Column: Learning from mistakes

On March 25 of last year I wrote, “The nation of France has been the topic of many discussions due to its refusal to support the American invasion of Iraq and one would think that their spineless actions would have saved them from becoming a target of Islamic terrorism. Yet only six days after the attacks on Madrid, a group calling itself The Servants of Allah the Mighty and the Wise issued a threat to ‘plunge France into terror and remorse,’ and make blood run to its borders. They went on to state that ‘Europe is a new war zone for the Jihad.’ France’s refusal to side with America did not in fact save them from becoming the target of Islamic terrorism.”

And they still haven’t picked up on the fact that there is strength in numbers.

In the past year, the nations of France and Russia have gone to great lengths to point out faults in America’s actions. Thinking this to be the safe route out of a potentially dangerous path, both nations expected to be seen as the rational spectators in the shadow of an unreasonable United States.

Regardless of its decision to stay out of Iraq, France now contemplates losing two civilian reporters due to domestic policies that strip Muslim students of the right to wear Islamic veils in public schools. While French leaders presumed that protesting the war in Iraq would immunize their country from being a target for terrorists, they now see that they are fair game to those who would wish to force an American withdrawal from Iraq.

Despite also condemning the war in Iraq, Russia has once again seen her countrymen slaughtered by terrorists. Last week, at Middle School No. 1 in Beslan, Russia was taken hostage and ultimately destroyed by Islamic terrorists out of Chechnya. Nearly 700 were wounded with over 300 dead. Half the fatalities were children.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech in the aftermath of the attack carried an emphasis on the evils of international terrorism. “Events in other countries prove that terrorists meet the most effective rebuff where they confront not only the power of the state, but also an organized and united civil society.” Putin preaches about how other countries do well for themselves in the way they protect themselves against terrorism through a unified front. Yet his nation turned its back on those who would be the first to understand the pain of the families of Middle School No. 1, an American public that shall never forget September 11.

The French and Russians walked away from Iraq expecting to be taking the moral high ground in the eyes of the Muslims. And while as a whole the Muslim world may understand the spirit in which France and Russia stayed out of Iraq, militant terrorists cannot be expected to rationalize things the same way. Men and women who are ready to crash a plane into civilian buildings or slaughter a school full of children have a slightly distorted idea of right and wrong. As a result of their altered states of mind, terrorists must be dealt with in a different manner than most threats. Terrorism is a unique threat unlike anything conventional warfare is used to.

Terrorism is a nationless phenomenon; terrorists do not have a single nation as their base of operations. In the past, the Irish Republican Army has been caught training with the Colombian FARC and the Basque ETA. An al Queda presence has been seen in not just nations like Iraq and Afghanistan, but also Spain, Kenya, and the United Kingdom. Terrorism is not an “American” problem. It’s not a “Western” problem. It’s a plague that the whole world shall have to face sooner or later. In the past, American politicians have stated countless variations of “you are either with us or against us.” This unfortunate truth goes unrealized among many foreign nations. International terrorism is growing and soon there will be no innocent victims; there will be only those who came together to be proactive in stopping the attacks before they came and those who allowed terrorism to grow by standing on the sidelines. France and Russia chose the latter; the question is whether or not they will realize their mistake.

-The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

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