It’s probably not a question of who’s right, right now: the calmers or the catastrophists. The calmers always concentrate on the present and discount the natural volatility of a situation: in this case, the social tinder of France under threat of terrorism. This article from Le Figaro gives two opposing views.
The Europeans inclines to the calmer end of the punditry spectrum, if only because Europeans, including the British, seem to have developed a high level of tolerance to provocation, as well as to the incongruities and anachronisms of the pluriculture forced on them by their Morally Superior Classes, as by global capital. In short, their response to outrage has something in common with drying off and pumping out, after the skies have done their meteorological worst.
Le Figaro | Marie-Amélie Lombard-Latune
When France’s chief spook evokes the risk of civil war.
INVESTIGATION: Patrick Calvar recently explained to a group of parliamentarians his observations. Investigation into a threat that each attack brings closer to reality.
The prognosis was not cooked up by a group of worst-case aficionados, but by the director of France’s Office of Internal Security (DGSI), Patrick Calvar. “We are on the brink of civil war”, he declared recently to members of the parliamentary commission of enquiry into the attacks of 13th November [Bataclan], presided over by the member (Les Républicains) for The Rhône, Georges Fenech. The man at the head of the secret service was only reiterating the case. A few weeks earlier, he had already alerted the members of the defence commission: “This confrontation [welcomed particularly by the far Right – Ed.], I think will happen. One or two more attacks will set it off. And so, it’s down to us to anticipate and forestall all those groups who would like, at one opportunity or another, to unleash intercommunal strife.” It is difficult not to take seriously the opinion of a police officer who is without doubt, one of France’s foremost experts on the “internal threat”. The more measured tone of Bernard Cazeneuve does nothing to contradict this sombre judgement: for the Minister of the Interior, terrorism is causing French society to “fracture irreversibly”. Since the day after the attacks of January 2015 [Charlie Hebdo -Ed.], The Place Beauvau [Interior Ministry] and The Matignon [Prime Minister’s office], without making any noise about it, have dreaded just such a logic. Eighteen months later, their fears have not evaporated.
From where to expect the spark that would ignite the tinder, transforming France into an uncontrolled territory where rival groups take up arms and exact their own justice? Which would see a nation in collapse, with attacks and reprisals alternating between the opposing camps. Where the vortex of clashes would be without end. Nothing can be excluded in a country as volatile as France is today. Many think first of all of a new episode of Islamist terrorism, where, with its now dulled confidence in the political class, the population turns to self-defence. But the triggering event could also arise suddenly from a street demonstration taken over by rioters, such as the [recent] destruction of the façade of the Necker Children’s Hospital, or from a raid by hooligans, or a punitive expedition into the banlieues, or to take a more remote example, from a gang rape such as that committed by Maghrebi immigrants in Cologne on New Year’s Eve… Amongst all of these sources of provocation, the most feared remains an attack directed against children, the taking of hostages in a school, which would in turn trigger a flood of violence. The highest level on the scale of the unbearable….
For the security specialist, Alain Bauer, French society is living with hysteria and high blood pressure. In his view, there are three contributory causes: the emergence of ‘doorstep terrorism’, such as that seen at Magnanville with the assassination of the two police officers at their home; Salafism, which is forcing its hardened vision of Islam on many districts while wrenching control from local organizations. “This is an unprecedented development. It is not war, but a situation comparable to that of the descent into chaos in pre-war Germany and Italy”, says Alain Bauer.
In the highest civil and military echelons of the state, at the DGSI as at the DRM (Directorate of Military Intelligence), various specialists are beavering away on these questions without anything becoming official, as the subject is “taboo”, according to a colonel who taught at the Military Academy. The “domestic theatre” is now a priority for the army, which today is fielding more soldiers in the capital – 10,000 to supply the requirements of the ‘Sentinelle’ initiative, a level not seen even during the Algerian war. One indication amongst others of the sharpened threat: the weapons of the military patrols are now loaded, whereas under the former Vigipirate deployment, they were not.
The chief of the DGSI explained that amongst the various extremist groups, the “ultra-Right” had been placed under very close surveillance. This multi-faceted movement is very active in the social media. “They have the desire to light the fire, that’s certain, but will they act on it?”, asks the lawyer, Nicolas Lerègle, specialist in the areas of security and economic intelligence. More generally, all the ingredients are there for an outbreak of violence. Where will it start? Who could have predicted in 1914 that the assassination of an Archduke would provoke a global conflagration? “Civil war? It’s true, it’s a fear in the banlieues“, observes Céline Pina, ex-deputy (Parti socialiste) for the Val-d’Oise. “The word is used, and the fear mounts, but from there to commit the act…. The great safety-valve remains, for the time being, to vote for the National Front”.
Fear of an escalation against religious communities
Amongst the dreaded scenarios, that of an escalation against religious communities is taken seriously. The “death to Jews” chant orchestrated during a pro-Gaza demonstration in July 2014, the clashes after the attack on the synagogue at Sarcelles, defended by the Jewish Defence League, have left their mark. The deputy (Union des Démocrates et Indépendants), Meyer Habib, expresses his “immense anxiety” for the Jewish community, noting that in some of the communes of Seine-Saint-Denis, such as Le Blanc-Mesnil or Bondy, the Jews “have more or less disappeared”. Located near Sarcelles, once socially mixed to a high degree and nicknamed “Little Jerusalem”, Saint-Brice is now home to many Jewish families who have taken refuge in their gated residences. In 2015, the number of ‘aliyah’ (emigrants to Israel) quadrupled in relation to the previous yearly average, to reach 8,000 people. In 2016, it is expected to stabilize around 6,000. “These last few months, it’s calmed down a bit”, thinks Sacha Reingewirtz, president of the Union of Jewish Students of France, “but it wouldn’t take much, just a spark, for it to take off again.”
For the deputy (Parti socialiste) Malek Boutih, well-known “interpreter” of the banlieues, “the situation is not as explosive as some ‘specialists’, who really don’t know contemporary France, would have us believe”. The proof? Since the attacks of January 2015, “we have not seen a huge response. The country is solid; the people calm and responsible. We should put things into perspective. The population is not the principal danger; the terrorists are. There is no question of civil war, more of a protean war of lone wolves”. This analysis is shared by the deputy Georges Fenech, albeit from another side of politics, who notes that in his seat of Lyon, “the muslim community is well aware of its responsibility, and no longer hesitates to come to grips with the subject. In a country that is home to eight million muslims, only a very small minority is radicalized”.
Faced with the threat, the desire to intensify surveillance is always present. Accordingly, amongst the defence community, many voices are pleading for the soldiers assigned to “Sentinelle” not to confine themselves to patrolling the streets, but to undertake in addition missions of “zonal control”. In other words, that they also make use of intelligence information.