It seems likely that two of the attackers in the Paris attacks posed as Syrian refugees to get into the country. According to news reports this was a complicated operation with three separate teams--but who represented a larger self-contained cell. In other words, it appears that ISIS has used exploits in the system (France's intake of refugees) to move a substantial group into the target zone and supported them with additional help (logistical help from Belgium--where three arrests were made quickly after the event.
What To Make Of This?The Omnivore has a few takeaways (assuming the information we now have proves out).
The Rise Of The Right-NationalistsThe crucial impact of these attacks will be to help nationalist political groups in Europe as well as in America. This may not be enough to put Trump in the White House--but it could certainly put the National Front into power in France. This will, The Omnivore thinks, have a similar impact across Europe.
Whatever tendency there is towards empathy and compassion for refugees, it will evaporate in the wake of murderous suicide attacks. It will serve to validate the worst fears and the worst prejudices of those opposed to immigration (and, statistics aside, with well over a hundred dead, there is a case to be made against immigration where no one can really be vetted).
Guns v. BombsSome on the right (in the US) lamented the gun-control in Paris that didn't have multiple armed civilians at the Eagles of Death Metal concert. It's true that someone might have been able to fire back. On the other hand, it appears that what did the real damage wasn't the suicide vests the bad guys had but the Kalashnikovs. Guns as force-multipliers is the ignored half of the equation: If you really want to stop bad guys, maybe making it even harder to get guns is the way to go. Notably:
- Someone importing firearms and grenades was stopped and arrested trying to get into Germany last week. Maybe this was related, maybe not--but it gives law enforcement a fighting chance to stop something before it happens.
- All the knife-attack victims from the student murderer in California lived. If the kid had had a Kalashnikov that wouldn't be the case. Guns were hard enough to get that he didn't acquire one. Perhaps California's gun-laws deserve some credit there?
ISIS "Is Contained"
Bad timing for Obama--but what if it's even worse: What if ISIS really is contained . . . and France is inside the containment zone! In any event, stuff like "on the run" or "contained" or even "destroyed" doesn't mean a whole lot when dealing with asymmetric warfare.
That said, The Omnivore suspects that in the following weeks, France is going to Contain The Hell out of them.
Election 2016The attacks come after the 4th debate and just after Trump unleashed a 9 minute rant on Carson--the most beloved candidate in either party by a wide stretch. Pundits were sure Trumps rant would damage or maybe end him. The Omnivore doesn't think so--but even moreso, these attacks are a gift to Trump and the portion of his backers who are White Nationalists.
Right now--and through 2016--"Immigration" will still mean "illegal Latino Immigration"--not taking in refugees (although that will likely be a point of contention as well). The Omnivore thinks that these attacks will cement the far right position for the Primary--and perhaps for the general election.
This hurts Cruz and Rubio since both of them have, to some degree, refrained from the "deport everyone" solution Trump is vending. Rubio because he doesn't want to and Cruz because he can't make himself tell the lies, apparently. These attacks will give Trump a wedge with which to pry support off both candidates.
The Net-NetComing on the heels of the Russian jet bombing, ISIS has gained a lot of the press it wants. The Omnivore thinks they're going to come to regret that. America, despite what her detractors at home and abroad think, is highly restrained in her use of force. Russia will not be--and France, The Omnivore assesses--sees itself as a smaller-scale player and one less constrained by a "leadership role."
It also doesn't help things that a galvanized angry populace and a national election may lead to more aggressive behavior (although: see Spain in the wake of the Madrid bombings). In any event, ISIS has managed to make it to the next stage of the game. We'll see how they really do compete in the "varsity league."