At the French embassy in Washington, wall-mounted televisions were tuned to the military parade in Paris when the ambassador took the stage to announce that there had been yet another massacre of civilians. During a Bastille Day celebration in Nice, an unknown attacker had driven a truck through a crowd of people. The ambassador’s tone was grave and the information sparse, and he quickly shifted to imploring the large audience of French voters not to succumb to the appeal of exclusion when they will be called, in less than a year, to elect a new president and parliament. All at once, he referred to the recent Brexit vote, the Donald Trump candidacy, and far-right French presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen.
If the first terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo was an unfortunate failure on the part of French security, the second in the Bataclan was a sign of systemic impotence. At least at the embassy, after the third attack, ineptitude was no longer even surprising. The ambassador explained that Champagne and music would be withheld from the evening’s celebrations, and after a minute of silence for the victims, the national anthem called on citizens to march and drain “the impure blood of the fierce soldiers who kill ours sons and companions.” The crowd chanted in unison but then, without missing a beat, rushed the buffets overflowing with French delicacies. Alcohol flowed; conversations were social.
The evening reflected the divide between the blood-covered civilians on Nice’s famous Promenade des Anglais and the stultified president who was seen inspecting the squeaky clean weapon systems of his obsolete army on Paris’s Champs Elysées. This gap could be the nation’s biggest challenge. After another display of powerlessness in Paris, Le Pen, whose platform is anti-immigration, anti-EU, and xenophobic, is much closer to becoming the next French president.
Around the world, Western societies are fundamentally, deeply disillusioned with their traditional political elites. The malaise is general, but terrorism is a particular
Loading, please wait...