Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Attack in France

Headline from BBC News this morning, "Gunmen have attacked the Paris office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people and injuring seven in an apparent Islamist attack".  The attack was in response to satirical cartoons Charlie Hebdo has published about Islam.  The magazine's offices in Paris were firebombed back in 2011.

It appears the GOP cyber-attack on Sony Pictures, and the latter's brief acquiescence, may spur more aggressive attacks by other terrorist groups in the future.  The cyber-attack did get "The Interview" pulled from opening and forced Sony Pictures to release over the Internet.  Perhaps the group responsible of the attack in Paris hopes the extreme violence of their attack will prevent other magazines and media from publishing satirical comments about Islam.

France has had a tumultuous relationship with its Islamic citizens way before 9/11.  The colonization of Algeria in the 19th Century by Napoleon III led to land reforms whereby most Algerians lost their lands.  Worse, while Napoleon III wanted to see Algerians integrated into French society the result were Algerians and people from other colonies were treated as second class citizens.  Today, France still has problems with integrating Muslim citizens as seen by the demand for Muslim women to remove their head scarves in schools.  Therefore, the attack on Charlie Hebdo may be just part of a long standing feud between the French and her Muslim citizens.

The US has been anticipating a second attack to 9/11 for 13 years, to the point that many Americans now are deaf to any warnings issued by the government.  The attacks in Paris won't resound as much with Americans now that we are engulfed by the deteriorated state of relations between police and the community (especially the African American community).  Hard to worry about a "what if?" scenario when you are far more likely to see another police officer assassinated or suspect die at the hands of a police officer.

Still, this latest attack may be just what the Republicans need.  The embattled House Speaker John Boehner survived a rebuke to his position.  The uprising was spurred by Conservative Republicans who see Boehner as weak and to willing to defer to the President.  His hastily cobbled together "CRomnibus" bill limited funding for DHS to the end of February.  The Paris attack could allowed Boehner and the Republicans to leverage the President away from his stance on immigration.  However, the track record of Boehner's political savvy across the aisle leaves me skeptical.

Regardless of the political hay to be made or lost, it is important not to assume a similar attack is likely on the US.  The next attack is going to look nothing like previous attacks, hence it will have a profound impact.  The reason for this is simple, authorities already are on the look out for aircraft hijackings and weapons of mass destruction.  But they weren't ready for a massive, well planned cyber attack on Sony Pictures.  A well coordinated attack on our financial system, power grids or water treatment facilities could all be done virtually.  I remain unconvinced that we've taken the threat of a cyber attack to airliners seriously.  We are still looking for carbon-based (people) threats when the digital threat is far more pervasive and likely.

No comments: