Letters from Paris: Hope and imagination, our best weapons to defeat Daesh

November 25, 2015 OPINION/NEWS


Franck Guillory

Let’s not get this wrong… This war, forced upon us by the jihadist barbarians from Daesh, this defensive war – defensive war because we, France, the French citizens and the whole civilized world, are under attack – doesn’t look and won’t look as any war we’ve had to lead so far.

Let’s not get this wrong… The outcome of this war will not only be determined by airstrikes or eventually military interventions on the ground, in Syria, Iraq or anywhere else where the roots of this evil could be hidden.

Let’s not get this wrong…  This war is an unprecedented challenge for all of us, from Paris and London to Beirut, from Ankara to Tunis, and everywhere where civilization stands. An unprecedented challenge because in this war, an asymmetrical conflict, the supposed weakest of the two – the Barbarians – have developed a highly sophisticated strategy.

Our defeat, if we were ultimately to be defeated, will not be the end result of any invasion by waves of foreign legions. But our defeat could be caused by our incapacity, individual and collective, to stand firm, to remain what we are, to preserve our spirit and our values, everything that characterises our societies, our civilization, THE civilization, be it not an entirely perfect one.

Daesh’s barbarians best bets are on our self-destruction, our economic and financial collapse under the price of our war effort. Daesh’s barbarians best bets are on our political, social and moral collapse, if, paralyzed by fear, blinded by hatred, we were to turn our back to our fundamental values and embrace another form of radical extremism, a deadly one too.

To ultimately win, Daesh’s barbarians can only hope for our loss through a civil war, an undeniably potential fatal scenario.

United we must stand on our values, these values which define our republican model, « Liberté, égalité, fraternité ». But already, despite the presidential call for national unity, and the solidarity officially shown by most on the political spectrum, this model is put under immense pressure. And there’s a serious risk – there’s no point denying it – that political calculations end up prevailing to serve ambitions of one or another. National unity doesn’t mean no more debate or no more elections.

So, what is to be done?

It would be very pretentious to pretend to offer the perfect solution, but some directions already appear obvious…

First, we must clearly understand what we are faced with, what is at stake. We must not shy away from using the correct words – “a war”, “an enemy” – and realise that there would be no chance of winning without a complete mobilization of our entire society and very values that have made us what we fundamentally are.

Doing so, we must still carry on working, going out, loving, living, breathing… and we must not be scared to be scared, as often fear is a good advisor…

Meanwhile, we must underestimate our enemy. If we call them “barbarians” – and that’s how I call them –  we must realize that these barbarians are highly sophisticated barbarians. Not onlyhave they collected enormous financial resources, not only have they collected enormous military resources, not only have they masterminded the use of all the latest technological tools, they also have an intimate knowledge and understanding of who we are, what are our assets and our weaknesses. These barbarians are “barbarians 2.0 or 3.0” and we must, all of us, collectively and individually, study to understand them in turn.

This tragedy and the gathering storm could be a fantastic opportunity for us to get together and imagine new positive challenges and adventures that would allow us to defeat the beast but also reinvent ourselves afterwards. We will not get out of this unchanged, we will get out of this stronger and invigorated, individually and collectively.

That’s why we don’t just need a war leader – this one or any other one. We need leaders of hope and imagination so that we can, starting now, invent a tomorrow free from all that concur to the emerging and propagation of a new barbarity for a new century.






Franck Guillory

Born in 1972, Franck Guillory has been a journalist for over 15 years and is currently Editor in Chief for L’etat d’esprit, a Paris based online magazine. In London from 2002, he participated in the production and implementation of factual documentaries for several UK networks and comment on the French and European news for BBC News 24 information channels and Sky News. Back in Paris in 2008, he joined the writing of France 24 where he served as managing editor functions on French and English channels.


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