French President François Hollande has vowed to avenge the November 13 jihadist attacks in Paris that left more than 120 dead and 350 injured.
Speaking from the Élysée Palace, Hollande blamed the Islamic State for the attacks, which he called an "act of war." He said the response from France would be "unforgiving" and "merciless."
Despite the tough rhetoric, however, the question remains: Does Hollande understand the true nature of the war he faces?
Hollande pointedly referred to the Islamic State as "Daesh," the acronym of the group's full Arabic name, which in English translates as "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," or "ISIL."
The official policy of the French government is to avoid using the term "Islamic State" because, according to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, it "blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims and Islamists."
Critics of the policy say "Daesh" is a politically correct linguistic device that allows Western leaders to claim that the Islamic State is not Islamic -- and thus ignore the root cause of Islamic terror and militant jihad.
Islamic ideology divides the world into two spheres: the House of Islam and the House of War. The House of War (the non-Muslim world) is subject to permanent jihad until it is made part of the House of Islam, where Sharia is the law of the land.
Jihad -- the perpetual struggle to expand Muslim domination throughout the world with the ultimate aim of bringing all of humanity under submission to the will of Allah -- is the primary objective of true Islam, as unambiguously outlined in its foundational documents.
Consequently, even if the Islamic State were to be bombed into oblivion, France and the rest of the non-Muslim world will continue to be the target of Islamic supremacists. The West cannot defeat Islamic terrorism by attempting to conceptually delink it from true Islam. But still they try.
After the January 2015 jihadist attacks on the Paris offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead, President Hollande declared:
"We must reject facile thinking and eschew exaggeration. Those who committed these terrorist acts, those terrorists, those fanatics, have nothing to do with the Muslim religion."
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said: "We are in a war against terrorism. We are not in a war against religion, against a civilization." Again, he said: "We are at war with terrorism, jihadism and radicalism. France is not at war against Islam and Muslims."
At a June conference with more than 100 leaders of the French Muslim community, Valls denied there is any link between extremism and Islam. He also refused to raise the issue of radicalization because the topic was "too sensitive." Instead, he said:
"Islam still provokes misunderstandings, prejudices and is rejected by some citizens. Yet Islam is here to stay in France. It is the second largest religious group in our country.
"We must say all of this is not Islam: The hate speech, anti-Semitism that hides behind anti-Zionism and hate for Israel, the self-proclaimed imams in our neighborhoods and our prisons who are promoting violence and terrorism."
France is home to around 6.5 million Muslims, or roughly 10% of the country's total population of 66 million. Although most Muslims in France live peacefully, many are drawn to radical Islam. A CSA poll found that 22% of Muslims in the country consider themselves Muslim first and French second. Nearly one out of five (17%) Muslims in France believe that Sharia law should be fully applied in France, while 37% believe that parts of Sharia should be applied in the country.
France is also one of the largest European sources of so-called foreign fighters in Syria: More than 1,500 French Muslims have joined the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and many more are believed to be supporters of the group in France.
Since the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the French government has introduced a raft of new counter-terrorism measures -- including sweeping surveillance powers to eavesdrop on the public -- aimed at preventing further jihadist attacks.
As the latest attacks in Paris (as well as the failed attack on a high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris in August) show, surveillance is not foolproof. Claude Moniquet, a former French intelligence operative, warns that European intelligence agencies are overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who may pose a threat. He writes:
"Some 6,000 Europeans are or were involved in the fighting in Syria (they went there, they were killed in action, they are still in IS camps, they are on their way there or their way back.)
"If you have 6,000 'active' jihadists, this probably means that if you try to count those who were not identified, the logistics people who help them join up, their sympathizers and the most radical extremists who are not yet involved in violence but are on the verge of it, you have something between 10,000 and 20,000 'dangerous' people in Europe.
"To carry out 'normal' surveillance on a suspect on a permanent basis, you need 20 to 30 agents and a dozen vehicles. And these are just the requirements for a 'quiet' target.
"If the suspect travels abroad, for instance, the figure could go up to 50 or 80 agents and necessitate co-operation between the services of various countries. Work it out: to keep watch on all the potential suspects, you'd need between 120,000 and 500,000 agents throughout Europe. Mission impossible!"
Meanwhile, French leaders consistently act in ways that undermine their stated goal of eradicating Islamic terror.
The French government has been one of the leading European proponents of the nuclear deal with Iran, the world's biggest state sponsor of terrorism. Although Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah, are responsible for deaths of scores of French citizens, Fabius wasted no time in rushing to Tehran in search of business opportunities for French companies. In July, Fabius proclaimed:
"We are two great independent countries, two great civilizations. It is true that in recent years, for reasons that everyone knows, links have loosened, but now thanks to the nuclear deal, things are going to change."
Fabius also extended an invitation for Iran's President, Hassan Rouhani, to visit France in November. This trip -- which has been mired in controversy, not over terrorism or nuclear proliferation, but over Iran's demand that no wine be served during a formal dinner at the Élysée Palace -- was postponed indefinitely after the Paris attacks. Hollande's advisors apparently concluded that this is not the right moment for a photo-op with Rouhani, a career terrorist.
