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after paris
Paris: the New Normal?
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  • iconoclast

    No one ever won a war with a defensive strategy.

    • Jim__L

      Well, not unless the enemy exhausted itself. Do you suppose there’s any chance of that happening here?

      • iconoclast


        And…not at all. But really these Islamists survive because of the over refined sensibilities (and self hatred) of the West. Russia has little self-hatred and I suspect France is curing itself.

        • Jim__L

          Hannibal vs. Fabian. WWI. Just about any siege.

  • WigWag

    Professor Mead, you’re conflating the inability to do much to squash the terrorist threat with the unwillingness to do much to squash the terrorist threat. There are things that could be done, but they are abhorrent. The reason that the only remedies still left to us are extreme and so very troubling is that when the problem of Muslim terrorism was less pervasive, the west took the easy way out and averted its eyes. If only the west had endured the discomfort of a metaphoric colonoscopy when the cancers cells were localized and entrapped in a small polyp, the necessary therapy would have been far less taxing. Now that the cancer has metastasized, dramatic measures are called for and those dramatic measures will not only be unpleasant for the rapidly spreading cancer cells but for the patient himself.

    What could be done given sufficient will? The flow of migrants to Europe could be stopped and the migrants who have already arrived in Europe could be deported in mass. Is doing this repugnant to western values? Yes. Is it necessary to protect western society? The answer is the same; yes.

    The suburbs of Paris and the Islamic neighborhoods in Malmo and Molenbeek could be policed with overwhelming force; the police, who are generally fearful of European Islamic hooligans, could crack heads. Prison terms that are as remarkably light in Europe as they are unreasonably harsh in the United States could be dramatically lengthened.

    Europe could abandon the secular humanism and multicultural ethos that has become the defining characteristic of contemporary society in favor of a greater sympathy for the Christian traditions responsible for allowing Europe to become so wealthy in the first place. If it were inclined, Europe could dramatically increase its spending on defense. To make this financially feasible, Europe could significantly reduce or eliminate the subsidies that it provides to unemployed Muslim immigrants and even second generation Muslim citizens. Would doing this be unfair and even prejudicial? Would it harm hundreds of thousands of completely innocent European Muslims? Of course it would. But it would also have the salutary effect of discouraging immigration from the Arab world in the first place and it might even serve to dampen the alienation felt by Europe’s young Muslims fostered by their dependency on the State.

    The list goes on and on, Professor Mead. But make no mistake; its not that the West can’t don anything to redress the problems of Muslim extremism, it’s that the west won’t do anything to fight Muslim extremism.

    How much easier it would have been to solve this problem a decade ago, when the cancer was still gestating.

    • Gene

      That’s right, and I have no grand plan that will solve this massive problem once and for all. It may be, as David Goldman believes, a matter of holding out for a generation or two until the Muslim world exhausts itself.

      It would be nice, however, to see some small-scale things tried: Back the Kurds with whatever they need; take out ISIS’ oil infrastructure; in Europe, take steps to make NATO relevant again, at least to dissuade Russia from messing around at the periphery; stop helping Iran build out its nuclear infrastructure; etc. I’m sure there are dozens of other things that can help. Will these sorts of things solve our big problem? No, but they’ll turn down the heat on some smaller problems and force our enemies to cope with our initiatives for a change. Maybe down the road they could contribute unexpectedly to more of a long-term solution. What’s disturbing is that even my lowered expectations have no chance of being tried–much less tried competently and with intent to succeed–by our chuckleheaded leaders.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Thoughtful as usual.
      Some of the steps we will take will no doubt be repugnant, some that we will fail to take will in hindsight be seen as vital. This isn’t a perfect world, and we are not perfect….if we define our principles and stand by them (or at least as close to them as circumstances permit), perhaps we will even prevail…

    • solstice

      What Europe needs to abandon is not secular humanism but rather the insane dogma of illiberal, authoritarian, and cultural relativist leftism. Secular Europe would not be experiencing these problems had it not imported large numbers of adherents of the world’s most malignant religion: Islam. At the present time, Christianity is benign compared to Islam, but this was not always the case and, at the peak of its power, Christianity kept Europe in a state of backwardness and ignorance for centuries. Indeed, Islam’s behavior today is akin to that of 14th century Christianity. Europe must secure its borders, end Islamic immigration, deport its violent and parasitic Islamic residents, and shut down the mosques. This may eventually happen, but much blood will be shed before it does.

      • Jim__L

        Please read some more history of 14th-century Christianity before you make sweeping comparisons to Islam. Universities owe their existence to the intellectualism of that era’s Christianity, and technical arts owe a great debt to Christian organizations like the Cistercians.

        The “7th century Islam” that people decry actually saw a period of secularization and violent suppression of religious scholars — worse than the Inquisition. The precursor philosophies to the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, and ISIS formed as a reaction to these secular brutalities.

