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Blowback in Paris

A kneejerk response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre would be familiar: crackdowns, monitoring and curbs on Muslim communities, including racial profiling; wild promises of “punishing” the attackers and taking decisive action to root out terrorists once and for all; ramping up military intervention in Iraq, Syria, Yemen or elsewhere to increase the heat on the terrorists at source, and teach them a lesson.

The problem is that these are tried, tested, and failed strategies that serve largely as useful recruiting sergeants for terrorist networks like IS and al-Qaeda. We are so obsessed with these strategies, despite their abject failure, that while getting rightly worked up at the horrifying atrocities against the West like that just committed in Paris, we are incapable of mustering a similar emotional response to the reports of dozens of civilian casualties due to US-led airstrikes.

Such so-called collateral damage, which includes the “mass destruction of civilian homes” by western bombs according to rebel eyewitnesses on the ground, is not even an accident, but a result of Obama’s deliberate loosening of "near certainty" standards previously adopted to minimise civilian deaths: and is already driving locals into the arms of IS.

We must not fall into the trap of the terrorists themselves – the inability to recognize the suffering of the Other, their wholesale demonization, the acceptance of their indiscriminate destruction as a necessary means to a "greater good." The only way forward is for people of all faith and none to stand together in rejecting the violence perpetrated in our name, whether by state or insurgent.

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