In response to recent events in Europe, specifically Paris:
Before I begin, terrorism itself. As an international studies major, I am part of a culture that is constantly trying to define, compartmentalize, and solve the inner workings of the world. Albeit, usually in a failed attempt, it is under the desire to perfect our world and the workings of our inescapably, interlinked societies. Personally, I like definitions and explanations that give me a base of understanding, so I will describe what I think to be the most accurate definition of terrorism; it is worth noting that there is no universally accepted definition, and by its nature, it is an amorphic entity. An International Relations theorist/academic, Hoffman, once said that terrorism is “the deliberate creation and exploitation of fear through violence or the threat of violence in pursuit of political change.” Security checks, safety procedures, locked doors, reporting suspicious activity, the simple changes of our daily lives is the goal of a terrorist. I do not suggest that we ignore these activities nor let our guard down, but simply put we cannot and will not live in fear.
In the wake of Paris there have been many emotions felt around the world: fear, anxiety, anger, sympathy, empathy, confusion. There are three items that I would like to address in response to the attacks in Paris. The first is the question looming: why? No one can ever understand what truly compels a terrorist to do what they do, however we should understand this: around the globe, specifically Iraq and Syria, there are generations growing up in poverty, violence, and absolute despair. Conditions that many of us will never understand. These same generations are being exposed to the by-product of hundreds of years of Islamic extremism (never to be confused with the religion of Islam itself), intractable violence, and manipulative media. The most destructive by-product today being, the Islamic State of the Levant (ISIL). The incentive to join these fanatic groups is far too great because of the conditions they live in, through a process of brainwashing their minds are turned toward the destruction of the west. ISIL’s desire to reach statehood combined with its predecessor’s, Al Qaeda, desire to topple “the west” has taken the form of strategic “terrorist” attacks. These attacks, such as Paris, are part of their political objective: weaken the west, build their state, and eliminate the west. To put it more simply, think about the Americans in Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh did not have to defeat the American military in confrontational war to win, he just had to manipulate the hearts and minds of the American people. Before I digress further, the actions of France in conjunction with EU and other Global members against ISIL in Syria made France among the targets of ISIL. ISIL’s goal: kill “westerners,” inflict terror, intimidate them to stop pressure on creation of Islamic State, continue violence on the West as they pursue their rise to power and eventual global caliphate. To understand this conflict more I would highly recommend further research of the ancient developments of Wahhabism, Al-Qaeda, ISIL, the current conflict in Syria, and French involvement in counter-terrorism.
Second, I would like to address the public’s response to the Paris attacks. Primarily, I applaud it. The overwhelming global support for Paris and France in wake of this violence has been overwhelming. In a most basic sense, the world has rallied together to condemn this violence and support a fellow member of the global community. However there is also a contingency that feels the response to Paris was a response plagued by ignorance, an ignorance that fails to see the daily terrorism and disasters that strike places around the world. Places that do not receive media coverage, Facebook filters, prayers, or attention when they too are in suffering. To the people who are angry with this, I agree. I agree that the world is not equal in its condolences, thoughts, and prayers. I agree that far too often people are like sheep and they are heavily influenced by the thoughts of others and the bias of the media. However, where I do not agree is using Paris as the medium to discuss this discontent. There is a time for mourning, a time for thought, and a time for action. If you are American, I highly doubt that in the wake of 9/11 you were thinking of terrorist attacks in Israel/Palestine, Southeast Asia, or the North Caucasus and how the world was too blind in its coverage of such a disaster… My point is this: if you are upset about unequal attention to other issues of the world, you have every right to be, you have every right to express your opinion and educate others, and you have every right to champion the cause of those with smaller voices in the media. However, you can champion this issue and still allow people to pay their respects and offer their condolences at the time of the incident. There is a healthier way to express your opinion than to spawn conflict out of conflict.
Third, fighting terrorism is difficult. You are fighting an idea. It is the epitome of “someone else’s problem” becoming your problem. To the people that feel hopeless in the wake of this looming threat: here is your chance. Rally around our leaders and tell them that we demand action. Through efficacy we can make sure we have the right officials protecting our people and removing threats. Through service we can help other communities improve through education, development, and opportunity. The challenge is now ours, to find what we excel in and how we can use that as a tool for change.
As I conclude my semester’s studies in Brussels I continue to think about what I have truly learned from this experience and what I will return with to the United States. I have learned that the most valuable skill one can have is the ability to remove one’s self from how they see the world and look at it as someone else.
I leave you with this:
My thoughts and prayers go out to all that have suffered and continued to suffer acts of ignorant violence. I challenge those who are trying to comprehend these acts to treat every piece of information, every perspective, as one piece of a puzzle. Just because you like building your puzzle your way, doesn’t mean it is the only way to build it.
“For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing” – Simon Wiesenthal.
 I use the term ISIL over ISIS because ISIS is, generally speaking, an English mistranslation of the Arabic phrase Al-Dawla Al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham, where al-Sham is characterized as “S” for Syria wherin reality the al-Sham region is best known in English as the region of “the Levant.” Hence: ISIL.