Radical Islamists attacked the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris on January 7, killing 12 people to punish them for publishing cartoons denigrating the Prophet Muhammad. The bloody terrorist attack naturally raised several questions regarding the aftermath stance of France towards the Muslim world. Some claimed that January 7 is likely to turn out to be France's 9/11 which along with the thousands killed in the US, lead to a retaliation causing massive bloodshed in the Middle East, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq. Although there are signs that the Paris massacres will be used to fan the growing animosity against Muslims in Europe, as shown by attacks against Muslim places of worship and businesses, I do not believe these emotional responses will have an impact upon the French government’s foreign policy preferences. In other words, it would be extremely unrealistic to expect President Holland to declare the French version of the ‘Bush Declaration’.

To understand why France’s response to this crisis will be different than that of the US, one needs to embark on a journey to Cold War times in which a transitional rift in terms of culture, values and ideology between the US and EU occurred. During the Cold War, the role of the European Union/EEC was two-fold. The first one was to be the United States’ unconditional partner by providing military and economic support to contain the Soviet Union. The second, was to carry out regional governance duties based on integration, which later turned out to be a great success story. Yet, towards the end of the 1970s, the EU began to break the shell, thus its cliché role has been thrown into doubt. It had shifted from being a junior US to more of a civilian power by civilizing its international relations both within and between the states. This rift hit its peak in the aftermath of 9/11 when French president Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Schröder jointly declared that Paris and Berlin would work together to oppose the Bush Administration’s explicit intent to resolve the Iraqi question by force of arms. The 9/11 attacks and Bush Doctrine were in fact just stating the obvious. The radicalization process of American foreign policy has been brought into light and the US dramatically ended up as a hard power, while the EU has taken over the role of promoting values that were traditionally embraced and distributed by US.

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The very fundamental differences between America and Europe towards the so-called War on terrorism are the major reasons why France will not to its response to the January 7 attacks into a post-9/11 situation. According to the American approach, attacking the disease and hitting at its symptoms is possible only with military force. The European approach, on the other hand is to aim draining the swamp—illiteracy, poverty, underdevelopment--- in which terrorism is born and gains strength. I am not defending any of those approaches here as it is beside the point. Rather, what’s important to focus on is the reasoning behind the diversity of approaches towards terrorism. Europe’s soft power predisposition seems to be an obligation rather than a choice and a natural consequence of military weakness. For example, the $619 billion military expenditure in the US nearly outpaced the combined spending of every other country on the list in 2013 while France spent nearly $65 billion.


In other words, France does not stand a chance in turning a US-like power. And, French authorities are likely to stretch their arms no further than their sleeves will reach. Otherwise, declaring a world-wide war against terrorism would put France at odds with the US, because the war-against-terrorism role belongs to US and it surely would not share its role with a European country. Turning January 7 into a 9/11 would mean France would unavoidably challenge America' authority. External balancing is extremely difficult in a unipolar world [considering the international structure as unipolar one] especially against the US -- that is the closest thing to a unipole we have ever seen in centuries. Even China, despite its $190 billion military expenditure, is still willing to continue maintaining a peaceful international environment by soft balancing America’s overwhelming power.

The bloody terrorist attacks in Paris have already left their mark in history and engraved in millions of people’s memories. Yet, it simply won’t/can’t bring any major change to French foreign policy.
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