        Basically, please stop pretending that secularization is some sort of magic bullet for human progress. It isn’t.

        • solstice

          Yes, our intellectual tradition is greatly indebted to the unspeakably gruesome tortures and executions carried out by Christians of that time against witches, heretics, Jews, Cathars, blasphemers, apostates, host desecrators etc. And it was only in the 1960s that the Catholic Church officially absolved the Jews of collective guilt for deicide after centuries of inciting anti-Jewish pogroms based on that accusation. How convenient.

          Fundamentalist Islamic jihadism long preceded the “secular” Arab nationalist regimes of the 20th century. Was Ibn Taymiyya secular? Were the Ottoman wars against Europe and its massacre of Armenian Christians secular? Were the Almohads secular? No, secularization is not a “magic bullet” for human progress–but it is a prerequisite for it.

          • Fred

            Yes, and the Muslim world was so much more civilized under the secular Baathists and Kamalists. And re Jim_L’s statement about European Christianity, he is absolutely right. The university and the hospital, just to name two institutions, were creations of the Church. A period that could produce poetry of the quality of Dante’s and Chaucer’s, architecture of the quality of Chartres and Notre Dame, and inventions like the stirrup, the iron plough, and the horseshoe; advances in optics, clock-making, and navigation; and the first application of mathematics to science is hardly the Dark Ages of gnu atheist delusion. And do you really believe it is coincidence that science as we know it arose nowhere in the ancient world and when it did arise did so only in the Christian West? Here’s a challenge for you: Name one practitioner or precursor of science other than Galileo (and I include him arguendo; his case was much more complex than the myth of the evil Church suppressing a hero of science) who was persecuted by the Church. And Giordano Bruno doesn’t count; he was a nut, not a scientist. And while you’re at it, you might explain the lack of persecution of practitioners and precursors of science like Nicolas Copernicus (himself a clergyman), Roger Bacon, Robert Grosseteste, Richard of Wallingford, and Nicolas Oresme. And if religion of necessity retards intellectual progress, perhaps you can account for the fact that even though Descartes was a devout Catholic (trained by Jesuits yet), as was Pascal, Leibniz was a theologian as well as a philosopher, Locke was a devout dissenting Protestant, Newton’s Christianity was a bit flaky but deeply held, Boyle was a devout Anglican, and Michael Faraday was a devout Sandemanian Christian, they somehow managed to start a scientific revolution. You know, people other than Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennet, et. the usual al. have written books. Try reading one or two.

          • solstice

            I didn’t say that the Muslim world was “civilized” or prosperous when Arab nationalist regimes were dominant–I was refuting Jim_L’s claim that fundamentalist Islamic jihadism emerged as a reaction to these regimes when, in truth, its roots can be traced far earlier than the 20th century. Christianity deserves as much credit for Western scientific and technological achievements as Islam does for the achievements of the so-called “Islamic Golden Age”–that is to say, zero. There are several examples of Christian churches suppressing science or making false scientific claims to the detriment of humanity. Both the Catholic and certain Protestant churches have falsely claimed that condoms are ineffective in preventing unwanted pregnancies or the spread of STDs. These churches have also spearheaded efforts to ban embryonic stem cell research, which holds the potential of curing our most costly and misery-inducing diseases. Many mainstream churches outright reject the scientifically-established fact of evolution and thereby stultify the minds of the unfortunate children born into them. The Catholic Church accepts “divinely-guided” evolution but cannot explain why a benevolent deity would choose to bring humans into existence through such a protracted, painful, inefficient, and imperfect process that resulted in a number of appalling flaws in our “design”: Like its pathetic answer to the problem of evil, the Catholic Church would likely claim that God is “mysterious” and that the human mind is too limited to fully comprehend the supreme being’s intentions. This is the cop-out theists resort to when they can’t answer a question.

            The Chinese, who are not historically Christians, have ranked among humanity’s most prolific inventors. The ancient Egyptians employed sophisticated medical procedures and ancient Greek pioneers of medicine, such as Hippocrates and Galen, were not Christians. Non-Christian Persia produced masterpieces of architecture, art, and literature as well as several of its own inventions. Greek pagans devised geometry, but you would never attribute this achievement to paganism. As the respected biologist Jerry Coyne points out: “At present nearly half of scientists are atheists, and the argument that religion motivates science can no longer stand. The major achievements of science, including relativity, evolution, and modern molecular biology, were achieved by non-theists” ( His blog post refutes several of your arguments and, since you like to tell those who disagree with you to read books, I recommend that you read his superb book on this topic: Faith vs. Fact.

