France is at war and the country is in a trauma.
President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls were very clear about the nature of the terrible attacks which took the lives of 129 innocent people in the middle of Paris, last Friday. For the first time, suicide bombers exploded themselves in our streets. French citizens had the privilege to live in peace for decades but now they will have to cope with this new and harsh reality. The war against Daesh, or ISIL, will have to be fought on the long term. Other attacks on French soil are to be feared in the future.
Since Friday terrifying night, many condolences were sent from around the world. Maybe because people felt that it's not only Paris which was the target of these terrorists but also its core values - democracy, peace, freedom. In this regard, France is not the only country at stake. Extremism could be a threat for everyone, in Europe, Middle East or Asia.
The aftermath of the Paris attacks is a matter of great concern. France has to defend itself. Massive air strikes were launched on Sunday night on Raqqa, Daesh’s "capital" in Syria. Aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle will depart on November 18 for the Gulf where it will joint the coalition forces against ISIL. But we all know in France that military force will not be sufficient to defeat jihadism. Because the threat is not only beyond our borders but is also right on the inside. Some of the attackers, the other night in Paris, were French. How to fight then on your own territory and your own citizens? French people expect now strong solutions from the government. But the necessary reactions shouldn’t go against individual rights and freedom values. Since the military response should lead to strategic mistakes as it was the case after 2001 when the United States went to Afghanistan and later intervened in Iraq.
Our social environment in France is complex. More than five million people in the country belong to the Muslim community; many of their young people were born in France. The vast majority of them are by no means extremists. But there is a risk now that the tragic events will deepen the gap between communities, also paving the way for a far-right candidate - Marine Le Pen - in the perspective of the presidential election in 2017.
The consequences on the economy can also be negative, more than what occurred after the attack against Charlie journalists last January. France is fighting against unemployment while its economic growth is no more than 0.1 or 0.2 percent, and that is incredibly fragile. A state of emergency, as proclaimed by the President, can harm this recovery. Investments and tourisms, a great source of income, could be deterred by this violent climate.
But more than everything, as it is waging this new "war," France will have to maintain its universal values of liberty, equality and fraternity. Otherwise, if we had to sacrifice our own values, then the enemy would have won the battle.
* Alain Barluet is the Deputy Editor in Chief of Le Figaro, a daily newspaper published in Paris. The opinions expressed are his own.