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Reflections on the Terrorist Attacks in Paris

Nov 19 , 2015
  • Chen Jimin

    Associate Research Fellow, CPC Party School

The terrorist attacks in Paris killed at least 129 people on Nov 13, causing social panic and public anxiety. The international community has condemned the terrorist atrocity and expressed sympathy for the victims. More importantly, the spillover effects of the attacks need reflection.

First, the terrorist attacks expose the defects in French anti-terrorism policies. Since the beginning of 2015, France has suffered a number of violent attacks, such as the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine in January. The French authorities should have a high degree of vigilance, maintain close cooperation between intelligence and security departments, strengthen the management and control of dangerous goods and keep track of the potential suspects. Obviously, it was a planned and organized attack. Certainly, it took a long time to prepare, which provided critical time window for early prevention. In particular, the recent Russian airliner crash over the Sinai Peninsula has revealed the level of terrorism and extremism planned as acts of revenge on Western countries. However, in this context, the assault in Paris still occurred.

Second, European immigration policy may be adjusted while xenophobia and racism are likely to be further spread. Currently, Europe is experiencing the largest refugee crisis since World War II. This refugee crisis is not only a test for the concept of humanitarian empathy and moralism the European countries cherish, but also a major political challenge facing the European Union. EU members are differing in response to the refugee crisis. As the two most important states, France and Germany have made commitments to accept more refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, hoping other EU members would follow. However, the terrorist attacks in Paris make European countries once struggle to balance security and humanitarianism, which is bound to bring more uncertainties on the current refugee policy. Particularly, the terrorist attacks could open the door for right-wing populist forces in Europe, such as the French National Front to obtain a greater political voice. It will have a far-reaching influence on European refugee and immigration policy.

Third, the Western-mode democracy promotion strategy is one factor in the spread of violent extremism. The culprit of the terrorist attacks again points to the “Islamic State”. Looking back on the evolution of IS, the regime change policy the United States and other Western countries imposed in Iraq and other places has played a role. They used their powerful militaries to subvert the regimes in the Middle East and North Africa, and tried to export Western-style democracy to the region. They thought this would achieve peace, stability and prosperity, and eliminate the motives for terrorism. But the result is the opposite. The policies, like so-called “Greater Middle East Initiative” and the “Arab Spring” movement, bring the ongoing turmoil and the spread of terrorism and extremism in the region. To some extent, it is one of the root causes of the European refugee crisis. Clearly, the United States and other Western countries destroyed a rival, while adding a more dangerous enemy, which is more difficult to deal with. It has posed a security threat to the United States and other Western countries as well as the entire international community.

Fourth, it is a must to build effective international coordination mechanisms in fighting against terrorism and extremism. Terrorism and extremism are the common enemy of mankind. The international community has a common interest in fighting against them. It is completely necessary and possible to build effective international anti-terrorism coordination mechanisms. The world’s major powers responded quickly after the terrorist attacks in Paris, strongly condemning the crime against humanity. These countries have realized that when facing the challenge of terrorism, no country can consider itself safe. To defeat terrorism, one or two countries or groups of countries could not achieve the ideal result. Obviously, terrorism has become the most realistic and urgent security challenge. Thus, countries all around the world must act immediately, strengthen cooperation in defining the standards of terrorism, counter-terrorism policy coordination, intelligence sharing and other aspects. In addition, in the process to deal with terrorism and violent extremism, the use of military means is necessary, but that is far from enough. There must be a fundamental policy to eliminate the breeding ground of terrorism and violent extremism. Eradicate poverty, achieving balanced global development, strengthening the effectiveness and inclusiveness of global governance mechanisms, and showing respect for the rights of peoples to choose the development road are the essential policy objectives.

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