This war will, of course, have to be fought on the ground – with American, British and French divisions and tanks that will fight in Syria and Iraq, but also with security measures taken at border crossings and by special forces and intelligence agencies in Belgium, France and Germany as well as in the Philippines, China and Russia. This war will be conducted on the Mediterranean Sea as well as in the air with combat aircraft bombarding concentrations of ISIS and al-Qaeda fighters across Asia and Africa and security measures taken at airports and passenger aircraft worldwide. This is what the third world war will look like, which Israel has been a part of for a while now.
Indications from the Paris attack immediately pointed to Islamic State, and after they took responsibility for it – it is possible to discern the strategy set forth by the organization: Painful blows of terror at targets easy for them to operate in and which allow them to claim a mental victory with minimal effort and risk.
One can identify the beginning of the current offensive with the Russian plane explosion over Sinai three weeks ago. The Paris attack was directed according to the same strategy. It is likely that the attack had been planned over many months, but the background is the same as that of the plane attack: ISIS is now taking heavy blows in Syria and Iraq and is losing several of its important outposts in the heart of the Islamic caliphate it wants to establish.
Therefore ISIS is attacking its enemies’ rear and Europe, as usual, is the first to get hit. ISIS and al-Qaeda prefer striking in Europe because it is considered the cradle of Christianity and Islamic fundamentalist organizations still see it as the homeland of the Crusaders, who just as in the past, are at present waging a religious and cultural war on Islam. France and Paris were chosen as a target as France stood at the forefront of the cultural and religious struggle against radical Islam. It is also the easiest target to attack.
France was the target of a combined assault of radical Islam not just because it has a tradition of human rights and freedom of movement, but because France and French culture symbolize everything that radical Islam is afraid of and is in an all-out war against. France enacted a ban on women to wear the hijab in public places, the Supreme Court allowed the magazine Charlie Hebdo to publish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad and President Francois Hollande recently refused Iranian President Rouhani’s request to not have alcohol served at a dinner in his honor. All these are challenges to the jihadists that no one else in the West have yet dared emulate. So that is the primary reason that France mourns the murder of at least 129 people.
The second reason is that France has the biggest and most established Muslim population in Europe that lives in large urban concentrations, mostly poor neighborhoods. These are ideal soil for the preaching of radical Islam in neighborhood mosques. The terrorists yesterday spoke French fluently and one can assume that at least some were French citizens of North African descent and other Muslim countries in Africa and Asia. They could thus assimilate into the population to choose destinations, collect information about them and flee from them after their attack.
It was not clear if all the terrorists were suicide bombers or whether some of them escaped. That is why the French government imposed a partial curfew and ordered troops into the streets in many cities, the same measures taken by Israel when the current wave of terrorism began. The aim is that the very presence of many security personnel can deter copycat attacks or the continuation of ongoing attacks.
The third reason is the fact that France is in the heart of Western Europe and it is surrounded by states with large Muslim immigrant communities. The freedom of movement between European countries as per the Schengen Agreement allows the jihadists to utilize these communities to both find terrorist fighters who have been through the baptism of fire in the Middle East and to smuggle weapons required to perform attacks.
Huge quantities of arms and ammunition arrive in Europe from Libya via Sicily, Malta, Greece and many other places. These Libyan weapons move like a deadly wave through Europe, are available to anyone interested in them and can be moved about without any difficulty, as we have seen in previous attacks, from state to state. The same is true with explosives, although terrorists are able to manufacture explosives from local products - acetone and hydrogen peroxide, for example. The information is available to everyone, and Hamas had already shown during the second intifada how to equip a terrorist with an explosive belt containing homemade explosives which are no less deadly. A similar process took place in Iraq, and now France is taking a hit from it.
Another reason for choosing France is that it is considered the center of and the pinnacle of European culture and it is to a great extent a world city of the first order. Therefore the attack there has the greatest effect on people’s consciousness. Horror is effectively spread. It appears that the attackers were equipped with the pages of messages that declared so that those victims who survive would be able to cite to a media thirsty for every detail. "You bomb us in Syria and we bomb you in Paris,” was heard.
They also were dressed in frightening clothing, right out of a Hollywood horror movie, but the weapons and explosives were real. ISIS mixes the virtual world with the real world fluidly and this is the secret of its success and its appeal to young Muslims in the West.
A change of perception needed
To carry out terrorist attacks in seven different locations requires lots of time and elaborate organization. One has to plan, to stockpile weapons and explosives, choose targets, collect information about the targets ahead of the attack, recruit attackers some of whom are willing to die in suicide attacks and tour the scene of the attack and prepare nearby before the actual attack. Therefore, it is reasonable to estimate that the attack was planned and prepared months ago and was kept on hold for a strategically opportune moment.
We need to prepare for further attacks not only in France, but throughout Europe. To this end, Europe will need to resume full control its borders and will having to boldly deal with the dilemma of protecting human and individual rights versus the need to provide security. So far EU countries have preferred, and they can’t be condemned for it, the individual liberty of citizens over the defense against terrorism. Now Europe and especially France will have to reach the conclusion that the most important individual right is the right to life.
There's no specific intelligence failure here but rather a total failure of perception that requires rethinking. The West will have to establish a joint intelligence apparatus that will perform assessments and issue immediate alerts - and this concerns not only France and Western Europe but also Russia, China and other countries. European countries will have to establish special forces and station them in large, as well as medium and small, urban concentrations to be able to react quickly to any warning or intelligence information.
The way Israel manages to gather intelligence and act on it quickly with the Border Police counter-terrorism unit and Shin Bet’s operational unit must serve as a model. It is clear that European bureaucrats, EU officials, will at first oppose the adoption of this model - but reality will probably force it upon them. They also will have to enact legislation to enable the mechanisms set up for intelligence gathering and rapid reaction to decisively prevent attacks before they occur and handle them quickly if they have already started to take place.
The world war between murderous fundamentalist Islam and Western civilization - and basically anyone and anything not Muslim – will have to be waged without compromise and without half-steps on land, air and sea. Brussels may not like it - but we're all in the same boat. And no, the current wave of terrorism has nothing to do with the "occupation of Palestine."