Nice and the Forever War

July 15, 2016

As I went to bed last night, I read about a man in Nice killing 80 people with a truck. A truck. Who knew that 80 people could be killed by a truck. I can’t help worry about this. All of Europe can’t help it either. 


Manuel Valls, the Prime Minister of France, said that France must learn to live with terrorism. In three weeks, I’ll be 24. In seven weeks, we will have been at war for 15 years – most of my life. Have we learned to live with terrorism, have we learned to live with war? Every year we get closer to some scenario we have read about in dystopian novels: One world rich, one world poor – in a war that has no object, except fear of letting go, fear it may get worse.


We have enforced, been drawn to, we have been convinced into adopting the ‘la politique du pire’ – ‘the politics of the worst’ – whereby an attack can force us to strip off our mask. “An attack,” Mark Danner writes in his book Spiral, “provokes counterattack and repression, which produces recruits, who undertake more attacks, provoking harsher repression, and so on.” We live in this world now. Europe lives in this world.


In 2002, the first full year of the War on Terror, some 2,500 people worldwide were killed as a result of terrorism. In 2015, 29,372 people were killed in the War on Terror. Pooled in this blood, the West has dedicated, at the very least, $4.8 trillion to this endless war – trusting Jeffrey Sachs figure of $175 billion for 20 years as the cost of eliminating global poverty, $4.8 trillion would certainly have been enough money to eliminate global poverty, which afflicts half the world’s 7 billion people. 


This war cannot be won in any traditional way and even if there were a conventional way, its enormous costs would clearly outweigh any gains. This dismal situation, this bleeding, the feeling of frustration after each attack makes it clear that this has continued for too long and we have continued it.


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