If any region is familiar with the debilitating effects of political corruption, it's the Middle East. And the notion of a 'power-vacuum' is central, in a struggle to come to terms with the recent bloodshed in Paris.
Solidarity filled the seats of Wembley Stadium during last night's France-England friendly. As an emphatic rendition of La Marseillaise was delivered, we were reminded of the unanimous support for the Parisians who fell victim to a series of obscene terror attacks. There is no rational explanation to account for the loss of so many innocent lives. So why has Paris become a prime target for jihadists? French activity in the Middle East holds some of the answers.
As the nation mourns its victims, President François Hollande sent a clear message to the perpetrators behind the attack on Sunday:
Not only were twelve fighter jets deployed to carry out bombardments over Raqqa, the de facto capital of ISIS, but Europe's biggest aircraft carrier - the Charles de Gaulle - has also set sail for the Gulf. But this is by no means similar to the kind of strategical change witnessed in response to 9/11. It is a hardline enforcement of a preexisting war protocol.
"Paris will forever be seen as the touchstone that led to a ramped-up effort against ISIS" - Former U.S. State department official, Richard Nephew.
So where does this notion of a 'power-vacuum' come in to play? A sectarian armed conflict has erupted from a widespread Arab uprising. And Syria is a shining example of the complexities a predicament of such can breed. Amongst these severities includes the abduction and manipulation of theology, fuelling the formation of various extremist groups - all unified in their intent to exert violent, oppressive ideologies and consequentially, threat civilisation. But in turn, this creates a war on so many fronts that no one really knows exactly who they're fighting. And this has made France's involvement in Syria particularly paradoxical, giving applicability to the 'lesser of two evils' principle. A country that has not hesitated in their opposition towards Bashar al-Assad's corrupt government is now facing a circumstance where they essentially, have to strengthen it if they hope to dismantle the strongholds of the Islamic State - who claimed responsibility for recent attacks in Paris. This observation is central to accounting for why jihadists, for the second time in a year, have infiltrated the borders of Paris whose government is quite simply, an obstacle in the way of their political agenda. For France has taken an active involvement in a recent U.S.-led war, aimed particularly at destabilising the infrastructure of the Islamic State - an organisation also responsible for a wave of radicalisation on French turf - to threaten and prevent the expansion of the terrorist state.
The tension is deep. It all goes back to their influence following the demise of the Ottoman Empire, where French governments identified vulnerable, power vacuums and occupied significant portions of lands, including in Africa. But since the decolonisation process, French troops have never fully 'abandoned mission' in the area. Whilst you read the content of this article, there are currently 3,000 French troops dispersed across five countries in Africa; Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Thus, there have been ongoing operations aimed at preventing the formation of a terrorist state. So perhaps remaining anguish towards the West could stem as deep as the echoing words of Orientalist literature?
But in terms of recent French intervention, the quest to track down Islamic militia has been ongoing in the Sahel since January 2013. The operation soon spread to Iraq, where France was the first member of the EU to join US air strikes and more recently to Syria, where France is currently the only member of the EU to join US air strikes. So fighting on the front-line for Europe has resultantly, pinpointed France on the map as a lead protagonist in the fight on terrorism.
The secrecy and subtlety radicalisation tends to occur under makes homegrown terrorism particularly difficult to eradicate. In this day and age, getting hold of a gun is about as easy as getting hold of a pen. So preventing further attacks, as such, will be an extremely difficult task for intelligence services to deal with. If the aim is to penetrate ISIS from the roots, and dispel their main bases, the West will likely have to consider further cooperation with Putin's government. We have already seen the U.S. take a softer approach to Russia's pro-Assad intervention in Syria recently, indicating there seems to be some kind of consensus to avoid a repeat of the deeply divided societies that are Iraq and Libya.
Is this a sane thing to do, or will it fuel radicalisation?