By Jeffrey Schulman
In Defense of Defense: An Unprecedented Response for a Horrific Act
Last week I wrote about an attack on freedom of speech. I didn’t expect that I would be obliged to do so in my very next column. When I talked about the North Korean cyber attack on Sony, I offered much of what I have to offer philosophically: that we must stand up to any force that threatens to hurt us because it is offended by what we say. While the controversy over The Interview had a hint of comedic farce, the attack on Charlie Hebdo is gravely serious. If I were to publish an original drawing of the prophet Mohammed on my blog, I would have to live with a much-justified fear of physical violence. Morally, there is nothing more to discuss regarding this question.
The actions of these Muslim terrorists leave us with few easy options. A proportionate response would be to firebomb Mecca, thus destroying all things holy and killing innocent people. But as we are not terrorists. Do not forget that fact as you hear rhetoric from apologists and calls for violence among war hawks. Our task is not to be dominated, nor is it to dominate. We must not merely fight evil in the world. we must also struggle to build a world without it.
Luckily, recent circumstances have conspired to leave us with a unique opportunity to do just that. The Saudis have slashed the price of oil, thus kick-starting a recent resurgence in North American production. Meanwhile, fuel efficiency gains across the west and the maturation of the Chinese economy have led to a world where demand will not increase as fast as it has over the past decade. In the event of an embargo, production in the west would probably increase quite rapidly. This means that the Middle East, as a region, has very little influence on the global scale, as it has lost its main means of doing so: oil.
The Charlie Hebdo attack, then, must lead to a new approach to foreign policy initiatives in the Islamic World. Western nations should prioritize their own national security over excessively idealistic humanitarian efforts, or the securing of natural resources. Sadly, this will mean allowing illiberal regimes to perpetrate abuses and it will require us to endure some price shocks. Ultimately, however, a focus on terrorism prevention is the best way to protect not only our citizens, but also a universal set of values. That is how the victims of the Paris attacks should be avenged.
Jeffrey Schulman writes TFO’s weekly security column “In Defense of Defense” and is a former writer for The Varsity. His blog Thoughts can be found at jeffreyeschulman.blogspot.com