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What Can France Do Now?

Along with journalists and writers everywhere, I mourn our murdered colleagues at Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical weekly that had the courage to poke fun at Islam, and paid a horrendous price. This is a new and terrible step on the part of the terrorists: they have threatened individual journalists for years and forced a few into hiding or witness protection. But the assault on the premises of a news organization and the massacre of its staff is an entirely new thing. We have never seen anything like this before in the sorry history of terrorism.

How will France respond?

France now faces an existential dilemma. By most independent estimates France now has a Muslim population of 6 million, or almost 10% of its 65 million people. If we assume that just 1% of this population are radicalized to the point of engaging in or providing support for terrorist activities, that is a pool of 60,000 individuals. We are not speaking of 60,000 potential bombers or shooters, but a support network that will allow a much smaller number of terrorists to blend into the broader population. In the "no-go" zones of France now effectively ruled by Muslim gangs, moreover, the terrorists can intimidate the Muslim population. France already has lost the capacity to police part of its territory, which means that it cannot conduct effective counter-terror operations.