EspañolAcross the world, people have responded to the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris with condolences, sorrow, and pain. But the carnage has also sparked criticism of migration policies, gun control, civil rights, national security, and borders.
It must have been terrifying: teenagers running through streets, restaurants, and theaters with military-grade automatic weapons and bombs, murdering people in cold blood that they had never met.
It begs the question: why?
Just like scientists can only defeat diseases that they have studied, we can only face the threats that we know and understand.
Economists study human action: we try to understand why people behave the way that they do; how they make subjective valuations; and what incentives and goals they have.
The goal of the Paris terrorists was not to simply kill as many people as possible or somehow influence public opinion. Their real targets were the country’s institutions, France’s government, so they can force a democracy to act differently.
They are trying to put a nation on her knees and force her to comply with Islamist demands. It’s extortion, pure and simple. Their message is clear: if you do not change your laws, the attacks will continue.
Who were the attackers? The Islamic State, an organization that has tried to occupy as much territory as it can in Asia, Africa, and even Europe. They seek to impose the shari’a, a set of Islamic laws that regulate the most intimate aspects of life, dictating how people must live, learn, value and treat women, trade, worship, and other more menial customs that are equally invasive.
In sum, they are a ruthless armed band who have no respect for a country’s laws and moral codes. Financed and trained abroad, they have one goal: to obstruct the democratic decision-making process and infringe upon individual rights, the hallmarks of our western values.
The strategy is to divide and undermine the legitimacy of the governments they target.
They try to generate public reactions toward policies that, up to the point of the attacks, had been widely accepted: the rule of law, a constitutional republic, and western Christian values. For example, the tolerance of foreigners, the acceptance of differences, debate and respect for dissent, freedom of religion, education, and expression, and the right to raise your children how you see fit: they have none of it.
Wherever they rule through force, they destroy other faiths, plunder the population, and sell the women into sexual slavery to placate the mercenaries.
Europe is concerned, surprised, and perplexed. They could not have anticipated these attacks.
We have a moral duty to support the European public, help them, and make them realize what they are facing. When Latin America and Africa both suffered from the guerrilla threat in the 1960s and 1970s, educated and progressive Europeans did not understand us.
Totalitarian governments trained and equipped the murderous guerrilla with funds collected at gunpoint in countries with no democracy, republican values, or individual rights. While Marxism sought to extort and enslave our continents, Europe stood by, indifferent, if not complicit.
Let’s not commit the same mistake. Let’s help them understand and overcome this threat.
The Americas can show them the way. The best of our democratic republics and liberal constitutions, coupled with respect for different cultures and religions, can help shake off the fear.
The tools of Islamism are nationalism, xenophobia, intolerance, summary trials, and the closing of borders and trade — all values which are very prevalent in the Old World.
We must help Europe find its way and understand the liberties that their traditions, history, and culture have bestowed upon them.
What makes us democratic citizens is our blunt and full support for our constitutions’ underlying principles, the undeniable values of freedom, equality before the law, and respect for democratic institutions. These are values that have and will continue to rule these lands.
That is the only lesson the Americas can give to end terrorism.