France debates security

France's security forces and politicians are under fire after the Nice attack in which a lorry drove into a crowd killing 84 people. What lessons must the country learn from the attack?

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Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Learn from Israel's security concept

The terrorist attacks require a shift in security thinking, philosopher Carlo Strenger writes in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, suggesting whom we could look to for guidance here:

“Israel has been living with terrorism for decades, and Europe will have to learn from its experience. It was irresponsible not to seal off the promenade in Nice for traffic on the Bastille Day celebrations, something Israel does for every major event. Sadly it will soon be necessary for Europe to carry out security controls at the entrances of all public institutions. To European ears this sounds like a police state, I know. But although I harshly condemn certain aspects of Israeli policy it has to be said that despite constantly having its security services on red alert within the 1967 borders, Israel is a functioning, highly dynamic liberal democracy.”

Mediapart (FR) /

Whatever happens, don't copy Israel!

Political scientists Géraldine Casutt, Joan Deas and Damien Simonneau on the other hand, warn in Mediapart against adopting an Israeli-inspired security strategy:

“Under the pretext of control people [in Israel] are humiliated and killed. This regime keeps itself in power without any long-term perspective of peace. The recourse to violent action [by the Palestinians] becomes a personal or organised response to this political situation. The threat of terrorist attacks, on the other hand, has become the norm for the Israeli population. This security concept favours short-term tactical solutions. ... As regards the French situation it is dangerous to talk of an Israeli model - unless that is, we want to keep society in a permanent state of war and aspire to obsessive security without reflecting on the ambitious and courageous political measures that are necessary if we are to thwart further terror attacks.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Paris should focus on effective domestic policies

In response to the terrorist attack in Nice, President François Hollande has announced that air strikes on jihadist targets in Syria, Iraq and Mali will be ramped up. France should focus on its internal problems instead, historian Chloé Maurel comments in Le Monde:

“It is not France's business to step into the role of world policeman. More than 70 years ago an international organisation was created to stop such undesirable developments: the United Nations. … Instead of spending immense sums on arms and deadly attacks abroad, France should invest in state services such as healthcare, education, culture and reducing unemployment. … This would help reduce the rifts within society, the sense of exclusion, the frustration and the bitterness that many French people feel and which is driving young people to seek refuge in Islamist radicalisation and others to develop xenophobic reflexes.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

The French have lost faith in the state

The debate over security flaws prior to the Bastille Day attack is become increasingly heated. A policewoman from Nice has issued a statement saying that she was ordered to change her report on the police operation and to delete videos. The French are on the verge of losing all faith in the state, observes Corriere della Sera:

“The bloodbath in Nice is a watershed moment in the collective sensibility towards terrorism and its domestic and international roots. The French are witnessing a crisis of the state in which they have always believed, in which they have always taken pride, in which they have always trusted. ... Today they see a state which is cutting social services, which has forfeited its usual efficiency, which no longer offers protection against daily threats. ... For the French the protective state was always pleasantly ubiquitous, even standing above other values. When this certainty crumbles, the French feel lost.”

Le Quotidien (LU) /

Security madness won't stop terrorism

Since the Bastille Day attack France's conservatives have been calling for tighter security measures to protect against further attacks. But such measures must be carefully weighed up, warns Le Quotidien:

“ The answers put forward by the unrestrained right are desperately oversimplified and demonstrably false. All the cameras in the world cannot stop someone who is determined and prepared to commit a massacre. Extreme security is no solution to this problem, which is way more complex than it appears. The only proposal that the French government has come up with so far is to extend the state of emergency and bomb Syria and Iraq - even though the security forces are already exhausted. However, this will only force more people to flee the war - and to seek refuge in Europe.”

