Security levels questioned in the wake of Nice’s Bastille Day attack
– by Clea Broadhurst
French authorities say French intelligence and security services have done well in recent months, but some analysts argue the level of security could have been improved.
If this attack was not predictible, it was to be expected, they say.
“The French government has done a lot of talking, but insufficient action. That means that when something really serious happens, we always find months later that there were failures, there were flaws in communication and in the coordination of the services. There are talks of better organisation and in the end, nothing happens,” François Géré, the founding president of the French Strategic Analysis Institute, told RFI.
Géré said there were two main issues that needed to be taken into account. First of all, he said, it was absolutely vital to stop with the competition and rivalry among too many services.”
“Second, we need to have a more appropriate diplomacy and more efficient action in the Middle East. We cannot talk at the same time about the war against Daech (the Islamic State armed group) and then say as President François Hollande recently said, we will intensify the action against Daech. Why haven’t we done that already?”
And as a matter of fact, President Hollande said again during his speech after the attack that he wanted to intensify actions in Syria and Iraq.
But Géré thinks it’s a little too late. “We have wasted a lot of time. The French engagement in Syria was much much too limited, and now we are facing the reality. The reality is that we have designated a top number one enemy and we have not fullfilled that commitment and we have only taken limited action.”
He said that this lack of determination and absence of clear goals in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, is why both the French government and the French population are paying a very high price.
Is France a target?
Seven out of twelve attacks in the EU since 2012 have been in France, in which more than 240 people have been killed.
Géré said it was because of France’s engagement in Syria and Iraq.
However, Raphaël Liogier, a French sociologist, director of the Observatoire du religieux and a professor at the Institut d’études Politiques, thinks otherwise.
According to him, the very first question we need to ask is not “what can we do about it?” but rather, “what should we not be doing?”
“The French government is actually doing Daech’s marketing, in particular our Prime Minister. He’s doing their marketing because Daech needs that. Now that they are losing on the ground, they need to become a cyber califate, because they’re not a real califate anymore. And to become a cyber califate, they need to become a desirable brand. And so it’s in France that they find that,” Liogier told RFI.
He pointed out that there was a real obsession about Islam.
“Every sign of Muslim behaviour becomes de facto right away a sign of war and a national scandal.” Liogier said, adding France needs to change the way we respond to these issues.
He further said that it was impossible to have total control over security, over gun control either. He believes that the only way we can actually control the situation is by controlling our speeches.
“We need to be more humble”
On the other hand, some believe that this attack is no different from the ones happening elsewhere in the world, like in Turkey, for example.
“We have to get out of the box of ‘why do they hate us as French people?’ – I think that what has happened in Nice on the 14th of July has happened elsewhere.
Of course we have to take into consideration specific reasons why we have young French people carrying out the attacks but at the same time I won’t say that there’s a specific hate towards France,” Amel Boubekeur, a researcher on radicalism and terrorism at the University of Grenoble, told RFI.
She said that the Bastille Day attack was just an opportunity to kill as many as possible, more than a symbolic targetting of France specifically.
“We have seen this happening in various places. So I think we should try to be a little bit humble on these explanations. It’s a global phenomenon happening everywhere. Where the French factor may be taken into account is looking at what’s going on in the lives of these perpetrators.”
Boubekeur said there were lack of political options for a specific range of young people, who are seduced by another type of political approach, and that’s jihadism.
It’s not all political though. She also pointed out that there is a real lack of religious support in France, when it comes to addressing political radicalism.