After Paris: A Roundup

It is sport for conservatives to mock France—who can resist “cheese-eating surrender monkeys”?—but in fact when the French get serious they are capable of serious things. I still get a warm fuzzy feeling thinking about the time French intelligence blew up the Rainbow Warrior in 1985, the Greenpeace “protest” ship that was almost certainly infiltrated by the KGB.

“Anonymous” reminds us over at the Claremont Review of Books,

[W]hoever rules France now or later, the perpetrators of this evening’s massacre, at home and abroad, may expect rough and relentless justice in their futures. France has acted so often where we have not: making Reagan look weak by comparison in 1980s Lebanon, stepping up in Mali when no one else would in 2013, et cetera. France is infrequently led by wise men, but it is—at least in the Fifth Republic—usually led by tough men.

Politico reported more on this theme yesterday:

The French airstrikes on Islamic State positions in Syria are only the beginning of the counterattack against ISIS, as French officials themselves are promising. And as anyone familiar with France’s military capabilities can attest, when it comes to war the French are among the very best. . . They might act quietly, so quietly we might never hear of it. But one thing is certain: If the French are determined to hurt someone, they will.

Of course, it is not hard to act tougher than President Obama, which falls into the category of “tallest building in Wichita.”

My mind ran back to something Herbert Meyer wrote about Islamic terrorism in 2007. Meyer noted then the already ebbing resolve of the U.S. to fight terrorism on a genuine war footing: “We haven’t lost, but we aren’t winning; fewer of us have been killed by terrorists than we had feared would be killed, but we aren’t safe.” We were making the slow transition from the view that we’re engaged in a war to regarding Islamic terrorism with a “second perception” that it is a manageable problem. But perhaps, Meyer warned, something in Europe might change this:

It’s possible that something horrific will happen in the immediate future to shift public support here in the US, and throughout the West, from the second perception to the first. When asked by a young reporter what he thought would have the greatest impact on his government’s fate, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan responded cheerfully: “Events, dear boy, events.” One more 9-11-type attack – biological, chemical, or nuclear – that takes out Houston, Berlin, Vancouver or Paris, and the leader of that country will be overwhelmed by the furious public’s demands to “turn the creeps who did this, and the countries that helped them, into molten glass and don’t let’s worry about collateral damage.” (This will sound even better in French or German.) Should the next big attack come here in the US, some among us will blame the President but most won’t. The public mood will be not merely ferocious, but ugly; you won’t want to walk down the street wearing an “I gave to the ACLU” pin in your lapel. . . It’s only a matter of time before something ghastly happens that will swing public opinion throughout the West our way – and hard. Whether this will happen in two years, or five, or in 15 years, is impossible to predict. All we can know for certain is that if Western civilization really is under attack from Islam, or from elements within Islam, then they will not give up or be appeased. At some point they’re going to go for the knockout punch.

However horrific it may be, the knockout punch won’t knock us out. Instead, it will shift us from playing defense back to offense – and this time we won’t hold back. The president will ask Congress for a declaration of war and he, or she, will get it. We’ll bring back the draft, send our troops into battle without one hand tied behind their backs by lawyers, and we won’t waste time and energy pussyfooting with the United Nations. And if we’ve closed GITMO by this time – we’ll reopen it and even double its size because we’re going to pack it. All of this will take longer to organize, and cost more, than if we’d done it right in the aftermath of 9-11. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the way we Americans tend to do things. And when we do finally start fighting for real — we’ll win.

Needless to say, it won’t be our current president, but perhaps the next one. Herb zeroes in on this problem in his latest column for Ricochet. Worth a read.