Paris 11/13/15: Analysis and Policy Options

Written by | Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

Grégory Chauzal and Team (Netherlands Institute of International Relations – Clingendael)

Although it might seem that the terrorist attacks in Paris are a direct response to the increased involvement of France in the fight against the Islamic State, a high degree of coordination between attackers and the symbolically selected venue and time indicate that the event had been planned long in advance and that the target had not been chosen randomly. Answering the question of why terrorists struck exactly in the French capital has a myriad of potential causes and justifications that can be found both on the side of the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the attacks, as well as in the country of the “Gallic rooster”.

Over the past year, the Islamic State has, unfortunately, repeatedly demonstrated via the terrorist attacks carried out directly in the West or on the soil of the “allied coalition against the Islamic State” that its ambitions do not end with territorial gains and the ideological indoctrination of its people. In addition to the recent attacks in Paris, the shooting down of the Russian civil aircraft in the Sinai, the recent attacks in Ankara and Beirut, on the beach of the Tunisian coastal resort and others fall into the category of activities meant to spread fear and antipathy towards the Muslims (and thus cause excessive and sometimes almost hysterical response of the West). In all these cases, the Islamic State claimed responsibility while the terrorists who were directly in charge of its implementation belonged to the local group swearing loyalty to the “caliphate”.

France, on the other hand, has been neglecting the alarming situation in some suburbs (banlieues) of French cities, which are mainly inhabited by the descendants of Muslim immigrants, who are exposed to worse socio-economic conditions and they find themselves socially excluded within their communities. These material factors then in turn create conditions for their radicalization, which France is also accountable for due to its long-term disproportionately low attention to the problem.

The measures adopted by French politicians in response to the Paris tragedy of Friday, 13 November 2015, are unfortunately only of repressive nature, aiming to detain and punish the perpetrators of the attacks. In addition to the necessary repression, the ideal strategy in the fight against terrorism is, however, an increased emphasis on preventive measures, thanks to which further radicalization of potential terrorists can be avoided. This requires a comprehensive, long-term and multi-disciplinary approach as well as appropriate policy actions. The advice to French lawmakers, and not only to them, on how best to put an end to the disasters like that of Friday, 13 November, is best defined by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: ‘Missiles may kill terrorists, but I am convinced that good governance will kill terrorism’.

(The study can be downloaded here:

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