United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 20, 2015
Executive Summary: The most incredible stories are not always written by novelists. They sometimes originate in international realpolitik. They are stories of the tug of war between humanitarian impulses and reason, between idealism and power politics. Recently a photo of Aylan Kurdi, a drowned three-year-old boy, evoked infinite compassion for Syrian refugees. Now however, terrorist attacks in Paris have been masterminded by an Islamic State (IS) trained Belgian citizen, and another who entered Europe as a refugee. People are torn between humanitarian and national security concerns. The disaster has swiftly altered their perspective.
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The most incredible stories are not always written by novelists. They sometimes originate in international realpolitik. They are stories of the tug of war between humanitarian impulses and reason, between idealism and power politics. Recently a photo of Aylan Kurdi, a drowned three-year-old boy, evoked infinite compassion for Syrian refugees. Now however, terrorist attacks in Paris have been masterminded by an Islamic State (IS) trained Belgian citizen, and another who entered Europe as a refugee. People are torn between humanitarian and national security concerns. The disaster has swiftly altered their perspective.
In fact the recent terrorist attack was no surprise. In late October, a series of suicide bombings directed against mosques in Nigeria, resulted in hundreds dead and injured. Before the Paris attacks, Lebanon and Iraq were targeted by suicide bombers who caused hundreds of casualties.
The fight against terrorism long ago spread from Iraq to the Near East and North Africa. It followed refugees into Europe. But Westerners, with their Eurocentric mindset, ignored or suppressed these signals. Information about potential attacks obtained by intelligence agencies were not taken seriously until the Paris bombings. Only then did people realize that terrorism had arrived at their own shores. Clearly the ostrich “head in the sand” mentality is a major concern for free societies.
The remote cause of the Paris terrorist attacks, was policy differences between the Western powers on how to deal with Syria. This enable Islamic State to grow. The United States is determined to overthrow Assad and opposes him at every turn. It accuses the Assad regime of being the main obstacle to the peaceful transition of power. Russia, on the other hand, sees the Assad government as a bridgehead in the Middle East. Not only does it support Assad, it provides it with military aid. Differences in US and Russian policy have led to political chaos in Syria. This has given Islamic State leverage in Syria, enabling it to become the largest exporter of Syria refugees.
The proximate cause of the terrorist attack was French President Francois Hollande's aggressive anti-terrorism campaign. In 2012, Hollande changed the Sarkozy government's anti-interventionist policy toward the Middle East. When the United States and Britain gradually extricated themselves from the Middle East, Hollande sent tens of thousands of troops into North Africa and the Middle East. He even dispatched an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf to assist in the fight against the Islamic State. This move put France in the vanguard of the EU fight against terrorism. It also turned France into a prime target for IS terrorism.
In 2001, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the United States promoted neo-imperialism. The UK, Germany, and France were pressured into joining the war on terror in the Middle East. Then in 2008, President Obama decided to withdraw from the Middle East. The geopolitical tug of war left the EU at the forefront of the war on terror. UK and French forces switched roles with the US. They became the main force in the Middle East in the war on terror. In the United States' absence, terrorism in Iraq and Syria rapidly expanded into new areas. The influx of refugees led to growing strategic divisions between the US and the EU. This helped the Islamic State grow.
The fear induced by the terrorist attacks against Paris, have forced the Western powers to once again find points of agreement. These changes have had three effects on international power politics.
Effect One. In the shadow of the terrorist attacks, the United States will be forced to change its passive attitude towards Islamic State. Paris is the first major attack against a Western nation since 9/11. International public opinion is pointing the finger at the US, citing weak counter-terrorism efforts in the Middle East. If the United States continues to do nothing, it could once again become the target of terrorist attacks. Obama remains reluctant to send in ground troops. But public opinion, at home and abroad, means that the US will be forced to conduct mop up operations against the Islamic State.
Effect Two. The terrorist attacks against Paris, will encourage the United States and Russia to act in concert against the Syrian problem. The US and Russia were diametrically opposed. They neutralized each other. But Putin has become more aggressive. He accused the G20 of secretly supporting IS. He dispatched over 30 fighter jets to Syria to wage air attacks against IS in cooperation with France. Putin reached out to the EU. This forces the United States to respond. French president Hollande is urging the United States and Russia to work together and form a new coalition against terrorism.
