Paris was a turning point on Friday. Certainly this will affect the economic debate in the US presidential election. As I wrote back in May and June, election predictions too far out are dangerous, as they can turn on a dime. The West and the US will edge a bit closer to fascism paraded as security. Europe’s ultra-right wing will be invigorated, and while the West, particularly NATO and the US will appear to take a more aggressive stance against ISIS and its affiliates, like yesterday’s airstrike by US warplanes in Libya, that is merely a matter of competition now between the US and Russia over oil and gas in the Mideast. The US is simply attempting to keep pace and compete with Russia.
Following the French terrorist incident Friday in which at least 129 were killed France found resolve with Russia, paving a new boost in prestige for Russia. Russia, smarting from an attack on an airliner two weeks ago in Egypt is benefitting from a resurgence of nationalism. It is likely, even predictable that a new more powerful rightwing, anti-immigrant and aggressively violent, will grow to prominence across Europe and Russia. This comes at a time when Europe is struggling to cope with hundreds of thousands of predominantly Syrian refugees. The timing of these attacks is hardly coincidental.
The attacks in Paris by ISIS is a rebuke of a renewed assault, now including Russia, but they are also a calculated political move. Europe is already polarizing in the wake of the attacks. That means two forces are attempting to radicalize immigrants and Muslims in Europe as a resurgent rightwing drives division through hate and opportunism. The refugees lay squarely in the middle of that equation. The attacks will also slow or stop progress in addressing the refugee crisis just as winter begins. That will mean a rise in desperation that will drive more violence potentially.
In this country whatever initiative Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton may have had will evaporate quickly as fears rise, valid or not, of possible terror attacks within the US going into the holiday season. The narrative will be on security and guns, not economy. The attacks immediately undercut the so-called million student march on pressing economic issues here. Rightwing commentators have already begun describing the #BlackLivesMatter effort as terrorism. This weekend would be dictator Donald Trump capitalized ghoulishly by criticizing the French for gun control laws. He is just the first of what will be a gleeful orgy on the right concerning guns. they will point to France as an example against any sort of reasonable gun legislation.
In fact, French citizens are allowed to own guns. In this country there has been a call for screenings based upon mental illness. French law requires competency exams by a doctor annually, along with a regular check up. The weapons used in this weeks attacks are smuggled into the country illegally. French gangs receive many combat style weapons from the former Yugoslavia where in the aftermath of war unregistered guns still proliferate. It is the same issue facing Chicago’s violence with straw purchases from gun stores ringing the south and west borders of Chicago. One of Friday’s gunmen, Omar Ismail Mostefai, born in France, was a petty criminal with access to illegal weapons before becoming radicalized. The suddenness of attacks and the nature of those attacks would have neutralized any would-be pistol packing party-goer in a dark crowded, loud and confused environment. Furthermore, the attackers were already resolved to die.
The truth is, gun laws in France work. There were just 665 murders in 2012 in France, with a per capita rate of 1 compared with 15,000 and a per capita rate of 5 for the US. The United States has FAA rules and licensing for aircraft, but that did not prevent 9-11, so by the gun lobby’s logic we should close the FAA. To drive a car Americans must have a valid license, which doesn’t stop car thieves.
ISIS is calculating and the West is still reacting blindly. More security undermines democracy and civil liberties. They are shrewdly sowing discord in target countries. Attacks and threats of violence driven by FOX and the right in this country from these attacks will increase pressure on American Muslim and immigrant communities, exactly what ISIS hopes to achieve. They want unrest and division in Europe by enlivening radical rightwing groups and politicians and by polarizing normally reasonable communities. In the US, the Paris attacks fit perfectly to the Republican effort to polarize whites by sowing fear from immigrants and Muslims, since they have all but lost Hispanic, and Black voters.
It remains to be seen how this will turn out. Given the level of narrative and its tolerance by the American people, that does not bode well for civil liberties, the election, civility and democracy in America, in Europe and beyond. Put this one in the win column for ISIS. This was an attack on social and community fault lines, which just became wider and more dangerous. Just like Osama bin Laden and September 11, 2001, the attack was on the crumbling vestiges of democracy and civil society.