In The Media

France will hit back at IS. Will its allies join a bigger fight?

by George Petrolekas

The Globe and Mail
November 14, 2015

There are tipping points in global affairs that can completely alter trajectories of countries, creating entirely new priorities in their wake. Friday night’s attacks in Paris, which defy any suitable adjective to describe them, are such an inflexion point.

French President François Hollande has called these attacks an “act of war”, as information emerging Saturday indicates that these were not just attacks of a radicalized lone wolf group inside France, but bear all the hallmarks of a planned and directed attack. Coming on the heels of the suspected bombing of a Russian airliner over the Sinai, and this week’s bombing in Beirut, the attack on Paris is, by all indication, a systemic attack by the Islamic State. So, now what?

With Mr. Hollande's promise to mercilessly pursue IS - and not just the conspirators - one can expect France to dramatically increase its contribution of fighter aircraft and special forces to the coalition in the immediate days ahead. As in Mali three years ago, France has demonstrated it can react quickly when it must.

France can do this alone, but to maintain an increased intensity Mr. Hollande will almost certainly use every diplomatic lever he has to pressure friends to stand with France. It isn’t quite like the earlier U.S. ‘if you aren’t with us, you are against us’, but in this hour of national shock France will look down on any dithering. France’s closest friends and geographic neighbours, many of whom have experienced their own issues with IS-inspired terror - the Belgians, the Dutch - will most certainly support this view and effort. Canada’s expected pullout from Iraq and Syria will certainly be questioned.

So, as the months progress, expect a more holistic response: France will use every means at its disposal to galvanize an international response; intelligence sharing; border controls - especially in frontline states; financial tracking; and coordinated special forces actions.

Any ambivalence about hitting IS in Syria has now disappeared and we can expect a highly intensified bombing campaign. It will be broader in scope - attacking economic targets, and IS lines of communication - with less concern about collateral damage that has so far limited the allied air campaign.

There will no doubt be discussions at NATO with respect to invoking Article 5, the clause that signifies that an attack against one is an attack against all. The precedent is Sept. 11, which led to the eventual invasion of Afghanistan. If NATO does not act as an alliance, a newly invigorated coalition is a certainty.

The attack on Paris will now become the catalyst for serious discussions about the establishment of a ground force to attack IS in its heartland. The objections to no western boots on the ground vanished Friday night, as did questions of “what would come after IS”, or the proverbial end state and exit strategies. What matters now, to the French at least, is that the very existence of IS leads to attacks, radicalization and the flow of fighters to the extremist group; extinguish that flame and the moths stop coming to it.

As a corollary, any discussion of President Bashar al-Assad as a point of contention in the wider Syrian issue has been taken off the table and, paradoxically, added credence to Russia’s views. IS is a terror state that must be viewed separately from other events in Syria. The initial statements by both Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin point to that idea.

At the start of the attacks, with sounds of bombs and gunfire in the background, Frenchmen at the Stade de France broke into a spontaneous singing of the Marseillaise. No one should underestimate Gallic pride, strength and conviction at this juncture. Aux armes, citoyens.

World leaders are discovering again that governing isn't all about what you wished to do, but what you end up being forced to do; not by choice, but of necessity.

George Petrolekas has served in Bosnia and Afghanistan and has been an adviser to senior NATO commanders.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Canada's State of Trade: Getting Our Goods To Market

May 17, 2018

On today's Global Exchange Podcast, we continue our series on the state of Canadian trade in a world of growing populism and protectionism. Today's episode, recorded during our February 13th State of Trade conference in Ottawa, features Bruce Borrows, Jennifer Fox, and David Miller in conversation with the Wilson Center's Laura Dawson about getting Canadian goods to international markets.


Between Trump, Iran and North Korea, Canada’s G7 has a high potential for chaos

by Chris Hall (feat. James Trottier & Colin Robertson), CBC News, May 18, 2018

The struggle Trudeau could face if Kinder Morgan walks away from Trans Mountain

by Robert Tuttle & Michael Bellusci (feat. Dennis McConaghy), Bloomberg News, May 18, 2018

Canada 'a laughing stock': Experts react to Trans Mountain indemnity

by April Fong (feat. Dennis McConaghy), BNN Bloomberg, May 18, 2018


with Danielle Smith (feat. Sarah Goldfeder), Global News Radio, May 18, 2018

VIDEO: NAFTA Deadline Day (@ 3:00)

with Don Martin (feat. John Weekes), CTV Power Play, May 17, 2018

VIDEO: Deal or no deal on NAFTA: Canada and U.S. send mixed messages

with Rosemary Barton (feat. Colin Robertson), CBC The National, May 17, 2018

Trump’s 'submission' strategy is not working so expect NAFTA talks to drag on

by Kevin Carmichael (Feat. Eric Miller), Financial Post, May 17, 2018

Backstop deal may be last hope for TransMountain pipeline, says former oil executive

by CBC News (feat. Dennis McConaghy), CBC News, May 17, 2018

Stuck with limited oil export options, Liberals may regret B.C. tanker ban

by John Ivison (feat. Dennis McConaghy), National Post, May 17, 2018

Feds OK early start to construction of navy’s new supply ships

by Lee Berthiaume (feat. Dave Perry), The Canadian Press, May 17, 2018


Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Suite 1800, 421-7th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2P 4K9


Canadian Global Affairs Institute
8 York Street, 2nd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1N 5S6


Phone: (613) 288-2529


Making sense of our complex world.
Déchiffrer la complexité de notre monde.


© 2002-2018 Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Charitable Registration No. 87982 7913 RR0001


Sign in with Facebook | Sign in with Twitter | Sign in with Email