Friday the 13th: The Attack on Paris

14 November 2015



An horrific attack has been perpetrated in Paris, France. The operation appears to have been a coordinated and simultaneous attack, employing both guns and explosives, against at least six targets: La Belle Equipe, Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant on the same street, La Casa Nostra restaurant, Stade de France, and the Bataclan concert venue. More than a hundred twenty have been killed in the violence. Islamic State (ISIS) has publicly claimed responsibility for the attack. French President Francois Hollande has stated the the attack is an “act of war” by Islamic State against the French.

Strategic Forecasting (Stratfor) has already correctly noted that, even if ISIS has claimed responsibility, we do not yet know the extent of their involvement in the planning, financing, and execution of the attack:

“While the Islamic State has claimed credit for the attack, it is still uncertain to what degree the Islamic State core organization was responsible for planning, funding or directing it. It is not clear whether the attackers were grassroots operatives encouraged by the organization, like Paris Kosher Deli gunman Ahmed Coulibaly, if the operatives were professional terrorist cadres dispatched by the core group, or if the attack was some combination of the two.” (Strafor Alert)

Islamic State is ideologically committed, by its interpretation of Jihad, to wage expansionist, aggressive war against Dar al-Harb, i.e., the House (or territory) of War. This is not an accident that follows from the brutality and violence of the ISIS campaign in Syria and Iraq, but a religious duty, as they understand it, to make war on the infidel. Thus Islamic State has a motivation to claim the attacks on Paris as their own work even if their involvement was peripheral, since this gives the appearance that they are “taking the fight to the enemy.”

I have previously discussed the ideology and historical consciousness of Islamic State in the following posts:

ISIS and Sykes-Picot

The Philosophical Basis of Islamic State

The Mess in Mesopotamia

These posts go into much greater detail regarding the prophetic aspirations of Islamic State, which latter has motivations both to be involved in such an attack, and to claim responsibility for such an attack even if they were not directly behind it. Only subsequent investigation will determine the extent to which Islamic State was involved, and the extent to which this was an “act of war” of ISIS against France.

One interesting detail has emerged from the initial press coverage of the attack: a Syrian passport was found next to the body of one of the suicide bombers involved in the attack. If it is confirmed that terrorists are using the flow of refugees as a human conduit to infiltrate Europe with militants, this greatly complicates the problem of how Europe will deal with the war refugee problem, which is already a political hot potato (like genocide, this is a problem from hell). There is a limit to which European elite opinion can constrain the public narrative over war refugees.

It is to be expected that press coverage in the coming weeks will focus on the attack as a reprisal against French participation in the conflict in Syria. This is probably true, but it is only part of the story. Paris is one of the capitals of the western world, and particularly symbolic of the Enlightenment and the whole tradition of western civilization that emerged from the Enlightenment. The forces of reactionary traditionalism improve their standing with their constituency when they attack targets representative of the enemy’s highest achievements of civilization: this is an ideological aspect of war that is often overlooked in geopolitical, economic, and military assessments of conflict.

Not only is Paris a symbolic target, but if those sectors of society convinced of the reality of an apocalyptic confrontation can prod a major adversary into pouring more resources into the conflict in Mesopotamia and the Levant, and thus becoming the more deeply entrenched, this provides enhanced opportunities to engineer the desired apocalyptic battle.

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Grand Strategy Annex

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