!