In the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris last night, French president François Hollande pledged to lead a “pitiless” war against Daesh. He cast the fight as freedom versus barbarity, and pledged that freedom would prevail. But have we heard this before?
Speaking after an emergency security meeting, Hollande said Friday’s attacks were “committed by a terrorist army, the Islamic State group, a jihadist army, against France, against the values that we defend everywhere in the world, against what we are: A free country that means something to the whole planet.”
“France will be pitiless concerning the barbarity of Daesh,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the militants, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
France is bombing ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq as part of a U.S.-led coalition.
As Allahpundit noted on Twitter, we have heard this before from France. Ten months ago, when the terrorists attacked Charlie Hebdo, French prime minister Manuel Valls made a similar declaration, using similar terms:
Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared Saturday that France was at war with radical Islam after the harrowing sieges that led to the deaths of three gunmen and four hostages the day before. New details emerged about the bloody final confrontations, and security forces remained on high alert.
“It is a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam, against everything that is aimed at breaking fraternity, freedom, solidarity,” Mr. Valls said during a speech in Évry, south of Paris.
Exhibit A in why I keep saying nothing will change. War has already been declared. And? https://t.co/iPIn2F7WWb
— Allahpundit (@allahpundit) November 14, 2015
Will this be any different? Possibly, although one can certainly understand AP’s pessimism under the circumstances. This time, the targets of the attack weren’t limited to French Jews or the satirists at a provocative publication, nor can anyone argue in this case that the attacks were the work of lone wolves. This clearly was a major terrorist operation on par with Mumbai, and it targeted anyone in Paris the terrorists could find. It is, as Hollande rightly said, an act of war by ISIS on France, and by extension the West.
The fact that it took that difference to get France to take the threat seriously doesn’t reflect well on Hollande’s government, but there are indications that Hollande has indeed awakened to it. Unlike after the January terror attack, France has closed its borders — more on which in a moment — and banned public demonstrations for a few days while they get security in place. There will be no march down the Champs-Elysée tonight, in other words. They have also ordered both the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower closed indefinitely, putting a big dent in their tourist business. And that’s not all:
In a further move to tighten security, French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve authorized local authorities to impose curfews if needed and said in a televised address Saturday that authorities are also banning all public demonstrations until Thursday. Hollande earlier declared a state of emergency and ordered 1,500 extra troops to guard buildings and schools.
The first evidence made public suggesting that this was no home-brew terror attack emerged just hours after the attacks:
Police said a Syrian passport was found on the body of one suicide bomber at the stadium, French media reported.
Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor’s office, told the Associated Press early Saturday that eight terrorists died in the attacks, seven of them in suicide bombings. The eighth was killed by security forces when they raided the concert hall. She added that it’s possible that terrorists tied to the attacks remain at large.
That at least makes it appear that France has indeed shifted to a war footing. The border situation has become chaotic, as one would expect in a sudden change of status, but it appears that French officials — and now those in Belgium — have taken the borders somewhat more seriously, too:
France’s foreign minister said the country would implement border controls across road, rail, sea and aviation entry points. Airline and rail links would continue to operate, with airports remaining open. France has open borders with many of its European neighbors, though the government’s announcement suggests some checks would be restored. Early Saturday, travel officials were still trying to figure out what the additional security measures would entail, but the steps could include ID checks at borders that previously weren’t required.
A French aviation official said that while airports would be open, enhanced security procedures would go into force.
Most international train and ferry services had already halted for the night.
The new checks have created long lines … and lots of disincentives to travel:
Travelers were left stranded across France today as the country began dealing with the aftermath of the worst terrorist atrocity since World War Two. Border Police vetted long lines of tourists who were attempting to leave the country as they tried to catch terrorists fleeing the country. …
At France’s largest airport, Charles De Gualle, the arrival hall was left virtually empty as flights reported half their inbound passengers had decided not to bother travelling. On one flight from Manchester (UK) passengers were delayed because so few travelers had turned up the weight and fuel calculations had to be completely redone. …
Despite his tough talk the streets of Paris were noticeably quiet today, the usual Christmas shoppers were gone. Popular tourist attractions were also closed by heavily armed Police. Those American tourists that braved the outdoors today were left travelling from site to site in the [vain] hope of finding an open attraction.
In other words, the French are putting their money where their mouths are, at least for now — a definite change from January’s response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
Those are, however, all defensive measures for a war footing. What does France and the West plan to do about ISIS, or Daesh as some call it, now that ISIS has launched its attack on one of the West’s grand capitals and slaughtered its citizens? This is not the same as fighting al-Qaeda, which hides among civilian populations and occupies no ground. ISIS controls its own territory and operates as a quasi-state, albeit one without any recognition. The only way to defeat ISIS is to strike at its state, not just with a few tactical pinpricks and drone strikes, but by putting boots on the ground and taking away its territory. The West either has to decide to go to war, or stay home altogether and shut the borders.
On that point, I share AP’s pessimism. The French may surprise us, but the strength of the post-modern, post-historical illusion is too strong with the majority in the rest of the West, and especially among the elites. They cannot fathom that there is any danger to themselves but themselves, and everything else is just a failure of enthusiasm for multiculturalism. That’s an illusion that will get a lot more people killed, and will allow ISIS to dig its tentacles even deeper in the Syrian-Iraq desert.
Pray for Paris. And for the rest of the West, too. Nous sommes tous Français, truly in this instance.
Addendum: Case in point:
#BREAKING Don't link Paris attacks to migrant crisis: German interior minister
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) November 14, 2015
Update: Aaaaaaaaand … scene:
— Yannis Koutsomitis (@YanniKouts) November 14, 2015
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) November 14, 2015
Maybe someone should inform the German interior ministry, eh?