As I opened my web browser, CNN’s homepage lit up with news of the terror attacks in Paris. Almost simultaneously I received a text message from my mother “horrible attacks in Paris… 3 different sieges.” Facebook was littered with messages of condemnations and “shares” of articles describing the carnage. The worst Facebook posts were those of French friends who, after having failed to reach their loved ones via phone/text, were resorting to Facebook posts to determine if anyone had seen their friends and family. My mother called me again crying, “they killed them all!” The Bataclan siege had ended with over 100 people killed in the small theater.
As Friday night’s events unfolded into the weekend and then into the next week, more information about the nature of the attacks and the attackers began to surface. Three teams of terrorists staged attacks at six locations across Paris: the Bataclan concert hall, the Stade de France where France and Germany were engaged in a friendly soccer match, and several restaurant/bars. At least 132 people were killed and over 350 were wounded with almost 100 wounded in critical condition. Daesh (also known as ISIS) claimed responsibility for the horrific attacks. French President François Hollande declared the attacks an “act of war,” invoking a state of emergency, closing the border, and declaring three days of mourning. As France begins to recover, it has become clear that the attacks will have an impact across the world in many areas.
What the French People Have Lost.
There has already been an outpouring of articles attempting to analyze why France has now been the target of multiple major terrorist attacks in the same year. But the impact on French society and its collective psyche is what will ultimately have the biggest impact on France’s future.
The November 13th attack has already been likened to the September 11th attacks in the United States. The mobilization of thousands of soldiers to Paris’s streets will also continue to the feed the sensation to Parisians of being in a war zone. Furthermore, the Hollande administration proposed to the French Parliament to extend the state of emergency for another three months. France’s use of state of emergency laws has an ugly history with Jack Smith IV warning that these laws and the subsequent enforcement of curfews have traditionally been used to suppress Muslims; the state of emergency was used in France in 1961 (and in Algeria during its war of independence against France) which led to a police massacre of 200 French Muslim protesters in Paris. Similarly, in 2005, France also introduced emergency laws to impose curfews during riots by French-Muslim communities in “troubled urban areas.”
The need to respond to the Paris attacks will likely continue to put huge political pressure on the Hollande administration in the coming weeks to do something more than symbolic attacks on Islamic State strongholds. As political pressure mounts, other political parties in France will seek to push forward their agenda.
The Extreme Right of France will take advantage.
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, the extreme right and anti-immigration party, the Front National (FN), led by Marine Le Pen, is seeking to take advantage of the situation. Speaking to reporters on November 14th, Le Pen reiterated the need to clamp down on Islamic fundamentalism, shut down mosques, and expel dangerous “foreigners” and “illegal migrants” according to the Daily Beast. While Le Pen has distanced herself politically from her more extreme (and xenophobic) father Jean-Marie Le Pen who founded the FN, she has more or less continued the party’s platform.
Back in January, the Front National used the Charlie Hebdo attacks as a means to promote their party. At the time, Julien Rochedy, a member of the Party’s central committee, speaking about the attacks, claimed: “I think the French have understood today that Marine Le Pen is the most legitimate person to talk about the issue, since the Front National has been alerting about the Islamist danger for years (…) She is the only one who has no responsibility in what happened: if we had listened to her before, maybe we could have avoided this kind of situation.” Following the Paris attacks, the FN will seek to gain support in a similar manner. With regional elections in France set for December 6th, 2015, Le Pen hopes to win the presidency of the regional council of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais, which would give her a strong position to run in the 2017 presidential elections. Her niece, Marion Maréchal Le Pen (also a member of FN), is also running for office in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.
GOP Presidential Candidates will hijack the discussion for their own agendas.
Across the Atlantic, American Republican candidates have already begun using the attacks as justification for their views, particularly on immigration. Citing the entry of refugees into Europe as the reason for the attacks on Paris, candidates claim that the US will face a similar threat if it does not ramp up security and prevent immigration along its borders. Chris Christie claimed that the federal government’s inability to secure its borders has left the US vulnerable to terrorist infiltration. Speaking about immigration at a rally in Texas, Donald Trump said: “With the problems our country has, to take in 250,000 people, some of whom are going to have problems, big problems, is just insane.” Donald Trump also reiterated on Monday that his previous suggestion of shutting down mosques in the United States should be “studied.” Over the weekend, Jeb Bush also said that Christians and Muslims fleeing Syria should be treated differently.
Leading candidates like Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz also called on the Obama administration to halt its plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees next year, which brings us to possibly the biggest impact of the Paris attacks.
Refugees fleeing conflict zones like Iraq and Syria just got screwed.
The discovery of a Syrian passport at one of the attack sites and the subsequent investigation that determined that it belonged to one of the Paris attackers, who had entered Europe amongst refugees in Greece, severely hurt the chances of asylum seekers to enter Europe. This discovery has set back months of debates in Europe on what to do with the growing amount of refugees crossing into its borders.
In September, the European Union finally agreed upon a plan to relocate 160,000 refugees from entry points like Greece and Italy. As of November 10, 2015, however, only 147 of them have actually been relocated. With the Paris attacks, and the subsequent tightening of borders across Europe, its likely that opponents of the EU’s migration plan will tout the attacks as justification for their opposition.
Germany faces increasing domestic opposition to its refugee plan with Markus Söder, the minister of finance in Bavaria and a leader of the Christian Social Union, a party critical of Merkel’s refugee policy, stating: “The era of uncontrolled migration and illegal immigration is over. Paris changes everything.” Other countries like Poland have gone back on their refugee commitments. Konrad Szymanski, Poland’s incoming Minister of European Affairs, stated that the country’s newly elected government wouldn’t honor the previous government’s commitment to accept 7,000 refugees as part of the EU’s refugee plan.
Other countries outside of Europe like the United States also face increasing opposition to their own plans to accept refugees. Multiple Republican Governors in the United States have stated that they will not accept any Syrian refugees until security concerns are addressed, with Governor Phil Bryant of Mississippi stating that he will do “everything humanly possible” to block refugees from entering the state and Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana (also running for President) signing an executive order “to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the State of Louisiana.” (Small tidbit of info: governors technically can’t restrict refugees as the issue falls under the foreign policy purview of the federal government, not the states.) All in all, the Paris attacks have been a huge setback for the thousands of refugees who were simply trying to flee widespread violence.
As the shock of the attacks fades and feelings harden, the impact of the Paris attacks will be profound. France will seek to move forward. Whether it chooses to do so by increasing its military role in Syria or come up with another plan altogether, however, remains to be seen. One thing is certain though: politicians in both France and abroad will seek to use the attacks as a boost for their anti-immigration agenda. And lost amongst all the discussions will be the children, women, and men who simply were looking for a way out of the sounds of gunfire and barrel bombs.