November 06, 2005

France: A Time of Troubles

We might say that the vandalism, mayhem and car-torching that have wreaked havoc through the Parisian suburbs over the past ten nights, increasingly spreading to other regions, penetrating the very central 3rd and 17th arrondisments Saturday night (and reportedly tonight resulting in some ten police officers being wounded), represent something of an apogee for a 'time of troubles' that has afflicted France of late. The list is long, but a hastily put together incomplete one would have to include the stunning popular defeat of the European Constitution (by the very country most closely associated with spearheading European unification since the time of Jean Monnet), the painful loss of the 2012 Olympic Games to London, Chirac's geopolitically inept and disingenuous ginning up of a rift with the U.S. (mostly as transparent ploy to buttress his sagging popularity via faux and pitiable neo-Gaullist swagger--rather than as a result of true conviction, that is, beyond being enamored with a quite putrid, Pasqua-esque status quo), the now even more apparent alienation of disaffected youth grappling with high unemployment, endemic racism and feelings of 'otherness'--all these bad tidings have now culminated in a very dramatic break-down of basic law and order through significant swaths of France. No, the Bastille is not about to be stormed, and if you're staying at the Crillon for a spot of shopping off the Place de la Concorde you can still rest (somewhat?) easy--but one certainly surmises that long simmering frustrations have now reached the proverbial boiling point. Having taken in a good deal of the French press this Sunday--I sense that there is a genuine sense of crisis and helplessness and demoralization at the current hour through the French polity.

Why? Perhaps more than anything, even more than the violence itself, because there are simply no leaders to speak of on the scene who might, just perhaps, provide real confidence that the situation is under control, save perhaps Sarkozy (of which more below). President Jacques Chirac has been largely silent, until this Sunday night, when he belatedly convened his internal security council. After said meeting, he issued the following terse statement: "la priorité est le rétablissement de la sécurité et de l'ordre public" ("the priority is the re-establishment of security and public order"). To which one might react, not unfairly, with a resounding DUH! French Prime Minister de Villepin, meantime, is busily announcing that new plans are in the offing (swell!), when he's not in 'consultations' with religious eminences and disgruntled delegations of youth groups who come calling at Matignon. Meantime, the Socialist Party is complaining that Chirac has been asleep at the switch (Katrina-esque echoes, to be sure), but has itself nary a solution in sight (save fantasies about somehow turning the bleak projects ringing Paris into some approximation of the swank 8th arrondisment overnight). But it gets worse. During a time when national unity might be demanded, with parts of the country literally in flames, the public is left to ponder the sad reality that de Villepin and Sarkozy are still going about their inter-elite squabbles and maneuverings in advance of the next presidentials. Put differently, the soap opera like intrigues of the last months, alas, have not yet been shelved (even temporarily) during this time of grave crisis. The bickering and positioning and back-stabbing continues to hamper the chances of a unified, robust response to the spiralling violence. This is not solely based on amibition and political primacy, but also on substantive disputes. De Villepin doubtless wishes more for 'dialogue' and such. Meantime, Nicolas Sarkozy, of course, is being beaten up in all the predictable quarters. You see, he had the temerity to use colorful (if unfortunately unpresidential) language to describe some of the vandals--so culpability for the violence is being laid squarely on his doorstep by many in France (it's Sarkozy who really burned this school, and so on, the protestations go!). But it seems that de Villepin and Chirac have come around to the Sarkozyian view (if eleven days too late)--ie., public order must indeed be the first priority in the midst of such a cascading crisis.

Now, I am not one who believes that some pan-Eurabian intifada is in the offing, or that the implications of these riots rival 9/11, or that Shamil Basayev's guerilla tactics are being adopted off la Place de la Republique--as breathless, under-informed 'commentary' has it in some quarters of the blogosphere. But we certainly have a pivot point here, one where the ruling elite's inefficacy and ineptness is being laid crudely bare for all the world to see. They have been tone-deaf and caught off guard by the depth of the alienation in their midst, and it has now caught them very much unawares and seemingly clueless on how next to respond.

The scope of the problem is quite daunting, as this excerpt from a Washington Post article makes clear:

While French politicians say the violence now circling and even entering the capital of France and spreading to towns across the country is the work of organized criminal gangs, the residents of Le Blanc-Mesnil know better. Many of the rioters grew up playing soccer on Rezzoug's field. They are the children of baggage handlers at nearby Charles de Gaulle International Airport and cleaners at the local schools.

"It's not a political revolution or a Muslim revolution," said Rezzoug. "There's a lot of rage. Through this burning, they're saying, 'I exist, I'm here.' "

Such a dramatic demand for recognition underscores the chasm between the fastest growing segment of France's population and the staid political hierarchy that has been inept at responding to societal shifts. The youths rampaging through France's poorest neighborhoods are the French-born children of African and Arab immigrants, the most neglected of the country's citizens. A large percentage are members of the Muslim community that accounts for about 10 percent of France's 60 million people.

One of Rezzoug's "kids" -- the countless youths who use the sports facilities he oversees -- is a husky, French-born 18-year-old whose parents moved here from Ivory Coast. At 3 p.m. on Saturday, he'd just awakened and ventured back onto the streets after a night of setting cars ablaze.

"We want to change the government," he said, a black baseball cap pulled low over large, chocolate-brown eyes and an ebony face. "There's no way of getting their attention. The only way to communicate is by burning."

