Beyond the familiar feelings of despair there are two especially depressing aspects to what happened in Paris on Friday 13 November and its political aftermath.
First: a handful deluded men with guns. It is now so obvious that there is no security apparatus imaginable, short of an Orwellian security apparatus, that can provide effective protection against a handful of deluded men with guns. However, the inevitable political response will be to strengthen the security apparatus despite the knowledge that while this can deter it can never prevent and can sometimes even incentivise.
Second, and following on from the above, is the complete inability of our political leaders to devise and promote any effective strategy, beyond the merely superficial and -- one suspects -- personally politically expedient. As I write, Prime Minister David Cameron is engaged upon an exercise designed to create sufficient domestic and international consensus to pursue the same strategy that failed in Afghanistan - i.e. to bomb something. The only difference this time around is a lack of boots on the ground, thus it is different only in-so-far as it will be even less effective in achieving its own misplaced objectives.
Bombing Afghanistan and displacing al-Qaeda did nothing to diminish its power. Neither did it even erradicate the Taliban. While Islamic State may differ from al-Qaeda in that it has a strategy more closely dependent on commanding specific territory, it is not sufficiently different to mean that depriving it of that territory is likely to make it less able to pursue the sort of actions we saw in Paris. Indeed, as with al-Qaeda, supposedly military success against it may actually strengthen precisely that aspect said military action was designed to degrade i.e. the ability to recruit and motivate eight deluded men with guns.
We don't need more bombs and more spies. We need politicians who are prepared to, or capable of, providing political leadership, rather than simply taking actions designed to bolster their political or post-political, careers.
We don't need nationalistic rally cries which serve to deflect attention from leadership failure. We need a recognition that this problem has its roots as much in the present and past of our own countries as it does in Syria or Iraq. The values we promote and preserve (and fight to protect) at home, we have singularly failed to fight for and protect in areas outside of what we like to call 'the West'. Contrary to broadcast wisdom, neither al-Qaeda nor Islamic State care one straw about the values we wish to establish in our countries. Their only concern stems from what we are doing, or have done, in their countries since the end of the First World War. It is not a war against our values, it is a war against our intervention. And in-so-far as it concerns values it concerns our disregard in applying 'our values' when we installed and supported dictators and authoritarian regimes across the Middle-East who have systematically crushed the democratic ambitions and aspirations of generations of citizens who, until now, have had no ability to fight back.
The supporters of the Arab Spring and Islamic State are therefore essentially the same, albeit it at different ends of the spectrum of rationality and political acceptability. They both are fighting against the political elites and regimes (and their perceived allies in 'the West'), which have served them so badly for so long. Until we have leaders with the courage to recognise and respond to this inconvenient truth, our streets will see many more deluded men with guns.Suggest a correction