By Kevin Lair
Senior Elm Writer
There are two general types of wars: ones against countries and ones against terrorists. It is relatively easy to know who your enemy is on the battlefield when they wear foreign uniforms or parade foreign flags. When you are fighting terrorists, they are virtually invisible and span several countries. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is no exception, and it requires more than any one country to stop this brutal terrorist group.
Following a call by ISIS for Western supporters to attack men and women in uniform, at least three attacks by suspected ISIS-sympathizers took place in Canada and the US this past week. These attacks followed the capture and beheading of US and British journalists and others.
Last Monday, Oct. 20, Martin Rouleau ran down two soldiers in Saint-Jean-sur-Richeliu, southeast of Montreal, before leading police on a chase and eventually being shot dead. Only one of the soldiers survived.
That Wednesday, radical Islamist Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot and killed Canadian army Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was guarding a veteran’s memorial in Ottawa, before entering parliament and opening fire. Luckily, Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers and police officers were in the vicinity and fatally shot Zehaf-Bibeau. The shooter was reportedly planning to travel to Syria to fight alongside ISIS. At least 130 Canadian citizens have left the country to join terrorist groups, as well as 30 in Syria according to CNN.
In response to these attacks, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper went before the House of Commons and declared, “We’ll be vigilant, but we will not run scared. We will be prudent, but we will not panic. And as for the business of government, well, here we are: in our seats, in our chamber, in the very heart of our democracy.”
On the US front, Zale H. Thompson injured two New York City police officers with a hatchet. Previously, Thompson ran into problems with the law in California and was discharged from the US Navy for disorderly conduct. A senior law-enforcement officer told CNN that there is no indication of ties to radical Islamic groups while another law-enforcement official said that connections to terrorism could not be ruled out.
Regardless, the lives of men and women in uniform around the world are clearly at risk of attack by extremist groups like ISIS. ISIS is no longer targeting just soldiers; they have turned their sights on police and lawmakers in the West.
More broadly, the effect of ISIS has further provoked fear and animosity towards Muslims and followers of Islam. Keep in mind, Muslims are not conducting these attacks or working with ISIS; rather, Muslim extremists are doing so. We must differentiate between the two, otherwise we will continue to see blind discrimination towards Muslims.
The world’s response to ISIS has been relatively limited. After first admitting reluctance to engage the terrorist group in any capacity, President Barack Obama ordered airstrikes against ISIS forces. Canada has also approved airstrikes after lawmakers debated whether or not to partake. Harper said, “We do not take the step lightly… If left unchecked, this terrorist organization will grow and grow quickly… They have voiced their local and international terrorist intentions and identified Canada as a potential target.”
Still, military strategists and officials such as US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel say that airstrikes are not enough. According to Hagel, ISIS “is as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen. They’re beyond just a terrorist group” and more of a 9/11-level threat to the US. General Martin Dempsey, joint chiefs chairman, said, “This is an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision and which will eventually have to be defeated.” Clearly airstrikes are not enough.
At the end of the day, we know that ISIS is not merely an American or British or Canadian problem. Rather, it is a global problem that affects every country either directly or indirectly through open conflict, financial loss, or general fear. Consequently, it cannot solely be America’s job to respond.
We are fighting a new, well-organized, and calculative enemy, and we have to respond in kind behind a broad coalition force. The prospect of putting boots on the ground and training anti-ISIS forces is a debate lawmakers around the world needs to have because what is being done now clearly is not working. How many more Syrian, Iraqi, American, Canadian, and British lives have to be lost before the world collectively and effectively responds?