Sympathy should be our only response to the Nice terror attack

Simon Jenkins in The Guardian:

NiceEighty-four people died late on Thursday night as a lorry drove for more than a mile through the Bastille Day crowds in the southern French city of Nice. The driver eventually died in a hail of police bullets. The incident, on a day when the French celebrate equality, liberty and fraternity, could hardly be more horrific. The victims are beyond help, but the French people should have whatever sympathy the world can usefully offer. The danger is that ritualised global responses to these incidents become their megaphone. They raise the multiplier impact of the terror – and also raise public expectation that “something can be done”. The French president, François Hollande, has extended for three months the state of emergency resulting from the Charlie Hebdo killings and the events in Paris last November. He has announced, yet again, that France is “at war” with the threat of Islamist terrorism. A further 10,000 army reservists are to be deployed. “Activities will be strengthened” in Iraq and Syria. In London and Washington counter-terrorism agencies are on alert, and President Obama is “being updated by his national security team”.

…Hollande might more usefully have called up 10,000 psychologists or 10,000 Islamic historians. As for strengthening France’s role in the Islamist civil wars in Iraq and Syria, it is hard to imagine anything more likely to incite other young men to suicide attacks. A Nice truck driver does not remotely threaten the security of the French state, any more than such acts do the security of America or Britain. The identification of the nation state with random killings of innocent people has become a political aberration. The implication that leaders can somehow prevent such attacks by armed response is a total distraction from the intelligence and police work that might at least diminish their prevalence. It nationalises and institutionalises public alarm. It leads governments into madcap adventurism abroad and “securitises” the private lives of citizens at home. What has happened in France is tragic and calls for human sympathy. Beyond that, there is nothing we can usefully do – other than make matters worse.

More here.