After the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday night, pundits, writers and analysts all over the world had strong opinions on what Western governments should do next. Should the United States invade Syria? Should NATO bomb Islamic State (also called ISIS or Daesh)? How can IS be defeated?

Roger Cohen in The New York Times: a full-scale military campaign

“The only adequate measure, after the killing of at least 129 people in Paris, is military, and the only objective commensurate with the ongoing threat is the crushing of ISIS and the elimination of its stronghold in Syria and Iraq. The barbaric terrorists exulting on social media at the blood they have spilled cannot be allowed any longer to control territory on which they are able to organize, finance, direct and plan their savagery.”

James Stavridis in Foreign Policy: a military campaign, with NATO support

“The Islamic State is an apocalyptic organization overdue for eradication. It has beheaded and raped citizens from around the world; has killed civilians in spectacular and horrific ways; has enslaved young women and girls and sold them in open markets; and appears to have brought down a commercial aircraft full of tourists. Now it has killed Westerners execution-style in a city theater. There is a time for soft power and playing the long game in the Middle East, but there is also a time for the ruthless application of hard power. It is NATO’s responsibility to recognize our current moment qualifies as the latter.”

Bruce Newsome in the Berkeley Blog: ground forces are necessary

“The air strategy has been chosen not for its effectiveness in defeating ISIS (indeed, US President Obama has carefully promised to “degrade” ISIS), but for its effectiveness in reducing the exposure of friendly personnel, while still offering spectacular images of destruction…

“To defeat the Islamic State and contain ISIS fighters, the ground campaign would need to be led by first-tier Western armies, would need to be of a scale equivalent to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and would need the cooperation of Iraq’s neighbors, so that Iraq’s borders can be closed, otherwise ISIS fighters would escape to other failed states.”

Graham Fuller, on his blog: destroy its territorial control with help from every stakeholder

“The elimination of ISIS requires every significant stake-holder to be present: UN, US, EU, Canada, Russia, Iran, Kurds, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq, Qatar, Egypt and others. China, aspiring to a major world role, cannot sit this one out either. This convocation requires real heft and clout to impose some rough plan of action. Above all, the UN must head up future operations involving the indispensable future ground operations. If ever an neutral face was essential, this is it. The essential goal is the destruction of ISIS as an organization possessing territory, infrastructure, command structure, and administrative control. But it is not a genuine state, either territorially, ethnically, geopolitically, economically, historically, even religiously. It may be turning to international terrorism — as did al-Qaeda –as it sees its future on the ground fading.”

Simon Schama, in the Financial Times: defend liberalism as something to fight for

“What our fellow citizens need now is a clarifying, empowering and inspiring statement of just what it is we must defend, if necessary, to the end. This, rather than the fluctuations of the business cycle, ought to be on the agenda of this week’s summit of the Group of 20 leading nations.

And what are those principles? They are the ones enshrined in the words of those who first articulated the imperatives of free speech: religious toleration; the right to civil peace; resistance to tyranny and theocracy. They are integral to the imperishable statements of Jefferson, John Milton and John Locke, but also Montesquieu, Voltaire, Condorcet, Emmanuel Levinas. They should be written on our battle standard, now that we know they cannot be taken for granted, as something to fight for.”

Charles P. Pierce, in Esquire: follow the money-trail

“In 2010, thanks to WikiLeaks, we learned that the State Department, under the direction of then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, knew full well where the money for foreign terrorism came from. It came from countries and not from a faith. It came from sovereign states and not from an organized religion. It came from politicians and dictators, not from clerics, at least not directly. It was paid to maintain a political and social order, not to promulgate a religious revival or to launch a religious war. Religion was the fuel, the ammonium nitrate and the diesel fuel. Authoritarian oligarchy built the bomb. As long as people are dying in Paris, nobody important is dying in Doha or Riyadh.

“It’s time for this to stop. It’s time to be pitiless against the bankers and against the people who invest in murder to assure their own survival in power. Assets from these states should be frozen, all over the west. Money trails should be followed, wherever they lead. People should go to jail, in every country in the world. It should be done state-to-state. Stop funding the murder of our citizens and you can have your money back. Maybe. If we’re satisfied that you’ll stop doing it. And, it goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway — not another bullet will be sold to you, let alone advanced warplanes, until this act gets cleaned up to our satisfaction. If that endangers your political position back home, that’s your problem, not ours. You are no longer trusted allies. Complain, and your diplomats will be going home. Complain more loudly, and your diplomats will be investigated and, if necessary, detained. Retaliate, and you do not want to know what will happen, but it will done with cold, reasoned and, yes, pitiless calculation. It will not be a blind punch. You will not see it coming. It will not be an attack on your faith. It will be an attack on how you conduct your business as sovereign states in a world full of sovereign states.”

Jon Soltz in The Huffington Post: global partnerships are necessary

“To strangle ISIS, we absolutely must put all other differences to the side, for the time being, and work with all partners around the world, against ISIS.

“Not bringing Putin, Assad and Iranians to the table, right now, would be like not bringing Stalin to Yalta.

“Not only do they have an interest in and ability to help defeat ISIS, but they all are parties with a stake in what post-ISIS Syria looks like. Only a negotiated post-ISIS plan that includes all parties will have a chance at bringing stability to the region. Thankfully, it seems like Secretary of State John Kerry realizes this. A post-war Syria that doesn’t include buy-in from those parties will be post-war Iraq on steroids, and a breeding ground for the next generation of terrorists.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey