The scale of last week's suicide attacks in Paris reveals both increasing boldness and the greater capacity for coordination among terrorists. Three teams carried out coordinated strikes on a concert hall, a stadium, and cafes and restaurants in northern and eastern Paris. The attacks demonstrated the local knowledge of the insurgents, who understood the locales where destruction would achieve the maximum human and media effect. Paris is now firmly a part of the geography of terror outside the Middle East that includes iconic locations such as New York, Bali, Moscow, Madrid, London, Mumbai and Sydney.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for what French President Francois Hollande rightly characterised as an "act of war". ISIS hopes to send a chilling message to the French people that they should not support their government's air strikes in Syria. Coming in the same year as the murderous assault on the staff of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, last Friday's barbarity was a warning to France to retreat from resisting the spread of religious fanaticism on the Middle Eastern soil in which it has implanted itself. If the French were to give in to that threat, they would remain vulnerable to blackmail. It is in the merciless logic of terrorist demands to expand to fill the space vacated by a cowed population or a government on the defensive.
France must continue to play its role in targeting the nerve centres of ISIS - to halt its spread, then shrink its borders, and finally annihilate it as a force in international affairs. That would require a strengthening of the international resolve against the global ambit of terrorism. Other members of the European Union and the United States are natural partners of the French in their struggle against the scourge. China, India, other Asian nations and the Eurasian heartland represented by Russia also should demonstrate international solidarity with the West to reverse the warped ambitions of ISIS. Divisions among status quo powers are dwarfed by ISIS' fundamental challenge to them all.
Within France, stringent investigations into the attacks must lead to preventive steps. This remains a challenge in societies that find it difficult to contemplate the contraction of individual liberties to protect an endangered collectivity. On the social front, terrorists wish to drive a wedge in society between the French who see themselves as loyal insiders and those who risk being viewed as religious outsiders. Secular France must not let this fissure occur. The French capacity to accommodate five million Muslims, who constitute 7.5 per cent of the population (western Europe's biggest Muslim community), is a tribute to civilisation with French characteristics. The French must uphold liberty, equality, and fraternity.