Europe is sliding towards the abyss, and the terrorists know it

Thursday, November 19, 2015
By Paul Martin

The terrorists have struck just as Europe is at its most vulnerable – economically as well as politically

By Jeremy Warner
TelegraphUK
17 Nov 2015

Terrorism is defined by the US State Department as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience”. The atrocities in Paris at the weekend conform to every one of those characteristics.

All terrorist acts also have the same purpose – to trigger a response and to spread fear. The first of these reactions is already well under way, not just in France – which is scrapping compliance with the European Union’s fiscal compact so as to step up spending on security and defence – but across Europe, Russia and even the US. More concerted international and military action to eradicate Isil now seems highly likely. Politically and fiscally, security has overnight become the number one priority.

Even in Britain, where the Government is about to announce deep departmental spending cuts, there is all of a sudden no shortage of money for combating cyber terrorism. Spending on the police has been cut by 14pc in real terms in England and Wales over the past five years. These cuts may now have to be reversed, with more bobbies on the beat. The same will also be true of the military, where £2bn of extra spending on special forces, drones and fighter aircraft has already been pledged. The Chancellor’s fiscal consolidation plan may soon be unravelling before his eyes.

The second objective – fear – is a much harder thing to measure, at least in terms of economic impact. In a 2011 study, the US economists Gary Becker and Yona Rubinstein found that the fear factor will generally have behavioural effects out of all proportion to the likelihood of actually being caught up in such an event.

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