Islamic extremists are the enemy of the West, peaceful Muslims, and the rest of the world because they have declared war on anyone living outside of their beliefs. The same is, of course, true of a multitude of other violent extremists, whether rationalizing their destructive behavior with religious rhetoric or not. Terrorism, especially globalized terrorism, is a common threat to all the nations and Peoples of the world.
Aside from the fear, violence, and devastation of terrorist attacks, terrorism costs the world in terms of lost opportunity, because we are forced to devote time and resources to defending ourselves from destruction instead of serving the needs of people.
An animal in the wild must spend all of his time searching for food, water, and shelter while guarding himself from natural threats, including other animals. Sheltered from the harshness of nature, humans have grown increasingly prosperous and innovative as our homes and communities have grown increasingly secure.
Terrorism has always existed as a threat. It was, however, not until after the Cold War when the International Community came to enjoy an era of relative peace and stability defined by global economic competition instead of violent conflicts between countries that terrorism could be considered the most serious threat to national and international security.
Sadly, The Paris Terror Attacks quickly reminded Western countries, which enjoy far more peace and stability than the rest of the world, that terrorism is a common threat to even the most secure of countries and must be addressed. For those seeking to build a more peaceful, stable, and prosperous word that adequately addresses the needs of all Peoples, terrorism is a far more serious threat than Russia.
On the other hand, the rising regional security threat of the Islamic State was overshadowed by the Ukraine Crisis in 2014 for a very good reason. Where the Paris Terror Attacks demonstrate a need for the West and Russia to cooperate, instead of conflict, on international security matters like terrorism, the Putin government appears to prefer using the Paris Terror Attacks and the need to cooperate on terrorism as a means of disarming European defenses against Russian dominance.
Regrettably, Russia is choosing to be a threat to the West by invading neighboring countries. In doing so, Russia is regressing to the behavior and mindset of aggressive world power from the Twentieth Century. Where Russia stole Crimea as the opening move in its creeping invasion of Ukraine in early 2014, Putin has apparently decided, under the cover of the Paris Terror Attacks, early 2015 is a good time to refuel the Ukraine Crisis by finishing his 2008 invasion of Georgia and stealing the breakaway region of South Ossetia.
In truth, small former-Soviet States like Ukraine and Georgia, which continue to exist in Russia’s immediate sphere of influence, are not strategically important to the United States and Europe. Where these countries do serve as buffer states between Western European countries and Russia, which is mostly relevant when defending against a ground assault, a Russian takeover of Georgia and Ukraine would do little to directly threaten the West.
On the other hand, an increasingly aggressive Russia that turns away from economic competition and diplomatic engagement in order to embrace brute force to achieve its self-serving interests makes it a rogue state that undermines, instead of strengthens, the International Community. Due to its size, military prowess, and influence, Russia turning itself into an actual threat makes it a greater threat to the peace and stability of the International Community than terrorism.
That said, the need to prioritize the domineering behavior of Russia does not mean the threat of terrorism is diminished in any way. Far from it, efforts to address the regional threat of the Islamic State are needed to prevent the Islamic State from strengthening its grip on territory it has seized and propagating throughout, as well as beyond the Middle East.
Combating terrorism requires a great deal of time, manpower, and military resources in general, thus prioritizing terrorism over the threat of a domineering Russia creates a situation where the Putin government is able to become a far more serious global threat.
Conversely, efforts to address the threat of Russia undermine the resource intensive efforts needed to tackle the Islamic States, which undermines the intensive, far broader efforts to police other terrorist organization before they spread and become far more serious threats.
Islamic extremists are the enemy of the West, peaceful Muslims, and the rest of the world because they have declared war on anyone living outside of their beliefs. With that in mind, the West is not necessarily in a war with terrorism. War is about winning and winning is about meeting a goal through a highly focused campaign. Like crime, drugs, illness, and so many other examples, a war against terrorists is an unachievable goal.
Just as crime and violence must be addressed on a daily basis, terrorist threats that arise must be combated as people live their peacetime lives. Declaring a war on terrorism as George W. Bush did when he named his “War on Terror” is a very colorful means of telling the world there is a need to address terrorism, but a war on terrorism cannot be found like an actual war.
In a war, the need to secure sensitive data from enemies, for example, temporarily trumps the need to safeguard individual freedoms. Terrorism is a perpetual threat that people must live with and learn to fight without destroying their way of life. Consequently, allowing civil liberties to be undermined and avoiding confrontation with an aggressive Russia bent on world dominance in order to combat terrorism would be foolish.
Moreover, government must seek solutions built on balancing civil liberties with national security interests when addressing the threat of terrorism while recognizing the ongoing need to confront Russia is the higher priority.
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