          • solstice

            And if you want to know how Christianity suppressed scientific progress the most, imagine if the medieval European masses had been raised to have inquiring minds and to learn about the world through observation and evidence instead of being raised to obey Holy Mother Church and believe a bunch of fascist nonsense about their eternal souls. Computers and the Internet might have been invented centuries ago and many of humanity’s current problems might not exist.

    • Anthony

      WigWag, the struggle against the Islamist State is not a conventional war. We cannot eradicate or destroy it anytime soon (its both network/organization and idea). But West must become more willing to act (and not just one-off tragedies). “…unwillingness to use force persistently and intelligently” – a synopsis of your argument with added economic wrinkle.

    • worried_european

      WRM is sadly correct in that Europe and the Western countries in general are moving inexorably closer to permanent omnipresent security states like Israel. The age of liberal democracy is certainly in a waning phase.

      Your cancer analogy is very apt WigWag and until the patient (Europe) moves on from the denial stage, the prognosis will remain bad. However, with new serious symptoms now impossible to ignore it looks like Europe might finally be starting to realise the seriousness of the condition.

      I would disagree with the argument that the only remedies left to us are extreme – at least along the lines of the examples you give. Rejecting pluralist multiculturalism (e.g. with repatriations) is certainly one route – but Europe and France in particular, is way too far down that road already, as the Front Nationale will soon discover, should they ever come to power in France. I’d suggest there are other remedies to the external and internal problems, though some may still be considered extreme in a different sense:

      Proper immigration controls and fixing Europe’s semi/un-policed external border is hardly a radical measure, but is nevertheless an utterly necessary first step. AK47’s and explosives may be available in the US/UK, for instance, but they are sure as hell harder to bring in than into porous mainland Europe – this can be greatly improved with proper border security.

      The Islamic State – despite media insistence on the qualifier “so called” is as much a functioning state as many others. The US keeps thousands of troops in Afghanistan – to deny terrorists a safe haven – but we simultaneously allow a fully fledged Terrocracy to develop & flourish right on NATO’s borders! IS **as a state** can be destroyed by retaking Raqqa – even for Europe’s enfeebled military this is hardly an impossible goal. The Kurds/Iraqis – for the latter read Iranian militias – will deal with Mosul in due course. This would not end the global jihadi menace, but would greatly diminish IS’ ability to plan & facilitate attacks in Europe, just as ending Taliban rule in Afghanistan did with Al Qaeda. The only calculus is how many of our civilians we are willing to see killed before we finally send in the military. It took a few thousand for the US, perhaps figures in the hundreds is still not enough for Europe.

      Here the problem is one of youth alienation, combined with social media’s power in the hands of skilled users to brainwash impressionable minds very quickly and effectively.

      The second of these will, I suspect, inevitably result in further censoring of internet content. The IS have by far and away the best Marketing team of any such group to date. Consequently, the UK will shortly monitor & store every citizen’s web searches – expect much more of this to follow. Extreme – in a civil libertarian sense – it may be, but Jihadi content will have to be found and taken down on a far more proactive basis if we are to address the ‘wrong messages’ being available. Welcome to the Orwellian future..

      Hardest of all of course is the internal alienation problem – most of the Paris attackers were European citizens after all. Belgium has the largest per capital number of foreign IS recruits and Paris’ banlieues are full of disaffected youth whose religious/ethnic background leaves them particularly vulnerable to the Jihadi message. Thousands of citizens who perceive their lives as devoid of prospects, or even of meaning, are a critical danger to the 21st century state. Fixing this (without mass deportation or full blown Israel-style separation/apartheid) will require massive efforts from states at real inclusion by large-scale social engineering – not just blithely regurgitating the message of égalité written in the Constitution. Only if French-Algerians/Moroccans can be given real equality of opportunity to those French citizens whose roots happen to go back further will this issue be addressed.

      The patient is not a terminal case – yet – but the chemo/radiotherapy is going to be tough, much more so than most imagine.

      • mdmusterstone

        Opportunity and economics are not the
        answer to this problem. Were not several
        of the 9/11 attackers very well educated?
        Every pole in every country finds a hair raising number of Muslims
        believing that Sharia law is the best direction for the society in question and
        that violence is “sometimes” justified. Where are the Million Man Muslim marches
        against violence? How about ten
        men? How about one man? Fundamentally the
        problem is Islam and a quickening of the basic idea that all “others”
        must submit, convert of be killed.

  • johngbarker

    Thoughtful as usual WW. How will the rise of right wing parties in Europe affect the struggle against Muslim extremism?

