The iconic film “Casablanca” was released in 1943, when Paris was in its third of five years of Nazi occupation. Every day at noon, German troops paraded through the Arc de Triomphe in order to rub French noses in the merde of defeat.
The key characters of the film had fled France for North Africa. (If the French have to flee now, where will they go? Surely not to North Africa.) One of the memorable lines of the film is said by Humphrey Bogart to Ingrid Bergman, who plays his lover. Realizing that they might never see each other again, he says, “We’ll always have Paris.”
But what did Bogey’s character mean? Clearly, they did not actually have Paris, either in reality or in the story. He meant that they would always have the memory of their time together in Paris. Yes, memories are precious. To a great extent, memories are who we are. That is why Alzheimer’s is so tragic.
Nevertheless, we do not want memories to be all we have left. We actually want to hold onto the people and places we love. But merely wanting something is not enough. We must do what is necessary to hang onto the persons and places we treasure. Otherwise we are sure to lose them, leaving us only with memories – including the memory of our dismal failure to preserve what we valued so highly.
What is more, we need to provide the wherewithal to protect what we value. We valued our ambassador and the other three Americans at our consulate in Benghazi. But because President Obama had removed the Sixth Fleet from the Mediterranean, we lacked the ability to rescue them, and they were killed. We value our French allies. But because Obama removed our carrier battle group from the Persian Gulf, we have less ability to avenge the attack on Paris for which ISIS took responsibility.
On Friday the thirteenth, Paris, France, and the entire free world suffered a terrible attack. Casualty figures are still rising as more of the seriously injured die. French President Hollande reacted with unusual vigor. He declared a state of emergency. He put Paris under a curfew, the first since the German occupation. And for the first time in memory, he closed French borders.
Hollande went so far as to describe the current situation as “war,” something President Obama would never consider. But what did Obama do? He made the ritual statement of condolence. But earlier that very day, he reiterated his intention to admit 10,000 Syrian “refugees.” It is now confirmed that at least one of the Paris terrorists was a recent “refugee” from Syria. When Obama learns of this fact, will he reconsider his intention to admit the 10,000 “refugees”? I wouldn’t bet on it.
A news report calls the timing of Obama’s statement “ironic.” I would use stronger words, but I would not want to make Marine gunnery sergeants blush.
Even worse, Obama declared that ISIS is “contained.” Contained? Contained where? Not in the Middle East. If ISIS is “contained,” it is contained within the confines of planet Earth. I am sure this is a comfort to Romulans and other extraterrestrials, but it is no comfort to us humans.
Satellites show where ISIS training camps and other installations are located. It is well and good for Obama to offer “support” to the French. It is another thing entirely actually to give support – and to provide the personnel and equipment with which to do it.
Clearing out nests of terrorists within France is the responsibility of the French. No doubt our intelligence assets could help in this effort. But wiping out the ISIS installations in Syria and Iraq is our responsibility. No, I do not mean “surgical strikes” with drones and smart bombs to take out a few leaders. This may give the administration bragging rights, but in the end accomplishes little.
And no, I also do not mean “degrading” ISIS by nibbling away at it with small operations designed to have a “light footprint.” I mean a size-14 boot stomp.
I mean carpet bombing ISIS training camps and other installations, and if necessary using daisy-cutter or air-fuel bombs to flatten these areas and wipe out ISIS trainers and trainees. It does not take a professor of psychology to know that this would make foreigners, including Frenchmen and Americans, reluctant to travel there and join ISIS. And it does not take a professor of military science to know that when an army – or a movement – is deprived of new recruits, it withers away.
Will we always have Paris? Will we always have Western civilization? If we mean merely treasured memories, the answer is yes. But if we mean actually have them, the answer is: I don’t know. Right now things don’t look promising. But there is still time, if we get our act together.
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