France is under attack again. By extension -- and by association -- Europe is under attack for a third time in less than a year. The second major attack in France speaks volumes about the growing threat levels and the government's inability to rein in on the bad guys. More importantly, it reflects the failure of the European Union in leading the fight against terror and its contributing factors. One response -- and Marine La Pen would strongly advocate for it -- would be to call for stringent security measures at the cost of civil liberties and moving towards a divorce from the EU. This, however, will only aggravate problems for France. Terrorism has become a European problem and France wouldn't be able to tackle it on its own.
There are certain realizations that Europe has to make after the Nice attacks. As was evident from the earlier events, the EU has largely been left to its own devices at its time of greatest need. United States, which still claims to be the key ally, has chosen to ignore the European predicament. It refused to shoulder the responsibility of the Syrian refugees and, more importantly, shut down European calls for a swift and decisive action in Syria. The Obama administration, through its constant dithering, abetted the Assad regime and his allies and also overlooked the rise of the Islamic State. Since then, it has embarked on an ill-advised and half-hearted campaign to tackle the outfit.
In Iraq, US has sided with the Iran-backed Shiite militias who are prone to carrying out mass violations of human rights. The Iraqi army has taken territory back from ISIL but has also antagonized the Sunnis. The United Nations reported massive abuses, torture and executions by the army and Shiite militias in Fallujah, which forced the civilians to flee the city en masse. The US largely turned a blind eye, according to the Human Rights Watch.
Fallujah and ultimately Mosul may be recaptured by the Iraqis with US support but it will only be a temporary victory. The same happened only ten years ago when al-Qaeda was routed by the Americans. The deeply contemptuous policies of the Nouri al-Maliki government towards the Sunnis ultimately gave rise to ISIL. Haider al-Abadi is following in the footsteps of his predecessor. Fast forward a few years and there may be no ISIL but a new outfit with a more violent agenda.
This brings one to the Syrian quagmire. The root-cause of all contemporary evils is the Syrian cauldron. The Assad regime has doubled down on its mass annihilation campaign with full support from Iran and its proxies. The Americans are turning towards the Russians in coordinating attacks against the ISIL and the Nusra Front. They now seem least concerned about the mounting human toll and about bringing the perpetrators to task. That they are working with Russia, which is responsible for thousands of civilian deaths in Syria, indicates the heartless workings of international diplomacy.
Americans can afford that luxury. They can choose to follow whatever policy deemed viable for them, even if it comes at the cost of ditching long-touted claims of humanitarianism. Their isolated geography makes them largely immune from the fallout of the Syrian civil war. Russia is shielded by its closed borders and a police-state-like hierarchy. Europe, unfortunately, has no such barriers. As has become evident over the last two years, Europe can no longer follow a lame-duck policy.
One option, and this has been tried numerous times before, is to carry out a few airstrikes on ISIL in Syria. This largely serves as a quick antidote to the growing public anger. Francois Hollande may follow the same route but it will not bring any results. Perhaps the time has come for Europe to adopt a muscular policy. The more pressing -- and ever growing -- issue of refugees can also be resolved if Europe joins forces to tackle the Syrian/ISIL challenge head-on.
France and Germany have the capability to forge a viable international alliance against ISIL as well as the Assad regime. They could also do it without the auspices of the UN, where Russia and China could swiftly veto such attempts. There have been past precedents of side-stepping the UN, with the Iraq War being the most glaring example. While the pretext for the Iraq war turned out be a magnificent lie, Europe faces real, tangible threats from Syria. It can join forces with Turkey and other willing partners to take back not only Raqqa, but also Damascus. It may appear a long-shot today but relentless attacks on Europe have left few other choices. There should be no more tears for France, as well as for Syria and Iraq. Perhaps the time has come to go for the jugular.