Americans are still waiting for a border wall, but France is set to get a wall of their own by the end of the year.
Unlike the American iteration, this barrier won’t be erected on the French border. It’s set to surround the Eiffel Tower to shield it from terrorist attacks.
Last month, the Paris city council approved a $20 million bulletproof glass wall, just over 8 feet high, that will surround the iconic tower.
In a country proudly obsessed with art and beauty, this will be an obnoxious eyesore and a reminder that war and violence is just a breath away in the seemingly pacific city of romance.
Paris, like so many other European cities, has become ground zero for relentless terrorist attacks by Islamists.
I recently had the opportunity to visit France as a tourist, and enjoyed it immensely. The food was amazing (of course), and the service surprisingly friendly.
Perhaps this is because the country has been inundated by terrorist attacks and the people are just happy that tourists still decide to show up. A recent report showed that the tourism industry in Paris suffered a stunning $750 million drop and a decline of about a million visitors from 2015 to 2016.
The heightened level of security struck me as I traveled through the northern part of the country, especially when I was in Paris. The City of Lights is now constantly patrolled by men in military uniforms with rifles at the ready.
When I visited the Hôtel National des Invalides, a national military history museum, a soldier with rifle drawn sifted through my belongings at the gate to make sure I didn’t have anything suspicious.
These are scenes that, fortunately, are still quite uncommon in the United States.
While Americans have become exasperatingly used to heightened security at airports and public events—where the Transportation Security Administration obnoxiously shakes down grandmas looking for bombs—we still haven’t been subjected to a constant military presence on this level.
But who is to say it isn’t necessary at this point? The soldiers in France, while unnerving, at least demonstrate that force will be met with force.
Since the massive 2015 terrorist attack in Paris that took the lives of over 200 people and injured countless more, there have been numerous other incidents and arrests.
In the past few months alone, there have been attacks at the Louvre, Notre-Dame, and Champs-Élysées. The most recent attempted attack took place at Champs-Élysées, in which a van loaded with an AK-47 rifle, handguns, and a glass bottle rammed a police van.
Fortunately, that attack was stopped before any innocent people could be killed. The attacker, who was killed by police, had been on a terrorist watch list.
This occurred just days after I strolled down the famous avenue. It was strange to think that as I walked the path of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Charles de Gaulle, and the liberating armies of World War II, Islamists were targeting it for a bloodbath.
As France grapples with this constant, exhausting, and unnerving menace, it may serve as a warning to Americans, who fear that these same problems will reach our country.
It’s why President Donald Trump’s message of “extreme vetting” of immigrants and travelers to the U.S. has resonated with voters.
At a congressional hearing on Tuesday, Robin Simcox, a Heritage Foundation expert who specializes in terrorism and national security, broke down the numbers of the rising wave of terrorist plots not only in France, but throughout Europe.
The numbers have risen with the creation of the Islamic State in the Middle East.
“At least 5,000 to 6,000 Europeans who have fought alongside ISIS and other Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq are now returning to their home countries,” Simcox said.
Outsiders and homegrown radicals have stepped up their attacks in the last few years, a trend unlikely to abate. Many countries, such as Germany, have experienced an explosion of incidents.
“There was an eightfold increase in [terrorist] plots [in Germany] between 2015 and 2016, largely due to a surge in plots involving refugees,” Simcox said. “In fact, Germany faced more plots last year than it did in the entire 2000-2015 period.”
So, what can be done to ensure this menace doesn’t continue to grow and destroy our way of life?
Simcox offered a variety of strategies to combat it, which he highlighted in his paper, “The Threat of Islamist Terrorism in Europe and How the U.S. Should Respond.”
Some of the most important takeaways center on intelligence sharing between countries, breaking the military power of the Islamic State, and importantly, being mindful of the fact that we are at war with the Islamist ideology and are not just fighting military battles.
This is a war of hearts and minds, not just tanks and bombs. As Trump’s adviser on national security, Sebastian Gorka, said:
We will have won when the black flag of jihad, when the black flag of ISIS, is as repugnant across the world as the white peaked hood of the Ku Klux Klan and the black, white, and red swastika of Hitler’s Third Reich.
It is also important to look at examples of success in countries where counterterrorism methods seem to be effective.
While simple good fortune can’t entirely be ruled out, Italy has used methods—developed in the 1970s to counter the mafia—to monitor suspicious activity and foil plots before they happen.
These methods, too, raise questions regarding how far the West is willing to go to curtail civil liberties to counter the scourge. It is a good reminder that it is often best to solve these issues before they reach our shores.
This struck me as I toured the D-Day landing grounds in northern France. The beaches are hallowed ground, and serve as monuments to the bravery of the Allied forces who liberated a continent.
Yet they demonstrate how a festering, uncontrolled evil left unchecked often leaves a burden of sacrifice far greater in its wake. Tens of thousands, indeed hundreds of thousands of young Americans were killed to free a world of Nazi tyranny.
Our own generation is faced with a new evil that threatens our way of life. In Europe, that peril is fast becoming a mundane reality. We have a duty to ourselves and future generations to reverse that trend.