The attacks on innocents in Paris on November 13, 2015 were horrifying crimes, filling the city with grief and uniting people throughout the world in solidarity with the victims and with France.  These attacks were cold-blooded murders of innocent people, clearly crimes deserving punishment.  But when crimes are used as the impetus for war, the crimes and grief are multiplied and the toll of innocents increases to become the norm.  Surely, we must cry havoc, but we must also be wary of letting loose the dogs of war.

The attacks in New York on September 11, 2001 were also unspeakable crimes.  These attacks also stirred the sympathy and solidarity of the world, in this case for the United States, until the U.S. answered the attacks by letting loose the snarling dogs of war, first against Afghanistan and then against Iraq, a country having nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.  The leaders who perpetrated these wars also caused untold sorrow and death of innocents.  While perpetrators of the attacks in New York, including Osama bin Laden, have been tracked down and captured or killed, those U.S. leaders who committed the worst of the Nuremberg crimes, crimes against peace, particularly in Iraq, have never been brought to justice.

It was the illegal U.S. war against Iraq, at least in part, that gave birth to ISIS and stoked its smoldering resentment and aggression against the West, and yet those who perpetrated this war still walk free.  And crimes within these wars, such as the bombing of the Doctors without Borders hospital in Kunduz (Afghanistan), still continue.  Unfortunately, we cannot roll back time or erase bad decisions by U.S. leaders, but we can learn from those bad decisions.  The West, particularly France, can seek out the perpetrators of the Paris crimes and bring them to justice.  Crimes demand justice for the victims, not warfare that will only create more victims in an ongoing loop of vengeance and retaliation.

The challenge today is to find a means of ending this loop of vengeance and retaliation.  This will require acting morally, legally (under international law), and pragmatically (by not inflaming more deaths of innocents and more violence).  This is a great challenge, which will require a new way of thinking, based on avoiding wars rather than perpetuating them.  It will require righting many of the wrongs that the West has inflicted on the Middle East, including ending the long-standing injustices that have been brought to bear on the Palestinians.  It will require the West curbing its hunger for cheap oil from the Middle East.  It will require finding a means of cutting off sources of funding for ISIS, which allow it to pursue war and support terrorism.

It is also clear that the West cannot fight terrorism with nuclear weapons.  These devices of mass annihilation are not suitable for stopping crimes associated with terrorism.  On the other hand, if the number of nuclear weapons in the world is not dramatically reduced (on the way to zero) and bomb-grade fissionable materials not brought under secure safeguards, terrorists will end up with nuclear or radiological weapons.  This could lead to disasters almost beyond comprehension.  Terrorists in possession of nuclear weapons will not be subject to nuclear deterrence.  They are suicidal, and they do not have territory to retaliate against.  Thus, nuclear deterrence won’t work against them.  If we don’t want to witness or be victims of nuclear terrorism, it is now past time to begin negotiating seriously to create a Nuclear Zero world, as we are required to do under international law.

The terrorist acts in Paris were a terrible tragedy, but war is not the answer.  In solidarity with the people of France, we must seek justice, not war, if we are to end the cycle of violence that threatens us all and undermines our common humanity.