One of the most recurrent topics in the action movies, back in the ‘70s, was the fighting sequence in a hall of mirrors. Hero and villain chasing each other in a long series of hit-and-miss, until the dramatic end. It’s a good metaphor for what’s going on in the Middle East. A pity that there are a lot of players inside the mirrored maze and I can’t see any hero ready to save the day.
Here we are again. Another batch of terrorist attacks in Europe, this time in Belgium, followed by a storm of empty words and emptier actions in the media. Politicians of every color and denomination, so-called leaders and not-so-famous people, a lot of noise and zero solutions. What you hear is the voice of fear.
Yesterday’s post (here) last phrase was: “Are we defenseless?”
My answer is no. But we have to consider a number of things before setting up a reaction and answer to a lot of questions that will concur to define what kind of answer we will give in the next days and in the years to come.
Now, please consider the image at the top of this post. As you may see, it shows the locations of the terrorist attacks in the years between 2000 and 2013, with a focus on the deadlier attacks (the biggest red dots) and the worst attacks of 2013. I think it’s appropriate to say that this is a global problem and that no place is really safe.
The day after a wave of terrorist attacks is always a turmoil of emotions, anger and rage. We still don’t know all the facts and figures about what happened, nor do we have a complete picture of the people who are involved in planning and organizing such attacks.
The nature of what’s happened last night in Paris to me resembled a lot the 2008 Mumbai attacks (see here). A small number of people, maybe eight, that perform simultaneous attacks on a list of objectives with firearms and explosives. The basic idea is to put the city in panic and force the local police department to run everywhere (not to mention all the emergency services).
So the hunt for the terrorists in France is over. The bad guys got a number of bullets each and the most part of their hostages survived the experience. Thanks to the French special forces and to the huge number of policemen and military personnel involved. But it’s not over. By any means, it will be never over. Not in France, nor in any other country. It’s time to tell the truth, to think about the subject “terrorism” with a broader focus and the will to solve some problem here and there.
Usually I don’t post about ongoing facts, the risk of being too emotional – not to mention inaccurate – is too high. But what happen today in Paris, with the terrorist assault of the offices of the “Charlie Hebdo” and the consequent deaths of twelve people (plus five more seriously injured and six other damaged) is something that I simply cannot ignore. So I choose an example of the works of Cabu (Jean Cabut, one of the victims) as a flag for todays’ words, trying to do my best to keep a cool head.
As they say September 11th, 2001 is a kind of milestone, a separation between two different way of feeling. With the terrorist attacks on american soil the message was quite clear: no place is safe, for nobody.
That was a hard lesson, the same already learned by other countries in the past. When war became asymmetric, then there are no limits about where the battlefield is, there are no rules at all and the only victory available is the annihilation of the enemy, no less.
After 12 years we can say that a new kind of symmetry has been found for this kind of conflicts. What happened in Iraq and in Afghanistan were the last traditional operations in the old line of warfare, with an invading army that became an easy target shortly after the “success” of the invasion. For any insurgent group having so many target is one hell of invitation to a bloodfest.
So, the new symmetry has been found. UCAV to strike almost everywhere with no warning to balance IED and car bombs, Special Forces strikes to balance the attacks against civilians. Then you have to add the extraordinary renditions performed by CIA and/or Special Forces all around the world. It’s nothing new, Israeli forces did the same for decades.
To tell the truth, it’s nothing new for a lot of countries. Ask to the French about overseas operations made from the ‘60s to the present days (Chad, Mali, Algeria, Tunisia), think about what UK forces did worldwide from the ’50 (they set up the rules of the modern black ops). Russia, China, Australia, India, South Africa… almost every country crossed the legal line.
Yes, there WAS a line to be crossed. Given by the respect of International treaties, from the basic idea of national authority and so on. The real difference between now and then is in the media coverage. Today we are told about what has been done, more or less. Yesterday it was a matter of unconfirmed news, media noise covered by official denial notes and bags of lies.
What we still do not see is not the blood of the victims, there’s a plenty of it. We do not see what’s the price to pay for this kind of safety. The only law is in the military or economic power, no matter the level of legal violations. The message we get is elementary: there’s no such thing as a common law both for terrorist and for nations. Such a situation is the same that “authorize” big companies to enforce their rule with PMC when needed (i.e. Nigeria).
What we have now is a bunch of dirty little wars with the only real difference between them is about how much they look good on TV. Ratings, anyone? You see, it’s for our sponsors.