PARIS — On Sunday, as the mercury headed north of 30 degrees Celsius in the shade and I retreated to an air-conditioned movie theater on the Champs Elysees for a short reprieve, little did I know that just one day later, a few steps outside the theater’s door, a suspected jihadist would attempt (but thankfully fail) to blow up a car rigged with explosives by ramming it into a police van.
It’s the second time in as many months that there has been a terrorist attack on this famous street. A police officer was shot and killed in another attack in April, two other officers were wounded, and the attacker was shot dead. These terrorists are foot soldiers of the Islamic State, and Europe is part of their battlefield.
Can NATO invoke its Article 5 principle of collective defense against itself? Those of us who live in urban centers of European nations are being subjected to terror attacks on what seems like a weekly basis, or more. There is constant talk about the human rights of various civilian populations in the Middle East, but what about the rights of citizens of Paris or London to live without the fear of terrorism? Not only are NATO member states not doing everything they can to protect their own people from terrorism, but the actions of the U.S.-backed coalition in Syria (which includes several NATO members) are making the situation worse.
PERSPECTIVE: A crash course on our northern neighbor
NATO’s principle of collective defense stipulates that an attack on one member is an attack on all members and can trigger a military response in self-defense. When is NATO going to stand up for its own people rather than the interests of government elites?
ISIS has sponsors and enablers that have nurtured it and now distract from its destruction. The fact that war is no longer as straightforward as it was when it was limited to rank-and-file armies commanded by generals at the service of nation-states doesn’t mean that ISIS soldiers are divorced from nation-state responsibility.
Where was NATO when Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf states began funding the Islamic State? Where was NATO when the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency was training and equipping these jihadists for war in Syria? Where was NATO when the real goal of ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad proved much tougher than expected, and millions of Syrian civilians were sent fleeing into European countries, overwhelming security and intelligence services to the point where even jihadists previously flagged by these services are now able to successfully perpetrate attacks?
If NATO wants to make itself useful, it needs to come to the rescue of European citizens currently living under the threat of ISIS as a result of the continued recklessness of U.S.-led coalition forces in Syria. We in Europe cannot afford for this war to continue. NATO must take action against any country trying to leverage the fog of war for its own political and economic gains at the expense of citizens dealing with the fallout of the conflict.
In other words, there is but one enemy: ISIS. There should be just one mission: to eliminate it. There’s only one nation fighting these jihadists on its own soil: Syria. And Syria has an army. Any foreign entity fighting ISIS should therefore be coordinated with the Syrian army.
A U.S. fighter jet recently shot down a Syrian warplane, claiming it had threatened a U.S. partner in this war — a group called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Oh, great — yet another group of “rebels.” How about either joining the Syrian army to defeat ISIS or getting out of the way? The U.S. mission is supposed to be to destroy ISIS, not to cultivate and defend even more local militias.
“Over the last four weeks, the U.S. has conducted three airstrikes on pro-regime forces backed by Iran,” ABC News noted this week. If Syria has allies such as Iran and Russia that it has invited into the country to restore stability, why is the U.S. bombing Syria’s guests inside of Syria?
The U.S. is also a guest in that house and only ended up in Syria as a result of mission creep that started in 2011 under the humanitarian pretext of protecting Syrian citizens from Assad. Along with its allies in the Gulf who had the same goal, America then created the mess that has justified camping out on the couch ever since.
At what point does Syria give America and its allies an eviction notice because their mission and objectives have become suspect at best, detrimental at worst? And at what point do the European members of NATO who are under ISIS attack on their own soil invoke collective defense against any nation-states — even from within NATO ranks — that impede or distract from the primary objective of eliminating ISIS?
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Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and former Fox News host based in Paris.