It is indeed sad when a country's citizens have become so removed from an esprit of fellow-feeling with their common citoyens that they must lash out in anarchic fashion to get attention and communicate. But this is where France now finds itself, as it wakes up Monday morning wondering where the tumult and mayhem may hit next. No, what is needed now is honesty and straight-shooting and a real sense of urgency. The violence the roving gangs of youth are engaging in is borne of various causes and grievances. This profound alienation needs to be analyzed, to be sure. And at the end of the day, while there is some room for jihadist radicals to play on these sentiments to lure more towards piety, the book and perhaps terror--what this is really about is not some religiosity-infused intifada on the Seine but bread and butter issues of jobs and racism. Sarkozy is right that so called positive discrimination (affirmative action), at least in calibrated fashion, needs to be experimented with. But he is also at least equally right that criminals, even young ones just 18, must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Stoking mayhem cannot be rewarded. Such 'chantage'-like tactics should not be in the cards. And yet, there is reason for some of the fury, and I'd hazard most of it stems from unemployment in the 30% zone among many in their early 20s. This is likely the largest variable that must be addressed head-on, but also, let us be honest here, the feelings of 'otherness' that stem from largely North African communities believing they are viewed by many as, more or less, barbarians at the gates--too near the prim and proper bourgeois districts of the fabled capital.

Alas, however, rather than hard-headed realism about what ails France, center-left elites are busily waxing rhapsodic about the 'meaning' of all the frenzied violence. Since such de haut en bas figures appear to suggest that we are on the brink of some noble, quasi-revolutionary moment, it is perhaps helpful to dispel some myths. For one, this is not May 1968 all over again. Le Monde, in an amusing editorial, appears to espy shades of noble protest in the air amidst all the car burning and cop shooting--with memories and comparisons to those heady May days peppering the piece. But this violence is less utopic and ennobled fare, alas, than the so mythologized days of the student ressentiments of May '68. It's more a tragic result of a Hobbesian, gritty life in satellite towns devoid of hope and jobs and dignity--where youth feel disenfranchised, unmoored, without a nation really. Indeed, too many of the young see themselves as 93'ers (the postal code most afflicted by the violence to date)--before they are Frenchmen. Somehow, this must change. Part of such change must be ensuring that moderate Islamic tenets are allowed a place at the table in modern France. Part of it is dealing with the racial aspects of ensuring Arabs and Africans are not thought of as second class citizens. Part of it is jobs, obviously. And a sense of dignity. But there must also be a sense of responsibility in all of this. Not just cries about rights, in other words. A nation that takes in immigrants, provides housing and welfare and other assistance, will not sit contently while it is spat on in return. Charges of ingratitude, even if unfair, will ratchet up. And openings for the far right, it is not hard to see, will therefore present themselves. It is little wonder that Jean Marie le Pen, of course, has been quick to issue this rather fiery statement:

Le gouvernement est fatalement incapable de faire face à la situation insurrectionnelle qui se répand dans les zones de non-droit, puisqu'il en est le principal responsable, et toute la classe politicienne avec lui.

Ce gouvernement n'est même pas capable de maintenir une apparence de cohésion. Ses déchirements internes sont pour les émeutiers une incitation à profiter d'une trop évidente fragilité qui, en temps de crise, devient un grave péril pour la société tout entière.
Or, à travers les agents et les symboles de l'Etat, c'est la France elle-même qui est attaquée, par des hordes que les lois dites antiracistes ne doivent plus nous empêcher de désigner comme étrangères.

Quant aux tristes clones de Sarkozy qui, pour se faire leur publicité, se baladent dans les banlieues incendiées en récitant en play back les positions du Front national, leur agitation est dérisoire et indécente.

(Translation: The government is fatally incapable of facing the insurrectionary situation that is reverberating through the anarchic zones, because the government itself is the primarily responsible party, and the entire political class with it. This government is not even capable of maintaining an appearance of cohesion. These internal ruptures are for the insurrectionists an enticement to profit from the too obvious fragility that, in a time of crisis, becomes a grave peril for all of society. Because, through the agents and symbols of the state, it's France herself that is attacked, by hordes that the so-called anti-racial laws prevent us from designating as foreigners. As for the sad Sarkozy clones that, to give themselves publicity, stroll around the burned suburbs whilst reciting in 'play back' the positions of the National Front, their protestations are indecent and low.)

Meantime, his daughter calls for the institution of martial law in the affected zones. Many (more than 20% say), particularly after these so violent disturbances, will be favorably inclined to this message. Which is why the ceaseless and risible Matignon machinations (Sarko!, Dominique! Jacques!) must now come to an end. The long, lazy summer characterized by soap operatic political going-ons--providing much fodder for Paris Match readers (whither Sarko's marriage?)--now must retire to the harsh realities of a cold autumn marred by large-scale violence. The government must muster up unity and resolve and, yes, signal compassion too. The message must be that such criminal behavior is beyond the pale, and will be strictly prosecuted--but also that the political class takes some responsibility for its manifest weakness in, for far too long, simply wishing, somehow, that the problems of the banlieu would just go away. Yes, it's beyond time to face some hard realities. No more beating up on the lame Anglo-Saxon 'model' then, or cowboy brutes in Mesopotamia killing innocents, and so on. It's time to shine a strong light right there at home, put aside the defensive, diversionary pseudo-narratives and deceptions, and get to the hard work of putting the nation on a better course (particularly the dismal employment picture). If not, openings to more radical avenues will likely result--whether of a rightist or leftist variety (more likely the former, I'd say). Oh, and I suspect talk of racial inequalities being so atrociously bad in the U.S., not an insignificant talking point in Parisian salons around the time of Katrina, perhaps such talk will abate a tad given recent events.

Posted by Gregory at November 6, 2005 06:12 PM | TrackBack (20)
Comments

You write: "No more beating up on the lame Anglo-Saxon 'model' then, or cowboy brutes in Mesopotamia killing innocents, and so on. It's time to shine a strong light right there at home, put aside the defensive, diversionary pseudo-narratives and deceptions, and get to the hard work of putting the nation on a better course (particularly the dismal employment picture)."

