In light of the horrific terror attacks on Paris France, many French and Westerners have been wondering, “Why us?”
There are the more obvious reasons for the attack: Many European states, including Belgium and France have substantial, unassimilated Muslim minorities that are prone to radicalization. Furthermore, it is viewed by many in the Islamic world as instituting policies directed against Muslims. The attack can also be viewed through the traditional ‘attack on our democratic and free values,’
However, the real reason for the ISIS inspired attacks could lay in that it fits into the overall mold of the ISIS strategy for expansion. ISIS can be described as a fanatical, genocidal, and terroristic organization, but one thing that they should not be described as is stupid or incompetent. ISIS does not use terror and brutality simply as a matter for causing pointless harm on people that oppose its message and rule. Rather it uses terror as part of an overall strategy to further its political and strategic goals.
ISIS needs to attack the West in order to fulfill the promises it makes in its propaganda. Yet, it cannot do so on an extent that it provokes a massive retaliatory response that would damage its regional ambitions. Therefore, it chooses selective strikes, and more importantly targets a nation like France. ISIS realizes that the West has no appetite to become overly committed in the Middle East. When ISIS commits these attacks on the West, it has likely come to the rational conclusion that the propaganda and morale boost it has will exceed any kind of negative consequences.
There are many locations around the Middle East, both Sunni and Shiite that would be easier and possibly more effective on changing the tactical situation on the ground. Even more so, Russia, a nation with even more radicalized Muslim minority and who has caused much more harm and oppression to ISIS has been largely spared from terrorist attacks on Russian soil. This could be because ISIS knows that if they commit mass murder in Moscow, the retaliation has the potential to be so fierce that it could create lasting damage to the organization. Russian airstrikes in Raqqa in response to the downing of a Russian airliner have been substantial but hardly a fraction of the total number of airstrikes directed against the Syrian opposition, thereby limiting their effectiveness. Currently, France and the United States have stepped up bombing, but it is unlikely that they will sustain the current level of bombing. The French bombed abandoned ISIS facilities, and the US dropped leaflets to warn oil smugglers before it launched its assault on ISIS’ oil infrastructure. This is hardly the attitude needed to reduce ISIS’ abilities.
If the West truly wants to make ISIS pay for the mass murder and terror of Parisians, it needs to take a much more forceful approach.