Living with terrorism post Paris

The vile abomination that is the slaughter of the innocents in Paris warrants every possible condemnation from every quarter.

To anyone who values life and liberty the shootings and the bombings are a sickening outrage.

The medieval and evil Islamic State (IS) has taken ''credit'' and blame for attacks in the heart of the West, Paris.

This much-loved multi-ethnic city is the world's top tourist destination and a thriving symbol of culture and thought.

It was the home of great art and great music, of great thinkers and great intellectual debate, be it the Enlightenment era of Voltaire or the 20th century and Jean-Paul Sartre. In so many ways it was, and is, the antithesis of the barren brutal beliefs of Islamic State.

It was in Paris that Islamic fanatics in January killed at a kosher supermarket and at the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

This time, the terror spread beyond such specific targets to a concert hall, five restaurants and bars, the national stadium. Ironically, one terrorist blew himself up on Boulevard Voltaire.

Disbelief and sorrow is turning to anger. France is, as President Francois Hollande puts it, in a state of war. As after January, there are calls for defiance, courage and solidarity.

Indeed, fortitude will be required. Further attacks could well be expected in more places. After all, terrorism aims to spread fear and uncertainty.

And once ''soft'' targets are attacked (unlike breaching Egypt ground security, as appears to have taken place with the exploding Russian airliner over the Sinai Peninsula two weeks ago), even police on every corner is insufficient protection.

This was Paris already on alert for looming international climate change talks. This was Paris having this year already suffered terrorist attacks. Even in Boston, with cameras everywhere for the marathon in 2013, two bombs exploded and the bombers escaped the area.

Underneath it all, that underlines widespread Western horror. It seems so random, so unstoppable, so senseless, so close to home.

Fearfully, this may become the new normal; anywhere, anytime is at risk. That is, simply, life and that is death. Public vigilance and smart security can only do so much.

IS appears to be endeavouring to weaken Western resolve in Syria and Iraq. That blackmail should be resisted. It will be, publicly at least, in the meantime.

But determination will be needed for that particular ''war'' as the months go by.

IS will also be more than pleased for the West to respond into siege mentalities, restricting civil liberties and advancing totalitarian tendencies.

No doubt, there will continue to be fine words about how the terrorists will not undermine ''freedoms'' and rights. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for example, has said ''our free life is stronger than terror''.

Again, however, it will take purpose to ensure practice matches early rhetoric. In any event, it is worth noting the protection afforded by authoritarian regimes is not all it would seem.

Russia has been unable to prevent Chechen atrocities, nor China regular terrorist incidents in its western region.

The terrorist threat, which conceivably could include that softest of targets, New Zealand, has to be pursued with vigour and skill by the security apparatus.

At the same time, the rule of law, proper procedures and the insistence on safeguards remains necessary. Living with terrorism in a democratic society requires that balance.

Important, too, will be recognition a fundamentalist fringe is just that.

Sadly, many Muslims and many from Muslim backgrounds will be caught up by the sweep of a wide brush.

Refugees, too, pouring into Europe will suffer in the wake of a Syrian passport being found near the body of one of the Paris bombers.

Living with terrorism, sadly, means acknowledging the probability of more such occurrences. That could well be a reality of the coming years of the 21st century.

 

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