The dismal employment picture is due to excessive government attention to (read regulation of) employment. More jobs would be created if government got out of the way and adopted a more Anglo-Saxon model. Of course many of those who are unemployed are the same ones who rail against that model.

Posted by: John B. Chilton at November 7, 2005 01:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You write: "No more beating up on the lame Anglo-Saxon 'model' then, or cowboy brutes in Mesopotamia killing innocents, and so on. It's time to shine a strong light right there at home, put aside the defensive, diversionary pseudo-narratives and deceptions, and get to the hard work of putting the nation on a better course (particularly the dismal employment picture)."

The dismal employment picture is due to excessive government attention to (read regulation of) employment. More jobs would be created if government got out of the way and adopted a more Anglo-Saxon model. Of course many of those who are unemployed are the same ones who rail against that model.

Posted by: John B. Chilton at November 7, 2005 01:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

But, Marxist Big Brother Media says all this is just unhappy yuts and we should all go back to fighting against the extreme Evangelical people who are ruling as a theocray in a country ruled by evil warmongering facsist.


Venturing out from under Big Brother's thumb, I am wondering if the glorification of car burning as a means to 'change the government' and 'get their attention' was not inspired by decades of Big Brother Media promotion of such a tactic used by a particular people seen in a specific part of the world. Change the world, torch a car? I dare not mention the specific lest I be accused as 'phobic' and what not.

Posted by: susan at November 7, 2005 01:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Correction 'theocracy' (would not want to piss Chomsky off)

Posted by: susan at November 7, 2005 01:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Correction 'theocracy' (would not want to piss Chomsky off)

Posted by: susan at November 7, 2005 01:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

First off, thanks for not being one of those "al Qaeda in France" spewing idiots -- and for not espressing (too much?) scadenfreunde at France's current predicament.

The difficulty, as I see it, is that traditionally the political classes in a democracy have been incapable of doing both things that you recommend -- taking a 'hard line' against the rioters while addressing their legitimate grievances in an effective manner.

And in this case especially, the "hard line" approach is dangerous, because such an approach inevitably winds up with multiple injustices which are likely to fuel the kind of resentment that can be exploited by Islamist radicals.

Posted by: lukasiak at November 7, 2005 02:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Djerejian:

Why are you so quick to depict "charges of ingratitude" as "unfair"? In the process of living in a Western society, I act day in and day out in ways that enable that society to continue its productive functioning and distinguish itself from, say, Somalia. Some of these -- e.g. accepting competition from women -- will be unfamiliar to many of France's alienated subpopulation. I do not see anything unfair in the demand that, as part of the price for the privelege of participating in a prosperous society, they utterly suppress their objections to the underpinnings of that society. I do not recognize any right to participate in prosperity while clinging to the attitudes and perpetuating the actions that rise from and reinforce poverty.

Posted by: sammler at November 7, 2005 02:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

C'est le chomage, stupide!

I agree that the talk of an Intifada in France is overblown and that the riots seem secular (if not nihilistic), at least for now. No one is blaming the Jews! However, radical Islamism does seem to flourish in a climate of anger, alienation and despair. Unless the government and the elites finally address the social contract in the banlieues, the situation may become ripe for exploitation by Islamists.

Posted by: ronbo at November 7, 2005 02:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lukasiak,

iven your sniping at what are deemed possible ways to handle the crisis, then just what is your solution to what the government should do? Should they give up and let the youts do whatever they want because it is not their fault, the society made them do it? Should the police take a tough stance and attack the rioters and force them to stand down? Would you back Sarkozy in his taking a tough stance?

What this reminds me of on a much larger scale is the Crown Heights riots when Dinkins was mayor of New York. He also took time before he even bothered to acknowledge that there was a problem. Seems to me that the French are supposedly a nation of laws. They should, therefore, apply those laws and apply them equally, not the way they have lately where they allow friends of Jacques to get off with a slap on the wrist. Then they might have the right to take the approach of Sarkozy and halt the rioting.

Then what should be the next step. That is what I have not heard from the French to this point. That is the important part of this and the one that will ensure that this rioting is a one-time thing.

Posted by: dick at November 7, 2005 03:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

if this is secular rioting - now spread to denmark and germany - then why have the rioters been heard chanting JIHAD and why have they burned churches, and no mosques, and why are the french government authproites seeking dialog through mosques?!

greg and you other self-styled centrist types - are in DENIAL.

the bomb factories arson and all the other tactics of ther rioters are clearly intifada-like and their goal -to exple secular government from their banlieues is too.

if this is merely an expression of alienation then why are non-muslims unemployed thoughouit france NOT rioting!?

at the very VERY LEAST there is an undeniable nexus of islamism and young male discontents.

without the former the latter would not be rioting.

these islamothug ritoers are very much like the islamothugs in gaza and the west bank and baghdad. they should be wiped off the face of the earth. vanquished. utterly.

not appeased with more liberal/left/bleeding-heart BS/excuses/social SPENDING programs. the fench govt already lavishes big unemployment benefits and housing to these ingrates. more money thrown at them would be nothing more than giving into their BLACKMAIL.

as rudy proved in NYC you lower crime by ruthlessly going after the thugs, NOT by hand-wringing or coming up with sociological explanations that EXCUSE the individuals for their behavior.

deprtation of non-nationals and voluntary deportation of the french citizens who have particiapted in the ritong is necessary at the very least.

then france should DEMOLISH the housing projects and cut their unemployment benefits - at least to anyone who commit a felony -and their cohabitants.

unless and until these thugs are made to pay a price they will continue.

the violent only speak the language of FORCE.

decades of french restraint/appeasement/ have reaped these riots.

either the french get really tough with them or france effectively disappears; the flight opf french middle-class will continue; they will have a further decline in births, and they will disappear...

yes: french culture will disappear, not to the influx of 'crude Amercian cultural hegemony" but to islamism.

as arafat and his islamothugs ruined the territories, and lebanon; just as they islamothugs are attempting to do in iraq.

notre dame may become a mosque. and the eiffel tower a muezzin.

don't laugh. look at constantinople. now istanbul.

if this keeps up in france - and it will unless the elect a rudy/reagan/thatcher type who is willing to crackdown with an iron-fist -
paris will become paristanbul.

i lived in paris for a short time. and have many friends there. parisians.

in denial.

as you are greg.

