AFTER THE WAVE OF TERRORIST BOMBING in the streets of Paris in early September, the French government instituted visa requirements, for a six-month trial period, for foreign visitors not from European Community countries and Switzerland. These measures have created chaos at French consulates around the world and considerable inconvenience for millions of foreign residents in France.
Unable to get their hands on the perpetrators of the bombing campaign, Prime Minister Jacques Chirac's government has sought to sooth public opinion by harsh verbal threats against nations allegedly abetting terrorism and by applying measures, like the visa requirements, that most observers believe to be without practical effect in the fight against terrorism. "The terrorist network does not rely on visas to get its agents and material into France, noted a Western diplomat in Paris with a touch of irony in his voice. "In any case," he added, "the network is still in place and they have a large enough stock of explosives to further embarrass the French."The French government suspects certain Middle Eastern countries, particularly Syria and Iran, of being central factors in the recent spate of bombings. Their goal, one suspects, is to modify French policy in the Middle East. In particular, they would like France to withdraw its troops from United Nations forces in southern Lebanon and reduce the amount of modern weapons systems it is selling to Iraq. Prime Minister Chirac has made public declarations suggesting that if his government obtained proof that foreign powers were behind the terrorist action they would be punished. Yet at the same time, sources in France suggest that he discreetly has been negotiating with Syria and Iran to calm the Lebanese operatives thought to be directly responsible for planting the bombs.
If true, this resembles the French "appeasement" policy of the early 1980s when the government reportedly worked out a modus vivendi with Middle Eastern terrorist groups stipulating that they could use French territory with impunity so long as no attacks took place on French soil. This short-sighted approach has backfired on France, as its current policy might again do. It has been reported in the French press, for example, that France was trying to mobilize other West European countries, particularly West Germany, into lending Syria $1 billion.
One could make a strong case that the real terrorists of France are those who perpetuate policies of appeasement that have permitted terrorists to operate throughout Europe and now France.