BERLIN — It was supposed to sound aggressive when Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French citizens after the terrorist attacks in Paris that the country would henceforth be in a state of "war."
President François Hollande too addressed the nation in these terms. On the only aircraft carrier France possesses, he announced that the army would be taking more energetic steps against the ISIS terror group. After what Paris experienced, strong words are needed to give citizens confidence.
The state is a bit like religion — it only works if people believe in it. It's the job of government to strengthen that belief. But the question remains: Is "war" the right word? And if it is the right expression, what's the follow-up? Does Hollande seriously believe that he can win the war against terror with a single aging aircraft carrier?
According to Carl von Clausewitz, war is nothing more than an "extended fight between two foes," an "act of violence to force the opponent to our will." Is that possible in this conflict? And where is the enemy, anyway?
Can we really speak of a fight between two foes here? Aren't there actually several opponents, from the warrior in open combat in Iraq to the lone wolf who attacks a synagogue and the radical mufti in the suburban mosque? Is the enemy to be conquered militarily, via secret services, or by civil society? There are questions on questions. They all point to the fact that using the term "war" isn't very helpful.
The West is currently fighting Islamic extremism in four ways: militarily; through the secret services; via the police; and by society. The word "war" is best suited to the military endeavors. The effort is being led not by Europeans, but by the Americans, trying to drive back ISIS in Syria and Iraq with air offensives.
Regardless of whether France increases the number of its fighter planes above the 15 already in use, or whether Berlin delivers more anti-tank weapons to the Kurds or sinks them in the Elbe river, the course of this fighting doesn't depend on Europe. Europe's battlefield is elsewhere.
Since 9/11, the police and the secret services have made significant progress. They may not have stopped all attacks, but they have stopped many. Thanks to new laws and bigger budgets, not to mention the help of the CIA and the NSA, the achievements of European intelligence agencies are palpable. But it's difficult for them to monitor the suspected 5,000 EU citizens who have joined the jihad in Syria or who have returned to Europe armed and with the knowledge of how to bypass listening devices.
Interpol HQ in Lyon, France — Photo: Massimiliano Mariani
We can assume that Europe's security officials know how to equip themselves to meet the new contingencies. Germany's speedy decision to confiscate the passports of jihadists with a yearn for travel is a case in point, as is the safety upgrading of the French secret services by the Élysée.
We have to expect further bloody attacks. But who seriously believes that the difficulties can't be remedied? The field of secret service work is not fraught with such insurmountable problems that it must take on a whole new, warlike character.
That leaves the variety of dangers that exist within society, the parallel society that can hardly be overlooked and yet is criminally neglected in France and elsewhere in Europe, where governments, under the banner of political correctness, have opted against any kind of open engagement.
The effect of this neglect doesn't necessarily need to lead to terrorism. But it does strengthen the tendency among some to see open society as weak. It heightens the desire of young hotheads, mostly Arab ones, to put everything into question step by step.
Whether it is the French idea that their society is so homogenous that integration was superfluous, or the German mix of indifference and a certain pleasure in the more exotic aspects of multiculturalism, the result was always the same: gloomy and depressing.
Despite a few corrections, little has happened to address these shortcomings. It was only in 2014 that something came out what had taken place in Rotherham, in Britain. Over the years, 1,400 young women had been raped by men of Muslim Pakistani descent. While the social workers had reported on the acts and the perpetrators, the authorities had suppressed the report out of fear they could be accused of being racists if they were to divulge the ethnicity of the rapists.
In France, things are a bit similar with young Africans. After the riots in the suburbs in 2005, so little happened by way of gathering in the increasingly alienated young Africans that in many schools, second and third generation young people disrupted the minutes of silence for the Paris murder victims or even called for memorial services to be held for the murderers.
And in Germany, there is a general tendency to discuss these problems from every side but to disparage as racist anyone who expresses too forthright an opinion. The difficulties are not going to be solved this way. They're just being made worse.
It is time to start implementing the New York strategy of zero tolerance in the fight against radical Islam and against causes that call civil society into question. The fight begins in the schools — and not only in the French ones. It doesn't end in the realm of religion. The weapon of choice on this battlefield is relentless openness. Sadly, people have yet to brandish it.
With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.
CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.
Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.
It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.
Abundant sunshine, low temperatures
The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.
Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.
It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.
Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park
Chinese want to expand
The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.
The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.
The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.
The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.
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