We brought this on ourselves: After Paris, it is time to square our “values” with our history

We brought this on ourselves: After Paris, it is time to square our “values” with our history

The West’s behaved horrifically in Middle East for decades. We can’t be surprised by Paris. Let’s look in a mirror

Another horrific attack emanates from the shattered, shredded Middle East into the beating hearts of Western civilization. It is impossible to miss what it means that the City of Light, the justified pride of the French, was the scene of Friday’s spree of violence, hostage-taking and murder. We cannot any longer watch the tragedies befalling Middle Eastern societies and shut the television off when supper is ready. Their tragedies are ours—a point that was destined to be forced upon us sooner or later.

By the most recent count available at writing, 127 are dead in Paris and who knows how many are wounded or traumatized. The Pentagon and the Strangeloves who run it, it turns out, are not the only ones who can pull off a shock-and-awe assault. If the French and all the rest of us are smart, we will dwell long and hard upon the implications of this stark reality.

“This is not just an attack on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France,” President Obama said in a glumly presented statement Friday night. “This is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share.” There is something perfectly right in this, and then something perfectly wrong.

Yes, what has just occurred in Paris is an affront to all of us. But to invoke universal values is to sustain the error of understanding, of recognition, of acknowledgement, that lies at the heart of all this incessant hatred, attack and counterattack. We—and hardly least the French and the Americans—have articulated such values well and often enough since the late 18th century. But there is little ground to claim that they have determined how we have acted in the Middle East and treated its people for roughly the same period of time.

To put the point another way, a wounded civilization, borrowing Naipaul’s phrase for India, has wounded ours.

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