France Takes the Gloves Off After Paris Attacks, but Will It Overreach?

France Takes the Gloves Off After Paris Attacks, but Will It Overreach?
A riot police officer patrols the Place de la Republique, Paris, Nov. 27, 2015 (AP photo by Jacques Brinon).

More than two weeks after the Paris attacks of Nov. 13, much still remains unknown about the terrorists—three have yet to be identified—and the nature of the organizational and logistical networks behind the plot. As details come to light, they will continue to inform a better understanding of the actual threat and the best ways to counter it. In the meantime, with the immediate shock somewhat faded, it is possible to weigh what we now know about the attacks in a more considered manner, and to draw some conclusions about France’s initial responses.

The profiles of the attackers as established so far confirms that, as in the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher attacks in January, they were mainly French citizens with foreign training. However, unlike in January, this time the attackers appear to have returned to France with plans that were formed in Syria. This suggests at the very least that Syria-based commanders of the self-declared Islamic State had knowledge of the broad operational outlines of the attacks, and possibly centralized command and control over them.

As I noted previously, a number of operational and tactical decisions made the attacks less deadly than they might otherwise have been. This now seems to be the result of the less experienced members of the group being deployed to the failed soccer stadium attacks, and the more experienced ones to the more lethal shooting sprees. However, the fact that even the more experienced and battle-hardened attackers were deployed as suicide bombers raises the question of whether the attack was a move born of the Islamic State’s desperation over its setbacks in Syria and Iraq—or else one born of confidence and strategic depth, with more combat-hardened operatives waiting in the wings. Unfortunately, only time will tell which of the two hypotheses is right.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review