Brussels wasn’t the first, and we don’t know if it will be the last.
March 29 will mark 22 months since ISIS declared its caliphate: a state or area of Islam led by a caliph (a successor to the Islamic prophet Muhammad).
According to CNN, since declaring its caliphate, ISIS has been responsible for 75 different terrorist attacks spanning across 20 countries, resulting in over 1200 deaths and almost 1800 others injured.
After the Paris attacks in November that saw over 100 people killed, we as a nation and a world were faced with the potential threat of war, with the common enemy of ISIS. But this common enemy has still found a way to divide us in how we should handle the situation.
Following the Paris attacks, President Obama announced America’s strategy to deal with ISIS. The plan, which outlined air support from the US, mostly called upon the areas being taken over by ISIS to essentially reject the extremist ideologies ISIS hosted. He further stated that sending in troops would only lead to a repeat of the Iraq invasion in 2003, something he considered a mistake.
Republicans rejected this plan, citing Obama was moderately dismissive of the issue and said the plan was too soft, claiming we needed to go after ISIS. GOP presidential candidates were not shy about sharing their thoughts, from Donald Trump saying he would “bomb the s—t out of ISIS” to Ted Cruz saying he would bomb ISIS until we found out if sand could glow in the dark.
A little more than four months later, we are faced with the attacks in Brussels, except this attack may be a little different.
Salah Abdeslam, one of the suspects of the Paris attacks, was captured in Belgium Friday, according to Belgian officials. It seemed at first to be a positive step in the war we have seemingly launched. But now that may not be true. Brussels, the capital of Belgium, was attacked days later by ISIS; this time more than 30 people dead and 200 injured. The move was especially heinous considering Brussels is home to the European Union and NATO.
It was a move that potentially showed ISIS’s ability to attack anywhere, anytime. Many experts are saying it appeared to be an attack already planned out, but accelerated perhaps to either make a point, or a last ditch effort by terrorists who knew they were about to be found (reports claim that Abdeslam was cooperating with law enforcement).
Regardless of the reason, all eyes were on President Obama to announce what to do now. Obama, who is currently on a tour through Latin America, held a press conference in Argentina Wednesday to reiterate his plan on going after the attackers. He made it a point to keep fear out of the decision making process and also rejected Ted Cruz’s proposal for stepping up police enforcement in Muslim neighborhoods.
But is this the right approach? It’s an argument that can be seen from both sides. Perhaps “bombing the s—t” out of terrorists isn’t the appropriate response, but the point Obama wants to make in remaining calm in the face of this crisis begs the question of how important is that point to make? When do we draw the line?
It’s been stated numerous times that going in and taking ISIS out is not so simple, but as a country and as a world when do we step up enforcement? Rather, how do we step up enforcement for a group that has embedded itself into civilian life to the point they are recruiting on Twitter?
It’s very easy to be scared by all of this, and it’s okay to be scared. It’s easy to let emotions and fear drive irrational actions to take out this group at any and all costs; this includes the risk of millions of civilians lost in the crossfire. And despite what we will see or hear in the upcoming months between politicians and citizens arguing how to handle such a fragile yet intimidating situation, there is no easy answer. Trump and Cruz’s approaches are wrong on multiple levels, but that doesn’t mean Obama’s approach is correct.
But then what is the correct approach? Remaining calm is important, but the threat is very real, and whether we want to admit it or not, it probably exists on our home front.
Over the course of the past four months, we have remained wary about ISIS. We have debated about Syrian refugees, whether or not Islam is a dangerous religion and we have worn our hearts on our sleeves, screaming proposals and plans that are rooted in fear and anger. Yet they attack again, and there is no promise of an end in sight.
And on top of all the risk, there may not be a correct answer at the moment on how to deal with this. And if the answer exists, it may not be easy. It seems unfair to say we have to wait patiently while they continue to commit these acts, but at the same time, this isn’t a problem to be fixed overnight.
All we can do as citizens of not only the nation, but the world, is pay attention. A majority of people try to avoid politics, but this is important. We need to find a plan not rooted in fear, we need to come together to stop this, because this isn’t going away anytime soon at this rate. Avoiding politics is acceptable sometimes, but this time the lives of hundreds to thousands of people could be in danger. It comes down to a quote by Pericles: “Just because you don’t take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” The saying may have never been truer than right now.
Photo courtesy of: AP Photo/Martin Meissner via ABC News