How to react on Nice attack?

Though with relatively simple means the attacker in Nice was able to kill dozens of people. It seems that basically we live in times in which another terrorist attack is not the question of if but when. Do you also see that way and how would you say society, politicians should react on this? Read few comments.

Edwin BakkerProfessor, Director Centre for Terrorism & Counter Terrorism, Leiden University

This was an attack that Al Qaida and IS called for already months and years ago. Don’t come to the Middle East but do something simple yourself. This was a clear example of “it is not a matter if we will see such an attack, but when”. Unfortunately it was yesterday and a very deadly one. Also one that is difficult to prevent: in this case a person that has not been linked to radicalization who simply took a truck and killed almost 100 people. I guess politicians have to be frank to their population and tell them that there is little that can be done against attacks like this one. If this turns out to be a lone wolf, one can call upon family members and friends, and others close to certain individuals (teachers, social workers, doctors) to report people they think are about to do something crazy. But the chance that these people will be stopped in time will remain limited. Target hardening is another possibility, stronger road blocks in this case for instance, but are costly and life must go on. I guess countries like France have to get used to it and continue to work hard on preventing attacks like the one in Paris and limit the power of IS: in Syria and Iraq, and on the Internet where they call upon young muslims to do these kind of horrible things.

Bill Durodié, Profešsor, Head of Department and Chair of International Relations, University of Bath

The massacre in Nice of almost 100 people, including many children and inflicting serious injuries on many others, as they enjoyed the Bastille Day celebrations by the beach on the south of France, seems almost too predictable. There is now a long and tragic roll call of similar incidents in the last few years alone. We all know that it is not possible for security agencies to assure the safety of all the people, in all places, at all times. It ought to act as a reminder to us all, as well as our leaders that there are no security solutions to what, at their heart, are social problems.

Too many of the readily disaffected in society today are effectively indulged in their dangerous fantasies by authorities reluctant to challenge their views – for fear of being accused of racism or imperialism – and unsure as to where they wish to lead their societies or what values they should hold. From nursery onwards children are now taught that their feelings are sacrosanct, in schools teachers report not wishing to broach difficult subjects in history for fear of causing offence, and by the time they reach university students demand, and are provided with safe spaces and trigger warnings to protect them from having their, by then unquestionable opinions challenged.

The rise of sheer barbarism that we now witness on a regular basis ought also remind us however that the small groups and individuals who perpetrate such acts in the name of those who they never consulted are not held to account by any moral code or community. That, in the long run, is their ultimate weakness – that they stand for nothing and have no-one behind them – so long as we can clearly articulate our own purposes and  engage our people in these.

Gilbert RamsayLecturer in International Relations, Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV), University of St Andrews

Based on what President Hollande has said, I am guessing that the claim of ‘terrorism’ in this instance implies a jihadist component (probably some kind of claim of a link to IS), but of course that may not be true at all.

What seems to be interesting about recent attacks is the way in which IS and people who carry out attacks in IS’s name are basically implementing the ideas on simple jihad which were previously set out by jihadi strategists more associated with Al Qaeda, and in magazines like Inspire. The whole point about this programme was to devise and recommend methods of attack so easy and accessible as to be effectively open to anyone and therefore very difficult to stop. But the curious thing was that despite attempts to expand the imagination of would-be home grown mujahidin, actual attacks remained imaginatively bounded by particular stereotypes about what fighting meant: i.e. bomb and gun attacks almost exclusively.

Can we expect more attacks like this? I would suggest that the answer is very likely yes: at least some. The issue is not really whether or not the attacks are officially connected to IS or not. The point is that IS offers a simple way to render a desperate act meaningful. The gun massacre in Miami is a case in point. The fact that the killer was almost certainly gay and self-hating about it, and had few if any serious links to Islamist groups misses the point. In an instant, he could cry out that he was doing what he was doing for IS, and elevate his action from that of a confused and self-destructive person to that of a terrorist fighting for a cause.

Independent of ideology, there is quite convincing evidence for a contagion effect, whereby attacks like this spread by simple imitation – being carried out, potentially, by people who have nothing whatever to do with the original cause.

On the other hand, even if there isn’t an element of direct online recruitment involved, attacks like these, in so far as they involve a claim of responsibility, rely on the prestige of the group in whose name they are claimed. Once IS is defeated conclusively on the battlefield, its ability to command the fascination of a marginal few will most likely gradually fade away.

Magnus Norell, Adjunct Scholar , The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Senior Policy Advisor, European Foundation for Democracy (EFD)

These are big and wide-reaching questions of course.

But I absolutely agree with you that what we witnessed in Nice (and have seen in so many other places around the World) is, in a way, perhaps “The New Normal”. Militant Islamism is a vicious feature in our European societies (not only in the Middle East and North Africa), and I’d be surprised (pleasantly so!) if there were no new attacks in the months to come.

The thing is that this shouldn’t come as a surprise; we’ve been in this situation whereby militant Islamism (and non-violent Islamism too) has gained traction and influence around Europe, for decades. Apart from up-grading and, if possible, put more resources into preventive Intelligence- and Security measures, there need to be an awareness that the ideology behind attacks such as the one in Nice, is powerful, and regardless of what happens in Syria and Iraq and Daesh, it has to be met, I think, with an ideological counter-offensive where we in the Democratic, open and tolerant West, push forward those ideas that built our societies; freedom (of choice, religion and so forth), Liberty, rule of law, the supremacy of the individual to make her own choices and the very basic notion that religion and politics are separated.

In short: a recapture of the fundamental values that we build our good and free societies on.

Sam MullinsProfessor of Counterterrorism, George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies

In the current climate, more terrorist attacks are certain to occur, in particular in France and the US, among Western countries (although others, such as the UK, Belgium and Germany are also likely targets). The most recent attack, which appears to be jihadist in nature, fits very closely with established trends in modus operandi, specifically the use of low-tech weapons (vehicles and firearms) to attack soft, civilian targets. Tragically (and much like the recent attack in Orlando) it has been exceptional in terms of the number of casualties. Based on previous experience, though, this does not necessarily mean that we are likely to see future attacks occur with greater regularity on this scale. Crucially -and regardless of number of casualties- the terrorists’ intention is to provoke and overreaction from the government in the hope that this will further polarize society and marginalize Muslim populations so that they are more susceptible to radicalization and recruitment to terrorism. It is therefore vital that France and the wider international community stands united against such senseless and horrific acts of violence, regardless of religious or ethnic identity. With this in mind, the French counter-terrorism response must be carefully targeted, proportionate and measured, and it is important for French citizens to publicly demonstrate their resilience and solidarity while sidelining any right-wing or Islamophobic elements.

Steve Hewitt, Senior Lecturer in American and Canadian Studies, University of Birmingham

Yes, there will undoubtedly be more of these attacks because they are easy to carry out and almost impossible to stop. There is almost nothing that can be done to deter a lone individual willing to use a vehicle in such a way or, as happened in the UK in the Lee Rigby case and has happened israel to take kitchen knives and attack people in the streets. Hollande’s tough talk after last night’s attack might play well with public opinion and in part is to reassure the public but it will not make the public any safer. Indeed, an overreaction risks alienating further groups within French society where attackers are coming from. The only real solution is a long-term effort to reduce alienation addressing racism, lack of economic opportunity, etc. but that seems unlikely with the rise of the far right in France.

 

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