Evil of Paris attacks clear, path forward not

French President Francois Hollande vowed to “lead a war which will be pitiless” against ISIS, the Islamic terrorist group that claimed responsibility for Friday’s massacre of more than 125 people in Paris.

Few would argue with the impulse to annihilate the group, whose barbarism appears to have no limits and whose interest in striking far from home is growing. Consensus on how best to that is a different matter.

In today’s Boston Globe, Andrew Bacevich, emeritus professor at Boston University, writes  that that the history of recent conflict in the Middle East involving Islamic extremism argues for a cautious response and the West should adopt a “defensive” posture rather than embark on a rush to wider military action. That the US and its allies have vastly superior military might to that of ISIS is not in question. “Yet most of this has proven to be irrelevant,” writes Bacevich. “Time and again the actual employment of that ostensibly superior military might has produced results other than those intended or anticipated.” The prospects for any negotiated settlement anytime soon of the war with a group like ISIS “appear to be nil. Alas, so too do prospects of winning it.”

Bacevich recounts the former Soviet Union’s years of battle in Afghanistan, which killed some 1 million Afghanis and only served as “an incubator for Islamic radicalism.” The US invasion of Iraq, he says, has similarly had consequences that are exactly the opposite of its stated aims. Bacevich is not only a military historian, but a retired US army colonel and the father of a US army officer who died in the Iraq War in 2007.

Still, his argument that the US should focus on domestic security and intelligence to thwart attacks here and avoid the folly of a “pitiless” war that can’t be won, will undoubtedly strike many as a pitiful display of weakness and capitulation.

New York Times columnist Roger Cohen minced no words, writing over the weekend that “a certainly quality of evil cannot be allowed physical terrain on which to breed.” That leads, in his mind, to an inevitable, if unappealing, conclusion: “To defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq will require NATO forces on the ground.” He writes that “an air war against ISIS will not get the job done.” (Only hours later, France began air attacks on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in Eastern Syria.)

The Obama administration’s appetite for a ground war in the Middle East appears slim, and Politico’s Michael Crowley says there is little chance France will deploy ground troops there, either. Crowley points to more modest steps the US could take, such as putting US Special Forces near the frontlines to better direct airstrikes, and sending more arms to Kurdish fighters and others battling ISIS. Whether such in-between steps would be enough to make a meaningful difference is anyone’s guess.

What might make a difference? Charlie Pierce brings this inconvenient truth: Rather than appease a “xenophobic rage and a visceral demand for revenge,” it is time to go directly at the states that are underwriting the mayhem. It is the “oligarchies of the Gulf states,” he writes — Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates — that are a main source of funding for Sunni terrorist groups and others of their ilk. These funding sources are simply interested in buying political and social stability, not jihadist warfare on the West, but the effect is the same.

“It’s time for this to stop,” Pierce writes in Esquire. “It’s time to be pitiless against the bankers and against the people who invest in murder to assure their own survival in power. Assets from these states should be frozen, all over the west. Money trails should be followed, wherever they lead. People should go to jail, in every country in the world. It should be done state-to-state. Stop funding the murder of our citizens and you can have your money back. Maybe. If we’re satisfied that you’ll stop doing it. And, it goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway – not another bullet will be sold to you, let alone advanced warplanes, until this act gets cleaned up to our satisfaction.”

Consider that these are our supposed allies in the region and the mess of the Middle East becomes clear.

–MICHAEL JONAS

 

BEACON HILL

Massachusetts spends less than 1 percent of the money it receives in tobacco taxes on smoking cessation programs. (Salem News)

More communities want to be designated “Gateway Cities” — and become eligible for the state funding that can go with it. (Boston Globe)

A Sunday Globe editorial takes a dim view of the civil commitment provision of Gov. Charlie Baker’s opioid addiction legislation. The MetroWest Daily News applauds some of Baker’s opioid addiction treatment proposals.