Posted by: reliapundit at November 7, 2005 04:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/005746.php

CQ has links which prove the islamist connection to the "paris intifada" - from french and us press reports MONTHS ago.

read them or stay in denial.

it's your choice.

Posted by: reliapundit at November 7, 2005 04:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Gregg, you say "No, what is needed now is honesty and straight-shooting and a real sense of urgency." May I suggest the M-16. They honestly shoot straight and with a great deal of urgency-about 400 rounds per minute with reload time. For the long-term you may want to consider not importing these people like they were a valuable addition to your community. Did you think you could just soak them up forever with no saturation point?

Posted by: digitalbrownshirt at November 7, 2005 04:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Is a rightist backlash all but inevitable at this point? One man, a 61-year old native Frenchman, is dead. Two churches have been burned to some degree. Two police have been hospitalized with shotgun wounds. The National Front received 20% of the votes in the last presidential election a few years ago, long before Theo van Gogh's assassination, the London train bombings, and these riots. Is it conceivable that their support has decreased?

Do 25% of French voters now support the NF or at least their policies? More? If so then the rioters will win the battle and lose the war. The NF does not have to win an election outright, only have enough support to force other parties to tilt to the right to win more votes. The rioters, unbeknownst to them, are creating the campaign commericials and posters for the far-right with each building burned and each car torched.

Le Pen has been warning of this very thing for decades. I bet his only regret right now is that he is not younger so that he could capitalize on these events. He may be too old to run in the next presidential election. Which is actually very bad for the French Republic. Le Pen is repulsive. He probably carries too much baggage for most French voters to even consider him no matter how bad the rioting gets. But if the NF or another rightist party can put up a younger, cleaner, more telegenic candidate to present a professional, calm, reasonable face of French Nationalism then look for a real jump in their electoral results.

In the meantime a real concern is that as the government continues to show its inability to control the situation people may organize to protect their own neighborhoods and property. Right now the riots are just 'youth' fighting police. However, the true nightmare for the Republic is citizens fighting the 'youth', vigilante street battles between native French and immigrant 'youth'. It seems far-fetched today but 11 days of rioting across France seemed far-fetched a month ago.

Posted by: Thomas the Wraith at November 7, 2005 05:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I fear that both sides on the "intifada" debate are right. This is a reaction to the abyssmal lack of opportunity that confines many immigrants in France to generation after generation of the dole. It is also, for at least a significant minority, an Islamic reaction against perceived and real injustice in the Islamic sense (that is, injustice against Muslims).

And "intifada" may actually be a good analogy. The Palestinian Intifadas were a mixture of secular and Islamist causes, after all. They were, at the same time, political uprisings against a hated occupier and religious uprisings against the infidel oppressor. Thus Christian and atheist Palestinians could make common cause with Islamist groups for the shared purpose of striking out at Israelis.

Which is why the current situation is so fearfully dangerous, and I think why uprisings are spreading across Europe in response. The combination of rising Islamist presence in these disaffected communities and the crushing despair of living lives with little purpose or promise for improvement is a terrible one. And, over time, the power of the Islamists can only grow admidst such fertile soil for fanaticism and jihad.

But can France somehow integrate such a huge underclass into its society in time to avert this? Can these riots fail to produce, as one poster argues, a rightist backlash? And if that backlash happens, will it not increase Islamist sentiment among the targets of the backlash? Frankly, I don't know what the solution is, or even if there is one.

But Greg is certainly right about one thing: whatever the attempt to correct the "underlying causes", the rule of law must be made an absolute requirement. Any sign of concession to the rioters before the riots are suppressed will be taken as a sign of weakness and exploited: by the secularists out of hope for improvement and the very human desire to strike back at those who have done you wrong, and by the Islamists as the sign that, as so often before, Allah is weakening the infidels and preparing them for conquest by His chosen.

Posted by: Dwight in IL at November 7, 2005 06:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"iven your sniping at what are deemed possible ways to handle the crisis, then just what is your solution to what the government should do?"

I lack the breadth of knowledge and experience of French domestic politics to propose a solution that recognises the realistic limitations of the French government to address the problems.

But just because you're lost, it doesn't mean that driving off a cliff is an option. To me, taking a "hard line" against the rioters is driving toward that cliff.

Posted by: lukasiak at November 7, 2005 06:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"But just because you're lost, it doesn't mean that driving off a cliff is an option. To me, taking a "hard line" against the rioters is driving toward that cliff."

Not taking a hard line now, i.e.-not restoring order, will get you thrown off the cliff.

Posted by: digitalbrownshirt at November 7, 2005 06:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

French Government dithering in the face of crisis is nothing new. It is SOP.

May 1940.

Posted by: M. Somon at November 7, 2005 06:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

French Government dithering in the face of crisis is nothing new. It is SOP.

May 1940.

Posted by: M. Somon at November 7, 2005 06:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/008882.php

spencer has a video link to rioters chanting ALLAHU AKBAR.

greg, is this a secular chant?

