In This Review

Prevailing Against Terrorism: White Paper on Domestic Security Against Terrorism
Prevailing Against Terrorism: White Paper on Domestic Security Against Terrorism
By Dominique De Villepin
La Documentation Française, 2006, 135 pp
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For all the talk of a "transatlantic gap" on the issue of terrorism, this official French government white paper underscores that there is much common ground as well. Commissioned by the prime minister and drafted by an interagency team following the 2004 and 2005 terrorist attacks in Madrid and London, the paper is a comprehensive assessment of the terrorist threat to France and of French policy for confronting it. The authors see global jihad as a "growing threat to France and Europe," and their analysis of the phenomenon -- born out of the despair and perceived injustice felt by a minority of Muslims -- does not differ greatly from the view of most American experts. Iraq is seen to be an "aggravating factor" that gives terrorists "some symbolic arguments," but the paper acknowledges that al Qaeda came to prominence in the 1990s, before the Iraq invasion and while Middle East peace talks were moving ahead. The transatlantic difference that stands out is the French emphasis on "fundamental values and the rule of law." France rejects the notion of a "war" on terrorism, which would require permanent recourse to emergency legislation. Instead, it has developed a unique specialized legal system, the merits and the drawbacks of which are both evident in this surprisingly frank and clear government document.