For the last several days, the headlines have been focused on a terrible terrorist attack in Paris and its aftermath. As I write, two killers are surrounded by French police and apparently ready to be killed as “martyrs”. There is a palpable tension in the air.
People react to these moments in many ways. In this case, some have reaffirmed their support for the journalists who were brutally gunned down. There is a sense of being “under siege”. That is understandable.
At the same time, it is much more difficult to fathom how this type of barbaric crime could have taken place. How could people have gotten so caught up in radicalism that they would kill in cold blood? At least one commentator noted that those fomenting this type of violence hope to radicalize all sides — to empty out the middle. To force a civil war in Europe between Muslims and Christians.
It is a nightmare scenario and I do not believe it will happen. And yet, it is not so far fetched to discount that some would push for it – that it would become a strategic idea to suck peaceful people into violence.
Well, when these types of strategic ideas take hold, many innocent people become swept up in the chaos that ensues. To see how, we don’t have to look far. Just consider the story of Petr Khokhlov in Ukraine. it starts off like this
After their father died and their mother fell into drink, Petr Khokhlov and his brother, Sergey, were sent to an orphanage in Novouzensk, a small, dusty town of low-slung Soviet-era apartment blocks on Russia’s border with Kazakhstan. The two boys had only each other. Petr was quiet and well behaved, scolding other students at the orphanage when they addressed their teachers with the familiar ty, rather than the more formal vy.
Sometimes, it gets harder and harder to pull back from the violence. And that is a strategic problem for those who are int interested in violence.