After the terror attacks in Paris last Friday, France must go to war – without hatred, but really go to war and be prepared to do so over a long period.
For the second time in this terrible year of 2015, Paris was attacked on 13th November, leaving almost 130 dead and more than 350 injured. France and its Republican values, notably its secularism, are being targeted more than ever. But the targets and the modus operandi of the terrorists have changed. The main targets are no longer institutions (through attacks on the police) or freedom of expression as in the case of Charlie Hebdo, or the Jewish community as in the case of the Hyper Cacher supermarket, but rather the citizen and the ordinary tourist at the Stade de France, the Bataclan theatre and the restaurants along the Canal Saint-Martin and in the Oberkampf district. Furthermore, simultaneous attacks coordinated from abroad and suicide bombers equipped with explosive belts are unprecedented in France. In all, Islamic State has achieved a show of strength, by showing its ability to strike at highly secure premises such as the Stade de France during an international match attended by the Head of state, and at a concert hall where an American rock group just back from Israel was performing. And this was on the same day as the announcement of a government plan for the fight against arms trafficking and the closing of borders in view of the upcoming COP21 conference.
The objectives of Islamic State are clear. Firstly, to terrorise French people and favor the development of a climate of civil war in our country. Next, to fracture the fragile recovery of our economy by causing tourism to plummet a few weeks away from Christmas. Finally, to compromise France’s ability to organise important diplomatic and sporting events like COP21, Euro 2016 or the 2024 Olympic Games.
These attacks confirm that France is in the front line of these new wars of religion. It is involved on two foreign fronts – in the Sahel and in the Middle East – and on the domestic front with the increased hold of Islamism on certain young people and the fact that more than 2,000 of its citizens have joined the ranks of Islamic State. It is accumulating the hostility of Sunni and Shiite radicals. It is crystallizing hatred of Islamic State and Al Quaeda because of its constitutional and legislative principles, its diplomatic stance and its military commitments.
France therefore finds itself engaged in a war to the death with Islamism, at home as well as abroad. And this war will last a long time. But France has not drawn any of the necessary conclusions from this.
France is now paying a high price for its contradictions. A semantic contradiction in being unable to call the enemy by its name – Islamic State – for fear of alienating the Moslem community. An operational contradiction because of the paralysis of the intelligence services before the attacks of 7th January, the three-year delay in passing the law on intelligence, and the division of external and domestic intelligence in face of a global menace. A political contradiction with judicial weakness and legal impunity for small-scale crime whilst becoming a major breeding-ground for terrorist recruitment. A diplomatic and strategic contradiction with its Syrian policy which has given absolute priority to the departure of Bachar al-Assad instead of prioritizing the fight against Islamic State.
France must go to war without hatred – but really go to war, and be prepared to do so over a long period. This means not making the same mistakes as the United States after September 11th, 2001, by avoiding putting into the same basket Islamists and Moslems, terrorists and migrants, and by refusing the logic of a French version of the Patriot Act which would sacrifice the rule of law in the name of security. But this would urgently require us to make our policies coherent.
On the domestic front, we must reinvest in both the sovereign state and in integration. Our security and defense forces are overexposed and stretched to the limit. They lack the necessary skills and materials to face up to individuals who are highly determined, mobile, armed and well-trained. It is imperative to create a military unit specialised in the war against Islamism on home territory, to refocus the police and the legal system, to better coordinate domestic and foreign intelligence and to recreate general intelligence assigned to the surveillance of Islamism. Furthermore, the allocation of financial resources to security and defense must be speeded up by 3 to 5 billlion a year, with priority given to intelligence, special forces and cyberdefense. At the same time, the educational system and the job market must be reformed in order to put an end to policies that favour illiteracy, unemployment and general poverty.
On the foreign front, absolute priority must be given to the eradication of radical Islamism. Our diplomacy must be clarified and must stop being fixated on Bachar al-Assad – as it previously was on Kadhafi – so as to return to serving our vital interests. Our isolation must end with regard to our European partners and allies like those in the Middle East. Our strategy must be to stop peripheral interventions (like the one in the Central African Republic) and refocus on the protection of home territory and French people on the one hand, and on the dismantling of Islamic State on the other.
National unity is necessary, but it cannot consist in validating and renewing things that have failed. It only means anything if it allows us not to have to wait until we have been beaten before we change our strategy.