American in Paris – Thoughts on the Terror Attack & What May Follow (11/17)     Print

By Paul Horne

Editor’s Note: These comments are from an American international political economist and long-time resident in Paris where he is now.

Paris – Nov. 16, 2015. Three days after jihadists massacred at least 130 people and wounded 350 in Paris, France is facing another shock: How to deal with the consequences of Daesh’s attack on French and European society.

This afternoon President Hollande explained his surprisingly vigorous plans to a rare “Congress” convening the National Assembly’s 577 deputies and the Senate’s 348 senators in the Chateau of Versailles. Describing the horror of Friday, the 13th, as an “act of war”, he announced measures he already taken and proposed legislation to be presented to Parliament on Wednesday (Nov. 18). These include the following:

     - France’s constitution should be amended to facilitate security against terrorist threats. Two basic changes will be sought in: Article 16, which defines how and when the President can use emergency powers; and Article 36, which defines the state of emergency. Hollande insisted such changes must not compromise “the exercise of public liberties.” Any constitutional change require a three-fifths majority of the combined Parliament. Hollande’s Socialist Party does not have a 60% majority in either the National Assembly or the Senate, and The Republican Party and Front National have already made clear their opposition to Hollande’s proposed amendments.

     - A law extending the current state of emergency by three months will be presented to Parliament on Wednesday

     - Bi-national individuals deemed terrorist risks could be stripped of their French citizenship and/or prevented from entering France.

     - France has requested an immediate session of the U.N. Security Council to agree on a wider coalition to fight Daesh. This would extend the current allied coalition of France, the U.S., the U.K., Australia     and Middle Eastern countries, to Russia. Hollande plans to meet Presidents Obama and Putin to urge greater cooperation against Daesh in Syria and Iraq. Secretary of State John Kerry, in Paris today to       meet with President Hollande, made a strong statement (in English and excellent French) supporting France.

     - France will intensify its air strikes against Daesh – which it did this weekend; and by sending its aircraft carrier “Charles de Gaulle” to the eastern Mediterranean to triple France’s strike capability.

     - France will ask its E.U. partners respect the E.U. Treaty clause stating that any attack on a member state is deemed an attack on all E.U. countries, and therefore to provide support against Daesh.

     - E.U. external border controls must be increased to block would-be terrorists. But Europe must continue, Holland insisted, to offer asylum and support to refugees fleeing Daesh.

     - French security forces will be expanded by 5000 addition police and gendarmes, 2500 agents for the Ministries of the Interior and Justice, and 1000 at Customs. There will be increased resources for        cyber-defense and intelligence agencies, and no further reduction of French military forces before 2019.

     - Hollande emphasized that budgetary constraints imposed by the E.U. would not apply to this extra state spending on security. (On March 10, France was granted a two-year extension to meet the E.U. budget target of limiting its public sector deficit to 3% of GDP; its third exemption since 2011, despite growing irritations by its EU partners.) Security takes precedence over fiscal stability, Hollande said.

As a long-time observer of France, I am also very concerned by the probable consequences of the six coordinated attacks by eight terrorists in Paris last Friday. Their escalation to brutal killing of the maximum number of victims means the jihadi strategists probably aim to:

     - spark a “clash of civilizations”, a war between religions in France and Europe;
     - exacerbate existing political, social and economic divisions in France which have been exacerbated by the financial crisis, subsequent economic stagnation and austerity measures which keep the French unemployment rate at 10%;
     - promote, perversely, the Front National in the important regional elections to be held on 6 and 13 Dec. when the extreme right group is expected to do well in two of 14 regions;
     - promote official repression, in the name of public safety, and thereby aggravate social tensions, especially in the poor suburbs of major French cities, and add to the pool of young candidates for jihadism;
     - block or diminish the COP21 climate conference starting 30 Nov. in Paris and which is scheduled to bring together 156 countries, some 80 heads of state and 40,000 participants;
     - discourage the French government from being such a vigorous part of the allied efforts to block jihadism in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Mali; and
     - weaken democracy and the human values represented by "liberté, égalité et fraternité".

In Europe, Daesh’s attacks will further energize nationalist and populist movements against enhanced European union and the Euro Zone. These have already been exploiting growing popular resistance to the refugees flooding into Europe from the Middle East.

Increased spending on security and support for the refugees also means increased fiscal strains, especially between members of the Euro Zone. Hollande’s emphasis at today’s Congress that security is more important than the fiscal Stability Pact shows he is aware of tensions that a growing French deficit could produce, notably with Germany.

But the Daesh massacre could also produce a positive reaction, rallying the French and Europeans to greater unity and cooperation. French resilience to the jihadist murder of Charlie Hebdo journalists on Jan. 7 led to massive demonstrations all over the country with the French chanting: “Je suis Charlie”. Today, young Parisians were gathered in front of the Bataclan concert hall where many of the victims were killed, saying: “Je suis Paris.”