Getting out of Syria will not end the war

The day after the Paris attacks that took the lives of 129 people, the Islamic State released a statement claiming responsibility for the attack. France was warned that so long as the country continues to wage war against the caliphate, its citizen will remain a target.

“To teach France, and all nations following its path, that they will remain at the top of Islamic State’s list of targets, and that the smell of death won’t leave their noses as long as they partake in their crusader campaign,” said the group.

French President Francois Hollande called the shootings and suicide bombings an “act of war” and ordered an immediate escalation in its air campaign against ISIS.

Whether France puts troops on the ground as it did in northern Mali is a question I’m not prepared to answer. However, if the attack did succeed in its foreign policy goals, namely, to force the withdrawal of French forces from Syria, would it actually mean that French citizens could go about Parisian nightlife without worrying about bombs going off?

Opération Chammal, under the command of General Denis Mercier, would have little impact on the direction of the Syrian war if French forces were pulled out. 12 fighter aircraft, 1 maritime patrol aircraft, and a small frigate make up the French contribution to the war effort against the Islamic State.

The majority of the fighting against ISIS is coming from the Kurdish Peshmerga. So a French pull-out, at least strategically, would have little impact on the overall direction of the war.

While it is not an unreasonable argument to hold, many people believe that if Hollande ordered the French to retreat it would create the conditions for peace.

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Those who do make this argument, however, do not understand the nature of the enemy and what he believes. Let’s look at the statement released by the Islamic State and examine closely exactly what it is that they said.

“In a blessed attack for which Allah facilitated the causes for success, a faithful group of the soldiers of the Caliphate – may Allah dignify it and make it victorious – launched out. It targeted the capital of prostitution and obscenity, the carrier of the banner of the Cross in Europe: Paris”

The unbelievers were slain. Their symbolic capital set ablaze. The ‘enlightened’ mind will read these words and continue on as if nothing important was said. They don’t actually mean this? They don’t actually believe this do they? There must be some rational explanation for this — foreign policy decisions, poverty, war, something — real grievances.

This has nothing to do with foreign policy, American multinationals, poverty, or any of the other usual arguments that are raised to explain away Islamism. We’ve been saying this for fifteen years and it’s accomplished nothing. We continue to call this a war on terrorism because we’re blind to what the enemy believes and what motivates him.

This is about theocratic fascism and the literalist interpretation of holy texts; about Islamists who really do believe that it is their religious duty to kill unbelievers wherever they find them (Muslim and Western) as they march towards a new empire.

The ‘enlightened’ mind struggles to accept these beliefs as real and meaningful. When confronted with problems that appear to have no basis in rational thought, when beliefs and the actions they motivate seem to have no rational origin, we go looking for explanations that don’t exist.

The violence we saw oon the streets of Paris over the weekend then must be the result of something that ‘we’ have done to ‘them’. But to suggest that the killers and the sadists wanted to murder ‘prostitutes’, ‘apostates’ and ‘unbelievers,’ and attack the ‘symbol’ of Christianity in Europe is to avoid the ‘real’ issues.

This abject refusal to take our enemy at his word is the reason the last fifteen years have been lived in utter ignorance. If liberal democracy is to win this war against theocratic imperialism we have to understand the motivations that inform our enemy’s actions.

The Muslims who are being slaughtered in their thousands would not remain a mystery to you. The jihadi recognizes no distinction between the ‘apostate’ Parisian and the ‘apostate’ Muslim. If you are not living according to their literalist dictates, that is all the reason he needs

Let’s return to the statement and examine it a little further: “Youths who divorced the world and went to their enemy seeking to be killed in the cause of Allah, in support of His religion and His Prophet (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) and his charges, and to put the nose of His enemies in the ground. So they were honest with Allah, we consider them thusly, and Allah conquered through their hands and cast in the hearts of the Crusaders horror in the middle of their land, where eight brothers wrapped in explosive belts and armed with machine rifles, targeted sites that were accurately chosen in the heart of the capital of France”.

The jihadist knows the glory that awaits a martyr’s death. The material world is not only imperfect it is rotten; full of vice, apostasy and unbelievers. It is a righteous duty to kill them. This is the animating belief. It doesn’t matter what country you’re from, what the foreign policy decisions of your politicians are or were in the past, if you are an unbeliever, in their eyes, you deserve to die.

In the the final portion of the statement, ISIS states “[They also targeted] the Bataclan Conference Center, where hundreds of apostates had gathered in a profligate prostitution party, and other areas in the 10th and 11th and 18th (arrondissements) and in a co-ordinated fashion. So Paris shook under their feet, and its streets were tight upon them, and the result of the attacks was the death of no less than a hundred Crusaders and the wounding of more. Unto Allah, is all praise and gratitude.”

Maybe Hollande will send troops in, maybe he’ll withdraw French forces entirely. But when you read this statement it won’t make any difference whatsoever. The Parisians who died that night were killed because they were unbelievers. It didn’t matter whether they were secularists or devoutly religious.

That in short is the definition of theocratic imperialism and whether you like it or not, it means to extend its rule over you and every other person it encounters.

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