Libération (FR) /

Government mustn't try to cover up security failings

According to the French government, police vehicles had been deployed to block off the traffic-free zone in Nice on the evening of July 14. The daily paper Libération has, however, revealed that the entrance to the Promenade des Anglais was blocked only by flimsy metal barriers. This lack of transparency is dangerous, Libération warns:

“The problem is not the security measures, which are easy to criticise in the wake of a tragedy. What really raises questions is the distortion of reality and the lack of transparency, and by extension the unwillingness of the authorities to assume responsibility. Mistakes cannot be covered up - that is mandatory. … And a democratic necessity: covering things up does not reassure people. It triggers fantasies, rumours and conspiracy theories. … It would be a political and moral mistake not to do everything to uncover what went wrong in Nice. And it would permanently undermine trust in those who are supposed to protect the country - starting with its political leaders.”

El País (ES) /

Cheap demagogy over democratic unity

It will hardly be possible to calm the public and combat terror at the same time if, after every fresh attack, politicians start sniping at each other, El País criticises:

“The two leading candidates of the French conservatives, Alain Juppé and Nicolas Sarkozy, have criticised the Socialist government for failing to implement adequate security measures. Then there's the never-ending rhetoric of the far right against immigrants and refugees. … In a Europe so exposed to jihadism it is useless to hold out the false hope that the fight against terror can be won by placing Muslims under a blanket of suspicion. The idea of Europe as a secure retreat from the wars in the Middle East is the product of the cheap demagogy of irresponsible politicians trying to exploit a situation that demands the opposite response: maintaining unity among democrats, not succumbing to the temptation of hatred, and being aware that European society faces a lengthy battle.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

What if Bouhlel were just another Lubitz?

The Croatian writer Miljenko Jergović questions the political and religious motives of the Nice attacker in Jutarnji list:

“The Nice murderer was suffering from depression, just like Andreas Lubitz, the pilot who deliberately crashed a plane full of people last year. But Lubitz wasn’t a muslim, he was simply ill. The explanation that Bouhlel was neither a believer nor a fanatical supporter of Islamic State and killed all those people just the same is the most terrible one of all. When a person loses all hope and life seems unbearable, which is what the file on the Nice murderer indicates – he had lost his job, had debts and family troubles – then suicide is a common theatrical solution. … But we all, from the French president to the IS Caliph, much prefer the version that Bouhlel was acting on behalf of some phantom IS cell.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Lax state of emergency led to attack

France’s negligence in fighting terrorism is ultimately the reason for the attack, the conservative Rzeczpospolita believes:

“From a Polish perspective this state of emergency is rather strange; it is so lax that it has not prevented the many strikes and demonstrations - for example, the protests against the reform of the labour law. It is not tangible at certain cultural events either, and not least at sporting events like the European football championship. Hence, it was also possible amid such a state of emergency for a huge lorry to drive unhindered through Nice’s historic centre without anyone stopping it. Only after the driver had crushed the revellers to a pulp did the police react. It is therefore understandable that critical voices were to be heard in the first hours after the attack in Nice.”

La Croix (FR) /

France loses hope

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and some members of his cabinet were booed out on the fringes of the minute of silence in Nice. There is nothing left of the national unity that was so tangible in France following the attacks in January and November 2015, La Croix laments:

“Following the first attacks, the government was able to enjoy a boost in confidence, but now that the horror has been repeated this has come flying back like a boomerang in the form of heightened mistrust. The spontaneous hope of the French, who had encouraged their political decision-makers to find a common response to the attacks, has been disappointed: their political calculation has prompted a deep scepticism concerning the leadership's collective ability to ward off the threat. ... If extremism increases, everyone has a lot to lose - everyone except those who want to put an end to the observance of the law and to stir up tensions in the country.”

Libération (FR) /

Modern societies vulnerable to fanaticism

The ghastly attack in Nice that has so far claimed 84 lives points to a fatal vacuum in modern societies, philosopher Michel Terestchenko writes in an analysis for Libération:

“Our societies have become caught up in the logic of the market economy, making them vulnerable in a social and even spiritual respect to all the terrible consequences that go hand in hand with this hegemony, which is unprecedented in the history of human societies. Societies are no longer capable of creating a sense of hope. Nor are they any longer capable of endowing their rational, tolerant and humanist values with the greatness and nobility without which they are merely empty shells. A sense of emptiness prevails that opens the doors for the return of God in his most deadly guise.”

