Paris, Je t’aime

Café in Paris
Café in Paris

It is said that one shouldn’t write an email when angry. That also probably applies to blog posts. But I am too angry to heed my own advice.

Since 2014 my wife and I have spent 6 or 7 months out of each year in Paris. We intend to go back again this January. There is no happier or better place on Earth than Paris on a Friday night. The restaurants and bars are full of people, mostly young, college-age. Besides the French there are visitors from everywhere: other Europeans, Americans, Asians, Africans, and Middle Easterners. The spirit of conviviality engendered by good food, good wine and good conversation is contagious. People go to the cinema, to plays, to opera, to concerts. The scene is a reflection of the best that Western Civilization has to offer.

So, like others, I was horrified by the events in Paris last night. It is a stab in the heart of all that is good in our culture. Like the attacks of 9/11/2001, this attack on the City of Lights brings into sharp focus the evil of the enemy, and the high stakes of this conflict. The world for an all-too-brief moment will unite in condemnation of this attack. But unfortunately prayers, kind thoughts, and lighting up buildings will not prevent future atrocities.  I am not willing to throw up my hands and accept a world where attacks like this are commonplace. Nor am I willing to live in a nanny security state, where my every move is monitored and Parisian cafés are guarded by metal detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs. I believe the enemy must be confronted head-on and eliminated.

A first step is to accept that Islamic religious fundamentalism is a major, if not the ultimate, cause of yesterday’s terrorism. Certainly one can argue that there are also economic and other factors.  Nevertheless people are not recruited into this movement without religious enticement, and no one would strap bombs to their bodies without the faith that they are doing Allah’s work and their efforts will be rewarded in the afterlife. I feel that Middle-Eastern religions have long been a pernicious influence on our culture.  Our Western Civilization is based on Graeco-Roman values, not religions originating in the Middle East. Only when religion has been tamed (as during the Enlightenment) have we been able to make social progress. We went through similar troubles with Christianity during the Middle Ages, and, if Islam has its way, we will end up with Middle Ages version 2.0.

Certainly there are many good people who are religious, including Muslims. But religion is a little like alcohol. Most people can handle it fine, but some can’t. Some become alcoholics, and alcohol controls their lives. Similarly religion can control people’s lives, and since it is “faith-based” as opposed to “reality-based,” it doesn’t matter to them if their religion tells them to do things that are inhuman and monstrous. I can only wonder if those Muslim men who aimed their rifles at innocent men and women their own age and one by one shot them in that Paris theater had any second-thoughts, any thoughts that maybe, just maybe, what they were doing was wrong. If one’s morality is faith-based and not reality-based, then probably not.

liberty
The Eiffel Tower and the French Statue of Liberty

I am angry that in America, on the left, there are those who are so invested in diversity at any cost, who are so intent on the pursuit of political correctness, who are so unwilling to offend those who profess primitive religious beliefs like stoning for adulterers and female genital mutilation that they refuse to identify Islam as a root cause of terrorism. I am also angry with those on the right who kowtow to our own (admittedly more benign) religious fundamentalists to the point of being anti-science and behind the times on social issues.   We need a clear, objective discussion of the fundamental religious problem that is the root of terrorism, regardless of its potential to offend Muslims, and without adding in religious overtones suggestive of another Crusade.

To those who say an ideology can’t be defeated by military force, I wonder if they would have used the same arguments in World War II. Should we have just let Nazism spread through the world, because killing Nazis would just create more Nazis? The Islamic State (we shouldn’t call them ISIS or ISIL, it is a way to make us forget they are trying to impose Islam on us) has leaders who are living, breathing, vulnerable human beings. Their propaganda is spread though the Internet and via their madrasas, just as Nazi propaganda was spread via the radio, print media, and the Hitler Youth by Dr. Goebbels. Like the Nazis, they can be defeated.

It would take a world effort. America, Europe, Russia, China, and other countries all have a common interest in eliminating this threat. Half a million troops from each country could impose martial law in Syria and Iraq. Just like de-nazification was performed after World War II in Germany, de-jihadization of the Middle East would be necessary. Eliminate the madrasas and set up secular schools. Nazism is no longer a threat and Islam could be defanged as well. We spend tons of money on our military. We have over 2 million active duty and reserve troops. We need an all-out military effort, not a self-hampered, limited engagement. World War II was a good cause. Fixing the Middle East once and for all would be too.

There is nothing we can do to make the world completely safe from crazy people. But I think we can defeat this crazy religion that turns young men and women into walking bombs. At some point we will have to. What more is it going to take beyond what happened in Paris last night? How many more innocent people must die? How many planes need to be bombed out of the sky? How many journalists beheaded or pilots burned alive? How many ancient monuments destroyed? Do we need another attack in the US? The pyramids blown up? For me, I’ve already reached the point where enough is enough. Let’s roll.

About mannd

I am a retired cardiac electrophysiologist who has worked both in private practice in Louisville, Kentucky and as a Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver. I am interested not only in medicine, but also in computer programming, music, science fiction, fantasy, 30s pulp literature, and a whole lot more.

6 thoughts on “Paris, Je t’aime

  1. Elegant summary of where we find the world now historically. I share all these views.
    I cannot imagine, however, any united taste for the military effort needed to contain these people and the willingness of the billion plus Muslims spread over the globe to stand by without outrage.
    I have given up and think the world will sink much further in this abyss. I don’t see the leadership anywhere to unite the quarreling masses. This is the new normal, like it or not, angry or not. We will have to emerge from a new cataclysm like WW2 to go forward again.
    I am sad to feel this way, realizing better now how well Dr Mann you articulate what should be all of our disgust.

  2. Thank you. Unfortunately I’m afraid that in a few news cycles memories will fade, people will return to news of the Kardashians, and nothing will get done, until the next outrageous attack and it all starts over again. I hope we’re both wrong.

    1. Not here in Europe, at least in UK. We are worried such things might happen any time, specially in busy places in London. I’m struggling to find any cheering news in the papers! Religion is very difficult subject as they don’t have borders. Personally I don’t mind who believs in which God but I don’t like this hating killing undermining thoughts in people’s mind…Glad though you were not involved in Paris.

  3. Somehow, a cultural/religious string to this argument just doesn’t sound right (although, on a visceral level, I’m entirely aligned to your views).

    “New normals” have been insidiously established in pretty much everything we do, nowadays, even when it comes to horrible violence at home or abroad.

    There has to be some effective way of, err, ablating this malignant trouble that everybody is facing (even Muslims, one should add).

    Somehow, it feels that an all-out war in situ will bring about further chaos.

    I believe that resigning some space and withdrawing forces is the way to go; perhaps the emergence of new regional players like Turkey and Iran can play a role. Can’t really claim any sort of expertise on the subject – except for the fact that I live in the general neighborhood.

    1. Looking back at this post a few weeks later, I agree with you that I was painting with too broad a brush, but that happens in the heat of battle. I think about all the great Muslim doctors I worked with who are wonderful people and who I am sure are horrified by any tie between their religion and the terrorists. I too am not an expert on military strategy. Ever since Vietnam, Americans have gotten more and more skeptical that military force can solve anything. I think it would be great if local players like Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia would step up to deal with this problem in their midsts, as well as the refugee crisis. I just don’t know how to do this. I do think we have to do something beyond what we are doing. We risk losing all that we hold dear.

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