By Brigitte L. Nacos
Several dozen heads of government and state walking arm-in-arm in the largest demonstration that France every experienced was an impressive mass media event that symbolized a united front against terrorism and support for democratic values. It was a textbook example of what communication scholars call ritual communication that drew people together in fellowship and communality—French and Non-French. Christians, Jews, Muslims, people with other religious affiliations and those with none.
At least for the day.
Even before the talking heads, media pundits and politicians, launched their attacks on President Obama for not attending the Unity Rally in Paris, I heard several friends express outrage over Obama’s among the crowd of leaders, most of them Europeans. But this latest criticism of Obama is a red herring that once again diverts attention from what is a real issue in this context. Actually, Obama’s absence should have reminded those who marched and those who watched that the United States should not and cannot carry the bulk of the burden in the fight against this growing threat.
Neither shows of unity nor more police and soldiers in the streets nor more deliberations on countering jihadist terrorism in the western diaspora will defeat jihadist terrorism. All of these and other measures have in the past and will in the future foil some, even most of the plots but not all. And none of these band aid measures will remove the carriers of the viruses of hate and violence that infect people around the globe, among them the perpetrators of last week’s attacks in Paris.
If the leaders and the publics in Europe and in Muslim majority countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and many more want to prevent the further spread of jihadist violent extremism, all of these countries need to get involved militarily in concert with the United States. If there were a collective will to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, al-Shabab in Somalia, and Boko Haram in Nigeria, this could be achieved by collective military action against these barbaric groups that target fellow-Muslims, Christians, Jews, and others they declare infidels.
So far, there is no indication of this kind of reaction to the Paris attacks. Instead, there continue to be piecemeal actions by U.S.-assisted Kurdish and Iraqi fighters against ISIS.