Posted by: reliapundit at November 7, 2005 06:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"In Asnières, a citizen's brigade is being formed to help police."
In the vacuum left by an absent State

Posted by: Thomas the Wraith at November 7, 2005 07:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"In Asnières, a citizen's brigade is being formed to help police."
In the vacuum left by an absent State

Posted by: Thomas the Wraith at November 7, 2005 07:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"In Asnières, a citizen's brigade is being formed to help police."
In the vacuum left by an absent State

Posted by: Thomas the Wraith at November 7, 2005 07:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Christian Malard, senior journalists at the national broadcaster France 3:

"If there is one man we don't hear right now, he is mute, silent. It is as you said the leader of the right-wing extremist party Jean-Marie Le Pen, National Front. This man has been saying for years and years that we are threatened from inside from Muslim fundamentalist and all that. He doesn't say anything. But I'm sure there is another guy called Monsieur De Villier, who leads a party very close to the National Front. Not the same, not so extremist, but they go on the same field of voters and these people, be sure of that, will exploit all the ongoing development, the ongoing developing situation in France because they are already campaigning. But in the coming weeks, in the weeks ahead, months ahead, be sure they will use it, and they will be heard by a lot of French people who are fed up with the situation. Don't forget that when he lost versus President Chirac three years ago, Le Pen made 18 per cent. If things go right now the way they go in France the man will get a better score. What will France look like at this time? I don't want to think about it."

Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Lateline

Posted by: Thomas the Wraith at November 7, 2005 08:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

All my "knowledge" of the riots is gleaned from press and blogs. Nothing first hand, but while those who say these riots don't have a strong religious underpinning are not completely wrong, I can't escape two observations:

1. The alternative explanation most commonly cited is hooliganism borne of frustration, disconnection and hopelessness. I find that an absurd rationale for riots of this size and duration.

2. Iran did not go straight from the Shah to the Ayatollah. The original uprising was secular. The moolahs took over in the subsequent disorder. (I'm not suggesting that France is the next Iran; merely that the 'hooligan' explanation, even if true, means far less then its proponents want it to mean.)

Posted by: byrd at November 7, 2005 08:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Does anyone really think that what these rioters want is a job in a store selling souvenirs, a little apartment on the Seine and a tiny car? Nonsense. They want to bring down the government, establish Islamic law, attack Jews and send suicide bombers into every remaining territory of the West. And until they establish control, they want the UN and the EU to give them money to live on and to spend on armaments and to stash in Swiss bank accounts. In other words, they want to be the Palestinian heros so beloved by de Villepin and his cronies, but on the Left Bank, not in the West Bank.

Posted by: Robert Speirs at November 7, 2005 09:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In 1968, Daniel Cohen Bedit said, "Nous somme tous indesirables." (Pardon spelling errors, if any.) We are all undesirable. He was speaking, I think, of the French leadership's propensity to see all of their Countrymen as uniform in their allegances to France first, with their particular political suasions following thereafter. Thus, while he was protesting against the government or the establishment, he believed that he was to representing all of France. The French people came to believe that he was right.

Such is not the case here. The rioters are certainly a disaffected bunch who ultimately do not see themselves as French. Not that they are uniform in perspective, for I suspect that there are many opportunists among them who simply enjoy the mayhem. Remember also that car burning has been going on with considerable regularity for some time now. It is only recently that this infection flared up into these widespread riots.

There is no simple answer and I don't even know of a complex answer. In France, a resident etranger is quickly entitled to a very broad range of benefits. Welfare payments, housing, medical care, and unfettered participation in the French educational system. These benefits have been available for decades, but the culture of those who comprise the rioters supports taking advantage of the easy receipts, but does not support the idea that getting an education, which requires work and commitment and which is free for the asking, is something that one should do. Instead, a life of crime, drugs, etc. appeals to the romantic notions of these nominally French citizens. As is the case throughout the West, the purely physical, unskilled jobs have gone elsewhere and will continue to do so. Sure, there are opportunities for a few street sweepers and baggage handlers and the like, but these opportunities are not copious enough to provide jobs for what is now around 5% of the French population. Indeed, France, with a 10% overall unemployment rate, cannot provide jobs for the educated portion of the populace.

While the French efforts to integrate this disaffected segment of their populace have not been effective, I daresay that the desire to be integrated into French life has lacked enthusiasm as well. Please see Theodore Dalrmyple's article on the disaffected and unassimilated in England. (I don't have the cite, but you can find it through Google). Thus, the irony in these riots is that the commentators speak about the French failure to integrate these folks, while the honest perspective is that they have never wanted to be integrated and in fact, have resisted integration all along. What they seem to want is the right to have a state within a state where they can follow their religious and cultural rules and regs regardless of the conflict with the French laws and cultural values, while at the same time receiving the benefits of French citizenship. No state is going to engage in this sort of state suicide.

And while we ponder the above, there is also the nastly little question of the rule of law and the suppression of insurrection. An early poster likened the behavior of the rioters to the intifada tactics in Gaza and the West Bank against Isreal. Of course the analogy is different in that the French Muslims have all the rights of citizenship, but it is a citizenship that they do not comprehend, do not value except to the extent that they receive state economic support, and do not respect. I wonder if it is only a matter of time before the rioters resort to suicide bombings and assinations. One can contemplate that the Islamo-fascists who thirst for civil deterioration would urge those tactics as a device to rally Islamic support for resistance to the inevitable crackdown. But a crackdown is what is necessary and is overdue. As Napoleon once said, and my quote is not exact, "What insurrection needs is a wiff of grapeshot." It is time to call out the army, to impose a curfew with shoot-to-kill enforcement, and to cut off the welfare benefits for any family whose members are found to have participated in the rioting.