  • qet

    “The goal of the terrorists has always been to escape the drab realities of ordinary history and events, to create a kind of magical space—a return to the 7th century, the age of the Prophet, of miracles and legends. Joining the group offered a real life version of a video game.”–WRM in his feature TAI article

    “Meanwhile, in the West, Muslim populations in Europe will be economically underprivileged for a very long time. They’ll be facing a future with few jobs, bad schools, and popular prejudice running against them. This will increase the radicalization that we are already seeing in places like Belgium”–WRM in this post

    I submit that these statements, if not exactly logically contrary or contradictory, are in fact ideologically or politically contradictory. Professor Mead evinces by these two statements the confusion that afflicts all Western analysis of the 21st century jihad and indeed all post-19th century Western politics generally. If in war the moral is to the material as three is to one, as Napoleon held, and if war is merely an extension of politics by other means, as Clausewitz held, then it seems quite clear that the West finds itself where it is today because its intellectual class has systematically and steadfastly reversed the ratio. So Professor Mead’s first statement is closer to the truth that the West needs to recognize if it is not only to endure, but to prevail. And as far as Professor Mead’s observation in the featured TAI article that the kind of spiritual/moral motivations of radicals and revolutionaries tend eventually to break on the rocks of that dry drab reality they sought to escape, well, what is history at all except a repetition of this cycle. That does not make the current phase of the cycle, in which the radicals/revolutionaries are cresting, any less in need of active resistance/opposition/suppression by those of us more content with our drabness than at any other similar historical moment.

  • Anthony

    “Paris is also a warning that the best counterterrorist efforts in the world cannot protect any country, particularly the open societies in the West, from every attack; and that no victory against any given movement can be decisive. The forces that created violent Islamist extremist movements over the past decades – and that came home to Americans on September 11, 2001 – are simply too great for any lasting near-term victory in what some call the war on terrorism.” How have we come to this? Here’s some idea:

  • vepxistqaosani

    The weakness of Islam — radical, moderate, or what-have-you — is that the faith is centered on a pair of physical places, which can easily be destroyed with nuclear weapons.

    The weakness of the West is that we won’t do it, and the world’s Muslims know it.

    Putin would.

  • Anthony

    “It is all too easy to call for dramatic new military action, and draconian new security measures, as part of a natural human reaction to the horrifying events in Paris.”

    Paris, ISIS, and the Rush to War – a serious analysis about where we are:

  • mdmusterstone

    Dr. Mead you missed the most important element in the coming battles: Leadership!!

    During the Blitz and the mini Blitz some thirty thousand
    people were killed with twice as many wounded.
    The V-2 with supersonic velocities was a true terror weapon, one minute
    a block of houses and their residents were existent and the next they
    weren’t. But they had a leader who reminded them that they were a great people and that they could endure and so

    The West will have a great deal to endure in the years ahead
    and when I look at our leadership or those who wish to lead I am pierced with despair.

  • ljgude

    I noticed today that Anonymous, the hacking group, had identified the Paris shooter’s bitcoin accounts and had been outing IS accounts on Facebook until Facebook itself shut down the account they were using just before the Paris attacks. After the attacks, Facebook reinstated the account without comment. What I see happening here is that 21st century terrorists are using the wild west of cyberspace freely to attack the nation states. And running rings around them. Hackers are are also attacking our nation states and running rings around them. They are even making one of our most successful tech companies, Facebook, look flat footed. So now our hackers are attacking the hackers of the IS. Suddenly those intent of tearing down their own civilization are attacking the enemy. Russia and China are already letting their hackers run amok, but we are trying to control our spy agencies through the rule of law. Perhaps there is a place for cyber vigilantes in the mix we need to defend ourselves.

  • Episteme

    Not an answer, really, but a thought. The distinction of the modern era of radical Islamic terrorism is attempts to further Fundamentalism as an organizing societal and governmental principle – much in the way that previously over recent centuries Communism and Fascism each developed from ideologies that served ‘private’ social needs to ones that were turned into state systems and pushed into eschatological conflict (recall that even Republicanism, in the first years during/after the American Revolution and then into the initial period of the French Revolution before the Terror and “Year One,” was similarly discoursed as such an infectious world-historic event). Looked at the problem in that way, we may not be able to defeat Jihad as an ideological construct, but we can consider ways to overturn Islamic Fundamentalism as an organizing social principle (as Absolutism was in 1689 and 1789, Radical Republicanism between about 1795-1803, Fascism in 1945, International Communism in 1989-1991) so as deal with more prosaic forms again. I don’t know what the answer to HOW to do that is, but I think that that’s the approach to begin with (each case in history has involved a combination of military engagement, bottom-up social involvement, and top-down cultural connections – effectively convincing parties how what they want can be better served with other systems, particularly in terms of geopolitical costs).

  • Islamic terrorism will have to be defeated the same way the Japanese were defeated in WWII; root them out from one “island” at a time and kill them. Unfortunately the effort requires more commitment from the American people than they are willing to make. The best scenario I see is that a strong military effort puts islamic terrorism into remission giving the appearance of victory. Then at some future time it will start again. My “best scenario” is not a foregone conclusion so the future does not look good.

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