French leaders have also been consistently antagonistic toward Israel, a country facing Islamic terror on a daily basis.
After Israel launched a military offensive aimed at stopping Islamic terror groups in the Gaza Strip from launching missiles into the Jewish state, France led international calls for Israel to halt the operation. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said:
"France calls for an immediate ceasefire... to ensure that every side starts talking to each other to avoid an escalation that would be tragic for this part of the world."
More recently, France has been a leading European advocate of a European Union policy that now requires Israel to label products "originating in Israeli settlements beyond Israel's 1967 borders." The move is widely seen as part of an international campaign to delegitimize the State of Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the move:
"The labelling of products of the Jewish state by the European Union brings back dark memories. Europe should be ashamed of itself. It took an immoral decision... this will not advance peace, it will certainly not advance truth and justice. It is wrong."
France is also leading international diplomatic efforts to push for a United Nations resolution that would lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within a period of two years. The move effectively whitewashes Palestinian terror. Netanyahu responded:
"The only way to reach an agreement is through bilateral negotiations, and we will forcibly reject any attempts to force upon us international dictates.
"In the international proposals that have been suggested to us -- which they are actually trying to force upon us -- there is no real reference to Israel's security needs or our other national interests.
"They are simply trying to push us into indefensible borders while completely ignoring what will happen on the other side of the border."
Meanwhile, after more than a year as a member of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State, French officials waited until late September to begin striking targets in Syria. But they refused to destroy the headquarters of the Islamic State in Raqqa -- where the Paris attacks were reportedly planned.
Back in France, critics of Islam are routinely harassed with strategic lawsuits that seek to censor, intimidate and silence them.
In a recent case, Sébastien Jallamion, a 43-year-old policeman from Lyon, was suspended from his job and fined 5,000 euros after he condemned the death of Frenchman Hervé Gourdel, who was beheaded by jihadists in Algeria in September 2014. Jallamion explained:
"According to the administrative decree that was sent to me today, I am accused of having created an anonymous Facebook page in September 2014, showing several 'provocative' images and commentaries, 'discriminatory and injurious,' of a 'xenophobic or anti-Muslim' nature. As an example, there was that portrait of the Calif al-Baghdadi, head of the Islamic State, with a visor on his forehead. This publication was exhibited during my appearance before the discipline committee with the following accusation: 'Are you not ashamed of stigmatizing an imam in this way?' My lawyer can confirm this... It looks like a political punishment. I cannot see any other explanation.
"Our fundamental values, those for which many of our ancestors gave their life are deteriorating, and that it is time for us to become indignant over what our country is turning into. This is not France, land of Enlightenment that in its day shone over all of Europe and beyond. We must fight to preserve our values, it's a matter of survival."
Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's Front National (FN) and one of the most popular politicians in the country, went on trial in October 2015 for comparing Muslim street prayers to the wartime occupation of France. At a campaign rally in Lyon in 2010, she said:
"I'm sorry, but for those who really like to talk about World War II, if we're talking about an occupation, we could talk about the [street prayers], because that is clearly an occupation of territory.
"It is an occupation of sections of the territory, of neighborhoods in which religious law applies -- it is an occupation. There are no tanks, there are no soldiers, but it is an occupation nevertheless, and it weighs on people."
Le Pen said she was a victim of "judicial persecution" and added:
"It is a scandal that a political leader can be sued for expressing her beliefs. Those who denounce the illegal behavior of fundamentalists are more likely to be sued than the fundamentalists who behave illegally."
Responding to the jihadist attacks in Paris, Le Pen said:
"France and the French are no longer safe. It is my duty to tell you. Urgent action is needed.
"France must finally identify her allies and her enemies. Her enemies are those countries that have friendly relationships with radical Islam, and also those countries that have an ambiguous attitude toward terrorist enterprises.
"Regardless of what the European Union says, it is essential that France regain permanent control over its borders.
"France has been rendered vulnerable; it must rearm, because for too long it has undergone a programmed collapse of its defensive capabilities in the face of predictable and growing threats. It must restore its military resources, police, gendarmerie, intelligence and customs. The State must be able to ensure again its vital mission of protecting the French.
"Finally, Islamist fundamentalism must be annihilated. France must ban Islamist organizations, close radical mosques and expel foreigners who preach hatred in our country as well as illegal migrants who have nothing to do here. As for dual nationals who are participating in these Islamist movements, they must be stripped of their French nationality and deported."
In the aftermath of the attacks, Le Pen, who has long been critical of President Hollande's politically correct counter-terrorism policies, is certain to rise in public opinion polls. This will increase the political pressure on the government to take decisive action against the jihadists.
Faced with similar pressure after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, Hollande seemed reluctant to push too far, apparently fearful of the consequences of confronting the Muslim community in France. It remains to be seen whether the latest attacks in Paris, which some are describing as France's September 11, mark a turning point.
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter. His first book, Global Fire, will be out in early 2016.