On the response to the Paris attacks

John Richardson writes: Re. “Sorting fact from fiction in the aftermath of butchery” (yesterday). One of the most disturbing features of the west’s response to the latest blowback from the Middle East is its immediate determination to bend its back and dig even more vigorously the hole that it insists on being in; while pretending there’s no hole at all.

Of greater concern is our willingness to believe that our leaders are all inevitably intelligent, wise and capable of determining the best way out of the unholy mess that we find ourselves in, when all the evidence suggests that the very opposite is true.

While the Presidents of France and the United States, together with the Prime Ministers of Great Britain and Australia and the members of the G20 cheer squad slap-on the coconut oil and reach for their six-guns, not one has the intellectual capacity nor courage to ask “how did we get here” and “is this the right response”?

“What are you doing in Syria?” must surely be one of the most important questions asked by anyone in the last 72 hours since the carnage of Paris. The fact that it was asked by one of the perpetrators should be pause for thought by everyone.

But no. We are content with the fact that, in the past 12 years, Western leaders, ignoring the advice of their own intelligence agencies, have conspired to destroy three largely secular governments (Iraq, Libya and Syria), while turning those countries into vast spawning grounds for violent sectarianism and we wonder why we have a problem. Today’s terrorism is surely the “blowback” of more than 60 years of failed American adventurism in the Middle East, dating back to 1953 when the US conspired to topple the democratically elected government of Iran and install the Shah to serve its interests.

Today the west maintains that Islamic State is the existential threat, but it seems more intent on ridding the world of Assad than in dealing with that alleged threat.

Meanwhile, back in Australia, the intellectual giant in-charge of our most important “intelligence agency” ASIO, tonight casually claimed that there’s no particular nexus between our involvement in military action in the Middle East and the increase in terrorist attacks, arguing that:

“These people are ant-Western – Australia has of course been a terrorist target long before we became engaged in the Middle East, as you know. But we are as a culture, we are as a society objectionable to them and they want to attack us, they want to destroy us.”

With critical thinking like that to guide us, the hole must surely get deeper and deeper.

Thomas Richman writes: Hundreds of billions of dollars spent — or to be spent — on submarines, jet fighters and drones, but not one of these samples of Allied military hardware, and the strategies that underpin their usage, have even marginally deterred, let alone defeated, jihadists armed with nothing more than old AK 47s, captured artillery pieces or, as per 9/1, box cutters. “Boots on the ground” hasn’t worked either.  There has to be a better way!

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.


Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey