France has been the victim of repeated terror attacks, most recently the horrific attack in Nice that killed over 80 people. Following in the wake of the Bataclan Massacre and Charlie Hebdo attacks, anger and tensions in France are rising.
Patrick Calvar, French General Directorate for Internal Security, has been warning the French government that a civil war is possible. As reported by the International Business Times, Calvar, “said growing tensions between “the extreme right and the Muslim world” were close to breaking point, and that a confrontation between the two appeared inevitable.”
Disturbingly, Calvar’s warnings came before the attack in Nice.
France’s political establishment isn’t helping matters. Prime Minister Manuel Valls is being heavily criticized for saying that the French must learn to “live with terrorism.” My guess is that Valls wasn’t trying to sound such a defeatist tone, but his words will feed into a perception that the establishment isn’t up to the task of keeping people safe. In a sign of public anger, Valls was booed at a public memorial.
Calvar isn’t the only person in France worried about a potential civil war. In a CNBC Commentary piece, Jonathan Miller, a city councilor in the south of France, and the author of ‘France, a Nation on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,’ expressed his fears about the rising chance for violent conflict:
“As if the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January 2015 and the Paris attacks in November were not enough, a third episode of carnage in Nice on Bastille Day, July 14, has shaken France to the brink of a terrifying escalation.
An isolated immigrant population and a strident right-wing political faction in a country awash with guns has created a toxic and explosive mixture. France, a nation long considered a beacon of liberty and stability, may be on the edge of something resembling a civil war.”
Miller further explains the growing fear and anger he sees around him:
“As a Brit who has lived in France for 15 years, I like to think I know my neighbors pretty well. I’ve pretty well mastered the language, and have even been elected to the local council. So my observations are not a tourist’s snapshot. I talk to a lot of people at every level of French society and I am detecting a change of mood. And the mood is turning nasty.
Normally, it takes quite a bit to excite my neighbors under the languid southern sun, but as one horror has followed another, I am no longer taking for granted that they will put up with this much longer.”
Freedom and safety go hand in hand. A nation cannot remain free if its people live in constant fear. When innocent people have to fear for their lives sitting at a cafe or celebrating with their fellow citizens, it is understandable that they will demand action be taken.
In taking action, France should neither embrace the far-right, nor dismiss the understandable fear of a growing number of people. And as difficult as it can seem, staying true to core values of freedom and equality is essential, not just for France, but for all nations facing the rising threat of terrorism.
France has a difficult road ahead. People will not give up their freedom or security without a fight, and the more people feel it slipping away the higher the potential for disaster. The government of France must restore the confidence of the French people, or civil war could follow.