Europe must not sleepwalk into war on the back of misguided confidence

“Hawkeye: War isn’t Hell. War is war, and Hell is Hell. And of the two, war is a lot worse.

Father Mulcahy: How do you figure, Hawkeye?

Hawkeye: Easy, Father. Tell me, who goes to Hell?

Father Mulcahy: Sinners, I believe.

Hawkeye: Exactly. There are no innocent bystanders in Hell. War is chalk full of them – little kids, cripples, old ladies. In fact, except for some of the brass, almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander.”


On Wednesday we stood together. United by compassion, united in grief. We made a pledge – We Will Remember Them.


Source: Stephane de Sakutin/AP PHOTO


It only took three days to break that pledge. Three days to disremember the lamentation of a futile war, and hype up the prospect of a new one. Three days to bang the drum of war again.

The attacks on Paris were an “act of war… and when faced with war, the country must take the appropriate decisions”, said French President François Hollande not 24 hours after the sickening climax to Friday’s senseless violence, which has so far claimed 128 lives. When taken in the context of other remarks he made on Saturday morning – that France knows how to “mobilise its forces” and “defeat the terrorists”, Monsieur Hollande’s ideas of ‘appropriate decisions’ become clear. France has already for months been bombing ISIS in the Middle East. The next logical step – the only next step – is boots on the ground.

Those boots would probably have European feet inside of them. France, as a member of NATO (as 25 other European nations are) can invoke Article 5 of the NATO Treaty  – with many actors already encouraging France to do so – forcing the organisation to take any “such action as deemed necessary” against ISIS. No prizes for guessing what the hawks at NATO will see as ‘necessary’, despite previous military action consistently failing to achieve long-term goals in that region. Because it’ll be different this time.


“Blithely they go as to a wedding day, The mothers’ sons.”

– Katharine Tynan


A strong NATO coalition could surely sweep through the country and wipe out extremists in a matter of months. Although, the supremely-funded Soviets never managed it despite being there for years. Neither has NATO in Afghanistan, or the UK and US in Iraq. But I’m sure it’ll be different this time.


Source: NYT


And by marching into the region, we can save civilian lives, not just take ISIS ones. The huge civilian death tolls from the NATO campaign in Afghanistan and the UK / US campaign in Iraq were extremely unfortunate. But rest assured – it’ll be different this time.

By clearing out the incumbents, we can stabilise the area. Perhaps the Soviet and NATO campaigns in Afghanistan, and the UK / US campaign in Iraq were just outliers. Because once democracy is installed and instilled, there will be peace this time. Because it’ll be different this time.

And because our forces are so strong, so powerful, and because we know best, we can ensure that the ideology of terror dies with ISIS. The cropping up of new extremists during and after each past occupation is indicative of job not fully done, for sure. Military action will work this time. It’ll be different this time.


“Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.”

– Wilfred Owen

But, on the off chance that the same problems could occur, maybe we should step back for a second and consider. Consider the grimness of war – as terrible today for the families of those lost as it was a hundred and one years ago. Consider perhaps different strategies. Look at our current strategies, which have contained the spread of ISIS geographically, and served to weaken ISIS in the past few months. Do we really need boots on the ground now?

But first and foremost, we must consider our haste. It’s often said that we shouldn’t search for perfect solutions, that perfect is the enemy of good – but do we really want to put lives on the line for ‘good enough’?


“Theirs not to make reply,

Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do & die.”

– Alfred, Lord Tennyson


We must remember them.


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