Baker sought — but gave up after resistance in the Senate — a change in state law that would have allowed his revenue commissioner to continue to collect $300,000 a year for serving on two corporate boards while overseeing the state’s tax laws and collections. (Boston Globe)

State sheriffs are speaking out against legalization of marijuana. (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The FBI is probing a theft of weapons at the Army Reserve Center in Worcester.

Michelle Wu says she has the votes to become the next Boston City Council president. (Boston.com)

CASINOS/GAMBLING

A federal judge blocks a bid by a tribe to build a bingo hall on Martha’s Vineyard. (Cape Cod Times)

Eagle-Tribune columnist Taylor Armerding criticizes New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s selective outrage over daily fantasy sports.

A former Connecticut state consumer affairs official has been recruited by the two tribes seeking a new casino to blunt competition from Massachusetts. (Sentinel and Enterprise)

Somerset officials are seeking answers to an increase of farm and domestic animals being preyed upon by wild animals such as fox, coyotes, and wild turkeys. (Herald News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The mother of a transgender teen at the heart of a court battle in Chicago speaks out. (Time)

ELECTIONS

The attacks in Paris are putting foreign policy front and center in the presidential campaign, and bringing fresh scrutiny of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Workers at the Ikea outlet in Stoughton went on strike Monday, shutting down the store after the Swedish retail giant refused to recognize the new union of retail employees. (The Enterprise)

A new report finds blacks spend less at black-owned businesses than other minorities such as Hispanics and Asians do at businesses owned by members of their races. (New York Times)

Marriott International announced it is buying Starwoods Hotels for $12.2 billion, creating the world’s largest hotel chain. (New York Times)

EDUCATION

A Lowell Sun editorial questions the wisdom of creating a MCAS 2.0 test. A Globe editorial criticizes education commissioner Mitchell Chester’s plan as “politically expedient” and urges the state board of education to adopt the PARCC test. WBUR provides a history of standardized tests in Massachusetts.

Attorney General Maura Healey files a response on behalf of state officials to a lawsuit challenging the state cap on charter schools. (Boston Globe)

The Salem News examines the no-bid deal to build an $11 million sports complex at Essex Technical High School.

UMass Lowell joins the growing crowd, deciding to evaluate potential students based on grade-point average and dropping use of the SAT and ACT tests. (The Sun)

The Christian Science Monitor explores whether more college presidents could lose their jobs in the wake of heightened tensions on campus.

As the number of airline pilots diminishes, the aviation industry is looking to incorporate more aeronautics into high school classrooms to increase interest at an earlier age. (U.S. News & World Report)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Efforts to provide care for so-called dual eligibles — people covered by Medicaid and Medicare — are off to a rocky start. (Governing) In CommonWealth’s fall issue, John McDonough wrote that now is no time to go wobbly on the new approach to caring for dual eligibles.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Quebec premier pitches baseload hydro power to Massachusetts.(CommonWealth)

The New England electricity market is working just fine as is, says Dan Dolan of the New England Power Generators Association.(CommonWealth)

Josh Craft of the Environmental League of Massachusetts says the House is manufacturing a solar crisis. (CommonWealth) The Globe has a rundown of the Beacon Hill battle over solar policy.

Millions of dollars of work is nearing completion on efforts to restore the Muddy River in Boston and Brookline and reduce flooding risk from it. (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Law enforcement efforts are being stepped up in the Boston area in the wake of Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris. (Boston Herald)

A Quincy man has pled guilty to blackmailing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Sharon rabbi by threatening to expose what the man said was a sexual relationship between the rabbi and a teenaged boy. (Patriot Ledger)

The Democracy Alliance, a major group of liberal donors, is recommending its members step up contributions to Black Lives Matter and other minority advocacy groups seeking police accountability and transparency in deadly force encounters. (Politico)

MEDIA

The Washington Post tops the New York Times online for the first time ever. (Digiday)

The Columbia Journalism Review says think twice about posting that cute animal video.