It’s easy to think that terrorist attacks in Europe are instances of individual evil, and as such the proper target for and solvable by government force. But they’re not. Violence like the shootings and bombing in Paris last night is also politics. There is no fundamental difference between the political violence done by European democratic States (enacted in the Middle East) and that of Islamic terrorists enacted in Europe. The only differences are technical and in scale.
Violence is violence
The political violence of European democratic States is not carried out by those who plan it. Large armies with the best weaponry funded by huge tax revenues do that. The violence is also enacted on a much larger scale. The planners and the executors are not considered criminals (by Europeans) because the law of their countries grants them the legal right to use violence.
Islamic terrorists usually carry out the violence themselves. They have a great deal less funding, which is usually donated. They use second-hand weapons and home-made bombs. European law considers them criminals but this may not be the case in their countries of origin.
In the name of an Authority
These are the technical differences, but the similarities are fundamental. Both groups engage in political violence because both act in the name of an imagined Authority; they do not act as individuals, they seek no individual gain and steal no property.
European democratic State politicians and soldiers act in the name of ‘Democracy’, ‘The Will of The Majority’, ‘The Greater Good’. Islamic terrorists act in the name of ‘God’s Will’, ‘The Greatest Good’. Both groups believe they have moral justification for their violent actions because an Authority (the Authority) grants it to them. Both believe they are making the world a better place. Both groups believe the killing of innocent people is a necessary evil. Both believe evil is necessary.
The vicious circle of political violence
This is why putting our faith in democratic States to keep us safe from political violence is a grave mistake. Politics is violence. Democratic State violence of the past lead to Islamic State violence, which will lead to more Democratic State violence. It is a vicious circle that more government action of any kind cannot break.
The French President has vowed a “merciless” war against ‘terrorism’. But this is rhetorical nonsense uttered by a hubristic politician. You can’t wage a war against terrorism any more than you can war against pincer movements. In reality a war against terrorism can only mean the shrinking of the liberty of French (and other European) citizens to within an inch of its life. We know this. It’s already happening. This latest instance of terrorism will only hurry the process.
European governments will wreck free society trying to catch terrorists with ’emergency’ terrorism legislation. Like a man possessed would trash his room trying to kill a cockroach with a baseball bat.
We think our governments are our only defence against terrorism, but government action (aimed at improving the world) is the only reason it exists in the first place. European governments gave birth to this threat with the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the countless interventions in the political affairs of Middle Eastern nations.
The violence done in the name of European Authorities by politicians and soldiers created a new Authority that now stands in opposition to European Authority. Islamic State as it now functions didn’t exist ten years ago. It didn’t just pop into existence because a group of men decided they wanted to do some evil. It is a political response to political violence.
Listen to this song as you think about the innocent people who died in Paris yesterday. They died because some people believed an Authority had given them the moral sanction to use violence. We can say the same of the staggering number of innocent people killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions; and of those killed by U.S. military drones today.
That’s the link we must never forget is there. It wasn’t individual evil that killed these latest victims, the serial killer kind, it was political evil – the Authority kind. Political evil enacted by a uniformed army of thousands is no different to political evil enacted by a few men armed with assault rifles.
The only possible way out
It’s wonderful that we all feel a strong urge to do something in the wake of such a horrible event to somehow honour the dead, but demanding our governments do more is not the way. For that only directs more energy into the vicious circle. Government interventionism got us into this mess, only much less of it can get us out.
We should demand that our governments extract themselves from all Middle Eastern territories, politically and militarily. We should oppose the removal of our freedoms and privacy in the name of fighting the War on Terrorism. We may have little chance of success, but we must try for our children’s sake.
A war between two evils cannot produce peace
Our generals, clutching plans devised by our elected politicians, invaded the Middle East believing they would create a better world for its peoples. But they only destroyed lives and wealth, and created new evil. An evil that now haunts Europe and kills the people forced to fund those invading armies.
When both sides believe evil is necessary, supporting one or the other cannot lead to peace. Peace lies in the consciences of individuals and in the peaceful actions of individuals. Men who believe they are acting out the will of an Authority cannot force it into being. Their attempts only destroy it.
The force of Western democratic States against the force of Islamic Terrorism is not Good versus Evil. Both groups consist of individuals who believe evil is necessary and that they are not responsible for their violent actions. Which is the most dangerous and destructive human mindset there is.
The French President said the attacks were an “act of war by IS”. A war between two evils cannot produce peace; it can only kill and terrorise innocent people – here in Europe or in the Middle East. Politics is violence.