Terror in Europe: How Long Will This Keep Happening?

The type of terrorist attack which shook Nice on Bastille Day is difficult to prevent, and may have a considerable impact on liberal democracy in Europe, experts told valdaiclub.com.

“The new method of terrorist attack should be particularly noted. A driver in a truck crashing into a crowd and shooting from the cabin is something new for France and has not been seen in Europe before. However, this is not a new method for Israel, where such incidents occurred every week during the Third Intifada,” Yuri Rubinsky, head of the Center for French Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told valdaiclub.com.

According to Rubinsky, this attack is in part driven by France’s demographic situation, in that a large and growing number of second and third-generation of Muslim immigrants have not been integrated into French society.

“The cultural and national identity built on the ideas of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, liberty, equality and brotherhood are not very compatible with certain Islamic practices, particularly the extremist Wahhabi and Salafi doctrines”, Rubinsky added.

Rubinsky also noted the legacy of decolonization and the French-Algerian war, which left a scar on both countries’ popular conscience. He noted that this, together with conflicts France is involved in against Islamic extremism, in both the Middle East and North Africa, may have led to antagonisms and hatred from immigrants with roots in those countries.

According to Anatol Lieven, director of Research on Terrorism and International Relations at King’s College, London, the attacker appeared to have been driven by self-radicalization, largely influenced by the ISIS terrorist group.

“He was self-radicalized, it seems that he didn’t have real guns and bombs in his truck, and his only weapon was the car. That is the really horrifying thing. I’m sure that he’s inspired by ISIS, which actually issued a call among precisely these lines, that if you can’t make a bomb or get a hold of a gun, then drive your car,” Lieven said.

Lieven also noted that the attacks and growth of the radicalization among the population could lead to a decline of liberal democracy in the region.

“If something cannot be done to, at the very least, reduce the growth of the Muslim population in Europe, and to at least contain their radicalization, I do not think that democracy, at least liberal democracy in Europe will last for another generation. It may be able to last even less than that,” Lieven said.

Lieven noted that such a decline already took place in Eastern Europe, where right-wing governments came to power, and said that such a trend could continue in Western Europe.

Alexei Fenenko, Leading Research Fellow at the Institute of International Security Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told valdaiclub.com that this fight against terrorism is more widely a part of globalization, and that solutions may not be very simple.

“The fight against terrorism is a limit of globalization. It is no accident, that it is said that the turn toward counter-globalization began in 2001. The war on terror objectively demands a limit of globalization, including the recovery of state control over financial flows, the tightest possible control over transnational corporation ownership, which necessitates a return to a world of nation-states,” Fenenko said.

On the matter of why organizations such as NATO, which are meant to tackle security, are powerless against real threats, Anatol Lieven noted that NATO as an organization belongs to a previous epoch, in which nation-states were the largest sources of threats to each other.

“More candidly, NATO as an organization was never designed, and still is not designed to meet these threats. What it was designed for, of course, was containing, without fighting or confronting, Moscow. That is what it continues to do because that’s what it’s designed to do. The fact that this almost totally irrelevant to real Western security is a thought that hasn’t really occurred to Western security officials,” Lieven told valdaiclub.com.

Lieven also compared the current paradigm, in which Western institutions appear powerless to stop terror to what the political scientist Charles Tilly called residual leaps, the idea that institutions that outlive their usefulness continue pushing the agenda they are designed for.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.