Friday, January 16, 2015
France has been shaken to its core by homegrown jihadist attacks that last week claimed 17 lives in three days, the worst of its recent history. So far, the reaction of the French people and the political class has been both powerful and restrained. The January 11 gathering of 3.7 million people on the streets of France was arguably the largest demonstration in favour of free speech -- as it is interpreted under French law. At the same time, President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls, while re-affirming the core values of the French political compact, do not seem eager to embrace a full-blown security agenda of the type seen in the United States after September 11, 2001.
- The jihadist attacks have both shaken and awakened France to re-affirm values it has tended to take for granted or forget in recent years.
- The people of France appear to have reclaimed much-needed national unity in mourning and resistance.
- The government benefits from this new context, but it is far from clear that the National Front will also do so.
- The security agenda, a strong suit of Valls, will be advanced in a moderate fashion, unlike the US response to terrorism in the 2000s.
- A serious review of counterterrorism practices is certain, but further attacks (especially lone wolf) will remain difficult to prevent.