I don't like any of this and I suppose I will be called callous and a wingnut for suggesting harsh enforcemnt and harsh consequences. However, I haven't heard one idea from the above posts that has any promise of bringing this unrest to and end now so that more contemplative solutions can be considered.

Michael

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at November 7, 2005 10:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"But there must also be a sense of responsibility in all of this. Not just cries about rights, in other words."

Then we're in trouble. The left generally doesn't do well talking about responsibilities.

Posted by: colagirl at November 7, 2005 11:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What you have failed to note is that the insurgency is limited to urban areas and the violence is restricted to a few provinces. Why don't you report any of the good news from France? What about all the new schools, sewers, water treatment plants, and power stations being built? What about re-enlistment numbers among the French police and fire brigades? Democritization is a process not an event.

After the next elections we'll get the political process going. That's the way out. That and training young muslims to police themselves and extinguish the fires they set in random cars and shops. All you conservatives are the same. Always negative.

Posted by: The Apologist at November 7, 2005 11:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

the logical outcome of "identity politics" & "multiculturalism"
Fortunately, in the States, the New Empire, we are more adept at actually assimilating immigrants. Tho its a now constant fight to do so with race pimps, AKA community leaders, who derive thier power from keeping thier target population isolated.
And, no, I dont support the New Empires various wars......

Posted by: MUTT at November 8, 2005 01:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

digitalbrownshirt wrote:

Not taking a hard line now, i.e.-not restoring order, will get you thrown off the cliff.

given your pseudonym, it would obviously be a waste of time explaining that "restoring order" is not the exclusive province of "hard liners"

Posted by: lukasiak at November 8, 2005 01:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I know too little of the French situation to comment here, but I'd recommend any one feeling a sense of superiority go immediately to the most recent issue of City Journal and read Heather McDonald's piece on how the various Mexican consulates in this country are working vigorously to replicate the banlieu in our major, and not so major, cities.

The artical is titled "Mexico's Undiplomatic Diplomats," here's the link: http://www.city-journal.org/

Posted by: wayne at November 8, 2005 02:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

from a commenter at my blog:

I saw the videotape to which Reliapundit refers, and the rioters are clearly shouting "Allahu Akbar!" I've read their comments to the press, and on internet pages, in which they proclaim that "this" is their territory. I'm not sure if "this" means the immigrant zone, or the whole of Europe.

It is I think clear, whether we like or not, that whatever its character during the first night or two of violence in Clichy, the riots that now involve all of metropolitain France are taking on the character of jihad -- a struggle of Muslims against non-Muslims, in which an appeal is made to Divine right.

I don't claim that 100% of the rioters are jihadists or even Muslims. Undoubtedly, non-Muslims and non-jihadists are being swept up in the rioting, perhaps merely from excitement and frustration, but perhaps also out of a desire to fit in with their surroundings. But I think that the "vanguard" of the rioters, if you will permit me to use a Leninist phrase, is composed of committed jihadists. And they are the ones who seem to be giving leadership to the mobs.

To say that jihad is "against America" and that the anti-American French should therefore expect to be spared, is I think missing the point as to the significance of jihad. Jihad didn't begin in 2005, or 2003, or 2001, or even 1776. The jihad began 1300 years ago. Jihad raids into France began in the eighth century, I think, and were not even finally ended by Charles Martel's victory at Poitiers. The fight of the Algerians against the French in the 1830s had the character of a jihad. Abd el Kader was unless I am mistaken a Sufi religoious leader as well as a military commander.

By the way, France conquered most of North Africa in the 19th century, making colonies or protectorates of Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Mauritania, and Mali. And after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, France assumed hegemony over Syria and Lebanon. France has a long history of intervening in Middle Eastern affairs.

Since 1970 or so, the French government decided to throw its lot in with the Arab countries, and has pursued a pro-Arab policy. This policy has not helped them. Their failure to join the US and the UK in overthrowing Saddam Hussein was not greeted with gratitude in the Arab world, but seen as a weak willingness to accept their proper role as dhimmis. Part of the reason the ritoing is os widespread is that the rioters do not fear the French police or the French state. The rioters feel that they have already won. If they can force Chirac to fire Sarkozy, something that Chirac would probably like to do anyway, they will have won a significant battle. Imagine that -- they will have shown that the position is not filled by elections in France, but by the militant actions of the mob. Of the jihadist mob, as it happens. They will prove to themselves, and to the rest of the militant, jihadist world, that France is at their mercy.

Certainly the jihadists do NOT represent all Muslims. In Algeria, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat has been conducting a war against the Algerian government in which over 100,000 people, perhaps as many as 200,000 people have been killed. The Algerian jihadists have beheaded entire villages.

And they just recently proclaimed that France was their "enemy number one." Undoubtedly they have sympathizers and supporters, perhaps even hardened cadres, in the "hexagone" as well.

That the riots have been sustained for 12 nights is remarkable. That the riots have spread to over 300 French communities is remarkable. This may very well be a critical turning point. Nothing we have seen to date suggests that the French government is remotely prepared, capable, or willing to confront the problem of a widespread jihadist revolt. If that's the direction in which this phenomenon grows, you are going to be very surprised by what you see.

Posted by: reliapundit at November 8, 2005 06:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

from a commenter at my blog:

I saw the videotape to which Reliapundit refers, and the rioters are clearly shouting "Allahu Akbar!" I've read their comments to the press, and on internet pages, in which they proclaim that "this" is their territory. I'm not sure if "this" means the immigrant zone, or the whole of Europe.

It is I think clear, whether we like or not, that whatever its character during the first night or two of violence in Clichy, the riots that now involve all of metropolitain France are taking on the character of jihad -- a struggle of Muslims against non-Muslims, in which an appeal is made to Divine right.

