Can 14 Lives Factor Out Petty Self-Interest From the US Counterterrorism Equation?

On Dec. 2 at 11 a.m. local time, a shooting in San Bernardino claimed the lives of 14 people and left an additional 17 wounded. The incident involved three shooters who carried heavy weapons that included long guns, an explosive device also found on the scene, and the name of one suspect killed in the ensuing firefight being distinctly Middle Eastern in origin. Although the preliminary investigation has yet to uncover a direct connection between the incident and global terrorism, an analysis of the aforementioned signs point to an indirect link even if no direct connection is found. If all nations fail to stand together against this common enemy, the world may never free itself of the misery and destruction wrought by terrorism.

The incident to a certain extent is an indication that the malignancy of international terrorism has spread to every corner of the world. Its vile stench has inundated the globe; with terrorists running amok, there is nowhere left untouched, and no place they have not wormed their way into. Moreover, the recent spate of terrorist attacks around the world has made it apparent that the fires of terror have now reached the heartland of every nation, and incidents within U.S. borders are likely to persist. I previously wrote an article calling for the United States to concentrate its resources on fighting terrorism. If nations do not abandon their mercenary behavior in utilizing terrorism for their own ends and to serve their own hidden designs, I fear that all of humanity may come to be dragged under this rising tide.

Terrorist acts such as at San Bernardino, which show no regard for human life, are terribly tragic. The most fundamental component of human society is a respect for life, and the same can be said for the humanity of the individual. Are the hundreds of lives in Paris and Mali yet insufficient to serve as a wake-up call for nations to stand together against terrorism? For those nations that have consistently upheld human rights as measure for global standards, should they not set aside petty concerns and fulfill their obligation to safeguard human life in the face of this even more basic threat? We must ensure that those 14 innocent souls, all completely defenseless at a social services agency for the disabled, will not have died in vain.

The breakneck pace at which terrorism has developed should prompt all civilized peoples to reflect upon our very humanity. As global terrorism has evolved to where it stands today, it is bewildering how all nations have viewed terrorism simply as a means to put each other in check, becoming public advocates for fighting terrorism while in truth treating terrorists as additional pieces on the board, flying the flag of counterterrorism high while continuing to joust with other states both overtly and covertly; opportunistic mercenary attitudes and behaviors such as these are even more frightening than terrorism itself. The ambitions of nations are no secret to anyone. If they cannot each find a way to lay down their own selfish interests, to say that the rising tide of terrorism will threaten to drag all of humanity down to a bitter end would not be an exaggeration in the slightest.

The author is an academic from Hong Kong.

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