Der Standard (AT) /

IS usurps the acts of madmen

The attack in Nice may reveal more about the IS than about the attacker himself, Der Standard suspects:

“The profile of the Nice attacker who never had anything to do with Islam illustrates very well what the IS is above all, when it strikes in the west: a total negation - and destruction – of everything that we call 'life' in our societies. The ideology of 'Islamic State' is the only one that offers that. Anyone who cares to put their insane acts at the service of 'Islamic State' will go down in history, whereas otherwise they would simply be remembered as an isolated, crazy person running amok.”

24 Chasa (BG) /

Terrorists want to destroy France

Like the Paris attackers before him, the man responsible for the Nice attack had become radicalised in the banlieues, writes the daily 24 Chasa and warns of the danger emanating from this source:

“Whether the terrorists were organised or operating as lone wolves, all of them were targeting French symbols. They attacked freedom of opinion ('Charlie Hebdo'), party-goers ('Bataclan') and in Nice people who were celebrating the national holiday. In all three attacks the mass murderers were French citizens from the immigrant ghettos. Whether they belong to the first or second generation of immigrants, the French authorities apparently knew next to nothing about them. A huge mistake that has cost so many lives. Via these attacks the terrorists are telling the world that France is not their home and that they want to bring it to its knees until it obeys their rules and values.”

The Irish Independent (IE) /

An attack on the spirit of France

The attack in Nice on the French national holiday has particular symbolic significance, the Irish Independent writes:

“Although its origins are based on the violence of the Revolution, the aim of the celebration is actually to symbolise peace. The choice of a Bastille Day celebration for a terrorist attack is a deliberate assault on the spirit of France. The country has just emerged from the successful hosting of Euro 2016, where the only security threat ended up coming from hooligans. France put on a successful security operation ensuring there was no disruption while it was in the international spotlight. The brutal attack in Nice last night will immediately remind French citizens of the state of emergency the country was engaged in since the Paris attacks last November. If there was any perception that life had returned to normal it will now be wiped from people's minds.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Terrorism can hit anywhere, any time

President Hollande has spoken of an attack of a "terrorist nature". The world should see it as a warning, La Libre Belgique stresses:

“The bloody attack has a huge symbolic character. The terrorists struck at France on July 14, the French national holiday, right after the fireworks. An irony of fate: in his televised address to mark the occasion French President François Hollande had underscored the efficiency of the counterterrorist measures. France was getting ready to lift the state of emergency at the end of the month. It was well known that France was under threat: several plans for attacks had been foiled at home and abroad. ... The attack in Nice reminds the world that terrorism will always be able to strike unexpectedly.”

To Vima (GR) /

Europe's dangerous rejection of war

The inaction of European politicians is to blame for the recurrent terrorist attacks, To Vima believes:

“If Europe's governments continue to act as if everything were normal, and let all kinds of scum go ahead and slaughter scores of people, and if the polticians do nothing more than wait for the next attack to take place, the war is lost already. If Europe has nothing better to do than tear itself apart in prolonged trench warfare, and refuses to realise that it must put every means at its disposal into this war, it has already lost the war. The day after the tragedy at the Bataclan in Paris, France called on Europe to increase counterterrorism funding. But Europe didn't really respond. People in Brussels and Berlin have other priorities.”

Polityka (PL) /

Don't let provocation succeed

Who was behind the attack and whether the motive was Islamist extremism remains unclear. But should the latter be the case, as with previous attacks in France, the West should remain calm, philosopher Jan Hartman writes on his blog with the news magazine Polityka:

“We are hurt and our enemies are growing bolder and bolder. But their goal is to sow fear and hatred among our communities in the hope that we will answer violence with violence. They want to draw us into a devilish war that is being waged by a growing number of Islamist groups. But this spiral of violence must be broken! If we let ourselves be provoked, attacks and turmoil will always be on the agenda. Europe will become another Balkan region - if not another Middle East.”

More opinions

The Irish Independent (IE) / 18 July 2016
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