Dr Gilbert Ramsay, a lecturer in International Relations at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St Andrews University, analyses last week’s terror attacks in Paris:
Shocking as were Friday’s attacks in Paris it is hard not to sense a grim inevitability about them.
IS the organisation that calls itself Islamic State had previously shown limited tactical interest in launching attacks outside the Muslim world.
But few doubted it had the means or the motivation to do so were its priorities to change.
The attacks in Paris bring to Europe well-established methods of attack elsewhere in the world. They resemble the combined shootings and bombings in Mumbai in 2008, the gun massacres and massive bombings the radical Al-Shabab movement has used to punish Kenya for its involvement in Somalia, and of course the brutal massacres that have now become a routine occurrence in parts of Iraq and Syria.
It might sound bizarre perhaps even callous to look for a bright side in such appalling and seemingly senseless carnage, but there is one.
IS’s reluctance to launch a centrally planned and officially recognised campaign of attacks outside what it considers its home territory is most likely a sign of desperation.
Over-optimistic predictions of IS’s demise and decline have now been made so many times that they have come to be treated with cynicism.
‘Baqiya wa tatamaddad’ is IS’s motto: ‘it remains and expands’.
And so far, it has been able to make good on that promise. But the problem for IS is precisely that it has staked its reputation not just on offensive capacity, but on its ability to endure.
Recent IS propaganda has tended to move away from the sensational shock-and-gore cinema that once characterised it, in favour of movies showing gleaming hospitals and prosperous agricultural products of which Stalin might have been proud.
And yet, militarily, unless it can continue to inflict devastating, lightning-fast reversals on its enemies, time is not on its side.
If its enemies can also endure then, little by little, they will grind it down.
For IS, losing to local militias is the worst possible outcome.
Ideologically, it has promised its thrilled followers an epic, apocalyptic showdown with the ‘crusader’ forces of ‘Rome’, an end to the ‘greyzone’ that will shatter any possibility of multicultural inclusivity and tolerance in West or East.
Practically, its inner cadres probably hope for a more modest chance to build a new totalitarian state on the model of Saddam’s Iraq with religious trappings.
To achieve either, it needs a game changer.
Let’s hope that the governments and people of the democratic world are not suckered into playing IS’s game.