Effect Three. Anti-terrorism has again become a global priority. Discord between the PRC and USA in the South China Sea will gradually diminish. At the APEC meeting Obama stressed economic aid to the Philippines and other nations re: the South China Sea. But Xi Jinping refused to respond, and addressed only the economy. If the United States redeploys its forces to the Middle East, it will weaken America's Asia rebalancing strategy. United States pressure on Beijing in the South China Sea will diminish.
For Paris, the terrorist attacks have been a nightmare. But the humanitarian crisis has also provided an opportunity for major power cooperation. Is this not an incredible development in international power politics?
也發生在現實的國際政治中；它是人道與理性的掙扎， 也是權力與夢想的拉鋸。先前一張三歲小孩亞藍溺斃海邊的照片， 引發世人對敘利亞難民的無限同情；但最近巴黎發生恐怖攻擊， 其主謀竟是在伊斯蘭國（ＩＳ）受過訓練的比利時人， 另有攻擊者則是以難民名義進入歐洲。人道與安全的拔河， 因這場災難而瞬間改觀。
在奈及利亞清真寺曾經連續發生多次自殺炸彈爆炸案， 造成上百人死傷；巴黎事件前， 黎巴嫩及伊拉克也接連遭到自殺式的恐怖攻擊，造成數百人死傷。
並隨著難民的腳步進入歐洲。但在西方至上的心理作祟下， 這些訊息卻不斷地被忽視、被掩蓋， 包括情治機構接獲的恐攻情資也未受到真正的重視， 直到巴黎爆炸案發生， 人們才驚覺恐怖主義的浪潮早已淹至你我的腳下。由此可見， 鴕鳥心態是自由社會的一大隱憂。
主要源於西方強權處理敘利亞問題的政策分歧， 讓伊斯蘭國得到滋長坐大的養分。 美國主張推翻處處與其作對的阿塞德政府， 認為阿塞德是和平過渡政權的主要障礙， 而俄羅斯則把阿塞德政府當成它在中東的橋頭堡，不但支持阿塞德， 還積極予以軍事援助。美俄兩國政策的分歧， 造成敘利亞政局的動盪不安，讓伊斯蘭國在敘利亞找到擴張的支點， 也讓敘利亞成為難民的最大輸出國。
則由於法國總統歐蘭德積極推動反恐政策。歐蘭德於二○ 一二年上台後，一改過去薩科奇政府對於介入中東問題的消極態度， 在美英兩國逐漸於中東地區退縮之際， 他不但出動上萬名軍隊駐紮在北非及中東， 並出動航空母艦協助在波斯灣對抗伊斯蘭國。此舉， 讓法國成為歐盟反恐的急先鋒，也讓法國被ＩＳ恐怖主義鎖定， 成為首要打擊對象。
英德法各國被迫捲入中東的反恐戰爭。但是，在二○○ 八年歐巴馬總統決定從中東撤兵之後，在地緣政治拉扯下， 歐盟反而成為反恐戰爭的最前沿。其中，英法聯軍更是主客易位， 成為中東反恐戰爭的主力軍。在美國退出的戰力空缺下， 近年伊拉克及敘利亞地區的新恐怖主義快速形成並不斷擴大； 而美國與歐盟則因為難民潮的衝擊，戰略上愈見分歧， 這些都成為伊斯蘭國不斷壯大的溫床。
美國勢將被迫改變對伊斯蘭國的消極態度。 巴黎的恐攻是九一一之後西方國家首度遭到最大規模的攻擊， 國際輿論已將箭頭指向美國在中東的反恐不力；美國若繼續坐視， 美國本土可能再度成為恐攻目標。因此， 儘管歐巴馬對於出動地面部隊態度仍然猶豫， 但在國內外強大的民意壓力下， 積極掃蕩伊斯蘭國仍將成為美國的政策選項之一。
有助促使美俄兩國對敘利亞問題採取一致的行動。 先前美俄的戰略南轅北轍，相互抵銷；但最近普亭的態度相當積極， 不僅指責Ｇ20成員國有人暗中支援ＩＳ， 更立即增派卅多架戰機投入空襲，與法國聯手行動。 普亭積極拉攏歐盟的作法，將迫使美國不得不正面回應； 目前法國總統歐蘭德也正在努力敦促美俄攜手合作， 以形成新的反恐聯盟。
中美兩國在南海問題齟齬的柴火將逐漸轉向。 儘管歐巴馬在ＡＰＥＣ會議上仍在強調經援菲律賓等國以協防南海， 但習近平則迴避接招只談經濟；而美國若將海外部署轉向中東， 必將弱化美國亞洲再平衡的動能， 美國在南海問題上對北京施壓的力道也可能逐漸放軟。