In an ideological battlefield, values are the dominant currency. By Evan Tyner
‘Daggers thrust in the name of Liberty are thrust into Liberty's Heart’. At no time in recent memory have these words carried such relevance. The recent attacks in Paris have struck at what Daesh fears most. Changing our way of life, forsaking our freedoms and lining up scapegoats will not only undermine fundamental European liberal values, it will also vindicate Islamist narratives of western cultural imperialism and the subjugation of Muslims.
Daesh’s attack on Paris, while tragic, was not surprising. Theoretically, terrorists can attack anything, anywhere, anytime. And governments cannot protect everything, everywhere, all the time. Additionally Paris is emblematic of the very values and belief system that Daesh both fears and seeks to destroy. Embracing the arrival of migrants and refugees into pluralistic and democratic societies is proving a greater existential threat to Daesh’s poisonous ideology than current EU military involvement. Daesh want to break European unity and beget violence through the use of destruction and fear. In this sense France was a logical target. France may be seen as a chink in the armour of Europe. The Left is waning and the Right is on the rise. Society is a veritable powder-keg of racial and religious tension and President Hollande, with an election in sight, is in dire need to satiate a now visible thirst for revenge. The use of a Syrian passport will further play on people’s fear of both the ‘migrant’ and the ‘terrorist’, moulding the two together into a monolithic enemy.
Nevertheless, what this attack also shows is that Daesh is growing desperate. It is losing ground at an increasing pace in Syria. The recapture of Sinjar by Kurdish forces and the demise of key leaders and figureheads is encouraging Daesh to strike behind enemy lines. If they succeed in provoking either a schism in the coalition and a withdrawal of forces (as occurred following the Madrid bombings) or a full-scale ground force intervention (as occurred following 9/11) this will be seen as a victory.
Europe must refrain from either such response. In an ideological battlefield, values are the dominant currency. Daesh understands that this is Europe’s most potent weapon, but also an area of fragility that is being tested and pushed to the precipice of collapse by myriad factors ranging from mass migration, extremism, to the lingering effects of the credit crunch. France, and its wholehearted embrace of democracy, republicanism and secularism is the very antithesis of Daesh. The attack on Paris was a symbolic and destructive strike at the very heart of these values. Now, more so than ever, it is vital not to enter the Manichean battleground of dichotomies, partisanism and sectarianism to which Daesh has invited us. France, and Europe must stand stalwart in defiance of millenarian extremism. Undermining the very values we seek to protect, and thus thrusting a proverbial dagger into the heart of Liberty, is the greatest pitfall we risk making. Europe must not let its own brand of fascism (the far right) drive its responses to combatting Islamic-fascism. Both are threats to the very foundation of a free, democratic and secular Europe. Both must be addressed on the moral and military battlefields at home and abroad.