Niall Ferguson: How a Terror Attack Saved French President Nicolas Sarkozy

Roundup: Historians' Take

Niall Ferguson is a professor of history at Harvard University. He is also a senior research fellow at Jesus College, Oxford University, and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His Latest book, Civilization: The West and the Rest, has just been published by Penguin Press.

Has Mohamed Merah saved Nicolas Sarkozy? It is, of course, a tasteless question. The cold-blooded killings of three French paratroopers were vile enough; but what Merah did at Toulouse’s Ozar Hatorah Jewish school–where he murdered Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his two young sons Gabriel and Arieh, and a seven-year-old pupil named Myriam Monsonego–surely lies beyond the realm of political calculation.
I cannot bear to picture in my mind how he chased that defenseless little girl, grabbed her by the hair, switched weapons when his pistol jammed, and then shot her in the head. That he filmed this act of savagery turns my stomach.
Yet after the horror we must consider the consequences. For the possibility cannot be ignored that a killing spree by an Islamist terrorist may decide the outcome of the French presidential election...

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