I don't claim that 100% of the rioters are jihadists or even Muslims. Undoubtedly, non-Muslims and non-jihadists are being swept up in the rioting, perhaps merely from excitement and frustration, but perhaps also out of a desire to fit in with their surroundings. But I think that the "vanguard" of the rioters, if you will permit me to use a Leninist phrase, is composed of committed jihadists. And they are the ones who seem to be giving leadership to the mobs.

To say that jihad is "against America" and that the anti-American French should therefore expect to be spared, is I think missing the point as to the significance of jihad. Jihad didn't begin in 2005, or 2003, or 2001, or even 1776. The jihad began 1300 years ago. Jihad raids into France began in the eighth century, I think, and were not even finally ended by Charles Martel's victory at Poitiers. The fight of the Algerians against the French in the 1830s had the character of a jihad. Abd el Kader was unless I am mistaken a Sufi religoious leader as well as a military commander.

By the way, France conquered most of North Africa in the 19th century, making colonies or protectorates of Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Mauritania, and Mali. And after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, France assumed hegemony over Syria and Lebanon. France has a long history of intervening in Middle Eastern affairs.

Since 1970 or so, the French government decided to throw its lot in with the Arab countries, and has pursued a pro-Arab policy. This policy has not helped them. Their failure to join the US and the UK in overthrowing Saddam Hussein was not greeted with gratitude in the Arab world, but seen as a weak willingness to accept their proper role as dhimmis. Part of the reason the ritoing is os widespread is that the rioters do not fear the French police or the French state. The rioters feel that they have already won. If they can force Chirac to fire Sarkozy, something that Chirac would probably like to do anyway, they will have won a significant battle. Imagine that -- they will have shown that the position is not filled by elections in France, but by the militant actions of the mob. Of the jihadist mob, as it happens. They will prove to themselves, and to the rest of the militant, jihadist world, that France is at their mercy.

Certainly the jihadists do NOT represent all Muslims. In Algeria, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat has been conducting a war against the Algerian government in which over 100,000 people, perhaps as many as 200,000 people have been killed. The Algerian jihadists have beheaded entire villages.

And they just recently proclaimed that France was their "enemy number one." Undoubtedly they have sympathizers and supporters, perhaps even hardened cadres, in the "hexagone" as well.

That the riots have been sustained for 12 nights is remarkable. That the riots have spread to over 300 French communities is remarkable. This may very well be a critical turning point. Nothing we have seen to date suggests that the French government is remotely prepared, capable, or willing to confront the problem of a widespread jihadist revolt. If that's the direction in which this phenomenon grows, you are going to be very surprised by what you see.

Posted by: reliapundit at November 8, 2005 06:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

from a commenter at my blog:

I saw the videotape to which Reliapundit refers, and the rioters are clearly shouting "Allahu Akbar!" I've read their comments to the press, and on internet pages, in which they proclaim that "this" is their territory. I'm not sure if "this" means the immigrant zone, or the whole of Europe.

It is I think clear, whether we like or not, that whatever its character during the first night or two of violence in Clichy, the riots that now involve all of metropolitain France are taking on the character of jihad -- a struggle of Muslims against non-Muslims, in which an appeal is made to Divine right.

I don't claim that 100% of the rioters are jihadists or even Muslims. Undoubtedly, non-Muslims and non-jihadists are being swept up in the rioting, perhaps merely from excitement and frustration, but perhaps also out of a desire to fit in with their surroundings. But I think that the "vanguard" of the rioters, if you will permit me to use a Leninist phrase, is composed of committed jihadists. And they are the ones who seem to be giving leadership to the mobs.

To say that jihad is "against America" and that the anti-American French should therefore expect to be spared, is I think missing the point as to the significance of jihad. Jihad didn't begin in 2005, or 2003, or 2001, or even 1776. The jihad began 1300 years ago. Jihad raids into France began in the eighth century, I think, and were not even finally ended by Charles Martel's victory at Poitiers. The fight of the Algerians against the French in the 1830s had the character of a jihad. Abd el Kader was unless I am mistaken a Sufi religoious leader as well as a military commander.

By the way, France conquered most of North Africa in the 19th century, making colonies or protectorates of Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Mauritania, and Mali. And after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, France assumed hegemony over Syria and Lebanon. France has a long history of intervening in Middle Eastern affairs.

Since 1970 or so, the French government decided to throw its lot in with the Arab countries, and has pursued a pro-Arab policy. This policy has not helped them. Their failure to join the US and the UK in overthrowing Saddam Hussein was not greeted with gratitude in the Arab world, but seen as a weak willingness to accept their proper role as dhimmis. Part of the reason the ritoing is os widespread is that the rioters do not fear the French police or the French state. The rioters feel that they have already won. If they can force Chirac to fire Sarkozy, something that Chirac would probably like to do anyway, they will have won a significant battle. Imagine that -- they will have shown that the position is not filled by elections in France, but by the militant actions of the mob. Of the jihadist mob, as it happens. They will prove to themselves, and to the rest of the militant, jihadist world, that France is at their mercy.

Certainly the jihadists do NOT represent all Muslims. In Algeria, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat has been conducting a war against the Algerian government in which over 100,000 people, perhaps as many as 200,000 people have been killed. The Algerian jihadists have beheaded entire villages.

And they just recently proclaimed that France was their "enemy number one." Undoubtedly they have sympathizers and supporters, perhaps even hardened cadres, in the "hexagone" as well.

That the riots have been sustained for 12 nights is remarkable. That the riots have spread to over 300 French communities is remarkable. This may very well be a critical turning point. Nothing we have seen to date suggests that the French government is remotely prepared, capable, or willing to confront the problem of a widespread jihadist revolt. If that's the direction in which this phenomenon grows, you are going to be very surprised by what you see.

