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2023 | Book

Terrorism in Contemporary France

A Vicious Circle of Violence


About this book

This book examines radical Jihad terrorism in contemporary France and sheds light on the vicious circle of violence, based on reciprocity. Building upon the theoretical heritage of Pierre Bourdieu, the book develops a methodology and a concept of the vicious circle of violence in France, based on three pillars: actors, dynamics, and effects.

Discussing the development of global terrorism between the 9/11 attacks and the launch of the European front against global terror in Spain and Great Britain, the book goes on to analyze why France has not been attacked during the 2000s and why it, in turn, became a primary target of terrorist attacks during the 2010s, with a special emphasis on communication theory and the concept of reciprocity. Studying these attacks on the international level, the book offers insights into violent acts of revenge of the radical home-grown jihadists for the French military interventions in four Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries, especially Libya and Syria. It further investigates the following growing radicalization of the Muslim community on the national level as a reason for terrorist attacks. Finally, the book sheds light on the reactions from within the French military to these developments, before closing with a presentation of the new political context after the 2022 presidential and legislative elections.

Based on empirical evidence and a theoretical background this book will appeal to students and scholars of political science and international relations, as well as policy-makers and practitioners interested in a better understanding of terrorism, French politics, and communication theory.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction of the Book
As the main title as well as the subtitle indicate, contemporary France, one of the most important and influential countries of Europe, is witnessing a strongly dangerous period of its history. For a decade, it has suffered an endless series of brutal terrorist attacks perpetrated by the fanatical Islamic jihadists born and grown in Islamic countries or even in France. The last decade saw the efforts of the political élites of this attacked hexagonal country to deter the jihadists by special military operations in the Islamic countries, namely, in Sahel. These operations were or continue to be waged with the aim of destroying the so-called safe havens of the jihadist organizations that had been used for the preparation of terrorist attacks against France. Unfortunately, these operations are followed by new terrorist attacks perpetrated in the territory of France or by terrorist attacks against French soldiers engaged abroad. As a result, France is moving within a typical vicious circle of violence with all its negative consequences.
Jan Eichler
Chapter 2. Key Theoretical Concepts and Methodology
This chapter is divided into seven sections. The first of them examines the concept of the vicious circle, the concept that anchors the title of this entire book. The second section presents the central theoretical heritage of the whole text: the heritage of Pierre Bourdieu, an important and internationally respected French sociologist. The following third section explains the key concepts of Pierre Bourdieu: the field, capital, and habitus. The fourth section presents the three key actors in the field of the French Republic during the terms in office of the last two presidents. The fifth section specifies the most important theoretical approaches to terrorist attacks, which are largely applied in the Chapter about terrorism in contemporary France. The sixth section focuses on the methodology and the specification of the key criteria. The last section defines the research questions of the entire book.
Jan Eichler
Chapter 3. What Preceded the Attacks Against France: From 9/11 to the European Front of the Global Terror (2001–2005)
This chapter is divided into six sections that will analyze 9/11, the following US doctrinal documents, the two US wars waged in the Islamic world and the opening of the European front of the Global Terror. They will be analyzed in light of the principle of reciprocity (Goldstein and Pevehouse, International relations, Longman, 2007: 4–9), which solves the collective goods problem by rewarding behaviour that contributes to the group and punishing behaviour that pursues self-interest at the expense of the group.
The behaviour of human beings as well as that of states is very often influenced by the principle of mirrors: one group’s behaviour reflects the acts and messages recently received from another group of people or states. Unfortunately, this principle can lead to a dangerous spiral of mutual punishments and to an escalation of mutual hostility and violence between them. In the following pages, we will study this spiral’s development during three periods of the relations between the West and jihadi terrorists.
Jan Eichler
Chapter 4. The Vicious Circle Starts: The French Military Interventions in the Countries of the MENAP
This chapter will analyse six important French military interventions in the Islamic states after the end of the Cold War. The key attention will be given to the intervention that has been decided and led by two presidents: Francois Hollande and Emmanuel Macron. Even though there are some differences between these interventions, they have had two common aims: to fight against jihadi terrorism and to implement the framework articulated by the doctrine of the seventh president of France.
This chapter is divided into nine parts. The first of them presents the general framework of French military operations waged in the Islamic world. The following six parts present and analyse the most important operations: Harmattan 2011, Serval 2012, Sangaris 2013, Barkhane 2014, Chammal 2014, and Takuba 2020. These operations are studied in light of the following points of view: their international and military context, the criteria of international law (legality and legitimacy of each operation), doctrinal context, military and political consequences. The last part of the chapter presents the common features of all analysed operations.
Jan Eichler
Chapter 5. The Vicious Circle Escalates: The Terrorist Attacks Against France After 2015
Since the beginning of the second half of the 2010s, France has suffered a long series of violent and even barbaric terrorist attacks perpetrated by the jihadists of the Maghreb origin. As a result, terrorism is perceived as an imminent security threat for all the territories of this nice country with a long history. The numbers of terrorist attacks perpetrated in France during the last decade are so high that it is impossible to analyze all of them. During these attacks, three hundred French people or visitors of this attractive country were killed (2015–2020: cinq ans d’attentats islamistes meurtriers en France, Sud-Ouest, 29 octobre 2020). This is the reason why the scope of this chapter will be limited only to the most important and most spectacular attacks.
The choice of the analyzed attacks is based on two basic criteria. First, the key attention will be given to the attacks that have been perpetrated as acts of revenge for the French military interventions waged in the Islamic world after 2011. Second, the same attention will be given to the most spectacular attacks with the largest numbers of victims and with strong political, psychological, and international impacts. All these attacks will be analyzed in light of the strategy of communication, the principle of reciprocity, and the theory of terrorism.
Jan Eichler
Chapter 6. The Revolt of French Soldiers Against the Failing Immigration Policy
Contemporary France is witnessing an exceptional process: a determined political revolt of French soldiers, represented mainly by retired generals, who manifest their profound dissatisfaction with the approach of the governing élites to the problems generated by the disaster of the French immigration policy. This revolt represents a concentrated reaction to two important forms of behaviour of the current president (It is Emmanuel Macron, the eighth and the youngest president in all the history of France) and his ministers.
Jan Eichler
Chapter 7. Conclusion of the Book
Today, we know that the attacks of 11. 9. 2001 opened the era of the Global Terror. The USA reacted by the Bush Doctrine (doctrinal violence) and by two large military operations OEF 2001 and OIF 2003 (instrumental violence). The jihadist mirror of the Bush Doctrine articulated the Global Islamic Resistance Call (GIRC). The attacks in Madrid (2004) and London (2005) opened the European front of the Global Terror. Their analysis was enormously interesting for the understanding of the theory and strategy of communication and of the psychological and political consequences. Following these attacks, UNSC Resolution 1566 (2004) articulated an excellent definition that underlined that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to peace and security.
Jan Eichler
Terrorism in Contemporary France
Jan Eichler
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