I weep in sorrow and rage for the victims of the Paris atrocity. My first instinct is to call for retribution, to demand an assault on ISIS so massive, so remorseless that the caliphate is devastated with not one human left breathing, not one building left standing, just silent, smoking ruins bearing ominous testimony to the consequences of such barbaric behavior.
But my better angels ask what about the children? What about the innocent bystanders trapped within the caliphate? What about the “collateral damage”?
If civilized nations sink to the level of the barbarians, it is civilization that loses.
And there is grave danger of that happening. Across Europe the far right is awakening once again. Nativism and xenophobia are growing as invading hordes of refugees create cultural conflict and breed a cycle of mutual resentment. In such a political climate, French President Francois Hollande might feel obliged to retaliate with all the military might he can muster.
Indeed, the entire Western world could feel morally obliged to join France in seeking bloody retribution for last night’s horror.
And ISIS might thus succeed in achieving its ultimate goal – the final confrontation between Islam and Christendom, the End-of -Days conflict that many Muslims – and many Christians – believe must occur before the return of the Messiah.
For this is what the flagrant atrocities are about – the beheadings, the genocide, the terror attacks… They are designed to provoke the West into a test of power. A test that Islamic extremists believe they can win.
A shock-and-awe Western assault on ISIS in Syria and Iraq – the kind of assault that Ben Carson called for in the recent Republican debate and Ted Cruz is calling for now – would be the beginning, not the end. Like dragon’s teeth, 10 terrorists would be created with every terrorist slain. That is the nature of Jihad.
Can such catastrophic escalation be avoided? Perhaps not. Sadly, our destiny might already be determined. But there might be a last-minute reprieve.
President Obama already has initiated a process that could avert the clash of civilizations. He has been persuading Islamic states in the region that it is not in their interest to stand by and watch extremists provoke a catastrophic clash of cultures. And some of those states have responded by joining the campaign against ISIS.
If moderate Muslims can be persuaded to take the lead in confronting ISIS, Armageddon might be avoided.