Posted by: reliapundit at November 8, 2005 06:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sure, the jihad/intifada comparisons may be exaggerated but that doesn't mean you swing the pendulum all the way back the other direction. In my neck of the woods, Ukraine, people are living in conditions quite similar if not worse than those described in the areas of French unrest. There is no simmering rage but an equally disturbing sense of apathy.

I don't think living conditions fully account for what is happening there.

The real results of this will not come from the actions of the rioters but will be from the actions of the government. If there is a sense that the government responded positively to rioting, then I would expect a repeat not only in France but other countries. If the government smashes the violence and makes it clear that this is not an effective method to addressing grievances, it will be less likely to recur.

Posted by: bb at November 8, 2005 06:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, well, the poor French have a crisis on their hands. The French leftists and media elite, always sticking their noses up in the air at the eeeevil Americans, as they are soooo much more refined, sophisticated and modern. They thought by appeasing these Islamofanatics that they would be sheltered from their Western hatred and rage.

The Islamofacists do not care who they kill, or who gets in their way, even their fellow Muslums, they only want to destroy Western civilization. They envy and hate (at the same time) all that is Western. It is a warped world view!!! But, alas, the French world view is just as warped, just at a different curvature. Reality is usually difficult to face, but denial is worse and will reap worse consequences. But I fear the leftist French do not understand the meaning of consequence. If the leftist think that they can continue to appease and coddle their way out of this situation, they should think again and crack their history books, that is if their books haven't been revised of all historical accuracy.

Posted by: oakley at November 8, 2005 08:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, well, the poor French have a crisis on their hands. The French leftists and media elite, always sticking their noses up in the air at the eeeevil Americans, as they are soooo much more refined, sophisticated and modern. They thought by appeasing these Islamofanatics that they would be sheltered from their Western hatred and rage.

The Islamofacists do not care who they kill, or who gets in their way, even their fellow Muslums, they only want to destroy Western civilization. They envy and hate (at the same time) all that is Western. It is a warped world view!!! But, alas, the French world view is just as warped, just at a different curvature. Reality is usually difficult to face, but denial is worse and will reap worse consequences. But I fear the leftist French do not understand the meaning of consequence. If the leftist think that they can continue to appease and coddle their way out of this situation, they should think again and crack their history books, that is if their books haven't been revised of all historical accuracy.

Posted by: Oakley at November 8, 2005 08:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>don't laugh. look at constantinople. now istanbul.

Yes, and the European Union will no doubt invade North Africa. Don't laugh! Look at Carthage.

You truly are a cretin.

P.

http://oceanclub.blogspot.com

Posted by: Paul Moloney at November 8, 2005 11:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>don't laugh. look at constantinople. now istanbul.

Yes, and the European Union will no doubt invade North Africa. Don't laugh! Look at Carthage.

You truly are a cretin.

P.

http://oceanclub.blogspot.com

Posted by: Paul Moloney at November 8, 2005 11:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>don't laugh. look at constantinople. now istanbul.

Yes, and the European Union will no doubt invade North Africa. Don't laugh! Look at Carthage.

You truly are a cretin.

P.

http://oceanclub.blogspot.com

Posted by: Paul Moloney at November 8, 2005 11:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Unholy Neocon Islamic Alliance against Europe

Ironic how pro-Israeli as well as Saudi-controlled Islamic fundamentalist media are actually (for once) BOTH 100% aligned with the official Neocon talking points coming from Washington: I happen to know France fairly well and the truth is that the so-called “North-African riots all around the French capital” are just minor incidents involving a handful of disaffected Muslim teenagers…

This factual reality seems to have evaded the Jerusalem Post and Al-Arabbya’s highly imaginative journalists: why bother with boring facts when you can serve the colorful anti-Gallic clichés cooked by Dick Cheney and his Wahhabi friend/business partner-in-crime Prince Bandar Ibn-Saud?

First, one has to put things into perspective: in 12 days of so-called “massive Islamic rioting across France” we’ve had less material damage not to mention what US experts call “body counts” than say the 2001 Cincinnati riots (20 African Americans quickly terminated Schwarzenegger style) or the 1992 South Central LA uprising with more than 60 “niggers” executed on the spot- remember when President George H.W. Bush spoke to the nation, "denouncing random terror and lawlessness" as US Marines massacred their way into the remnants of the Black ghetto?
See Wikipedia article below for more:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1992_Los_Angeles_riots

So why the double standard for France where we’ve had to deplore a single casualty in 12 days of so-called “North African revolt”?

At a time when the Washington Post, the Jerusalem Post and Al-'Arabbyia are all jumping on the anti-Gallic bandwagon, we have to keep in mind that the French government is currently confronted with a primarily social and economic malaise, NOT some kind of Apocalyptic Mohammedan “grand soir” as the likes of Dick Cheney, Usama Bin Laden and the unholy Neo-conservative cum old Islamic fundamentalist alliance would like us to believe.

In French, poor suburbs with Soviet-style housing for Moorish immigrants and their children are generically called “La Banlieue” a medieval Gallic word which literally means “the place where the banned and the untouchables dwell”. . .

Dr Victorino de la Vega
Chair of the Thomas More Center for Middle East Studies
http://www.mideastmemo.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Dr Victorino de la Vega at November 8, 2005 12:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dr Victorino>

I am sorry but your interpretation of the origin of the french word for suburb : banlieue seems not correct. Banlieue originally was a space covered by a distance of one Lieue (4'5 km) where the Lord exercised his "droit de ban", which is not connected to bannish, but was a monopolistic control of grinder, forge, wine-press or cider mill..., with the obligation for people leaving in "la banlieue" to use these facilities and to pay (generally in kind) for this "right".

Posted by: Arnaud at November 8, 2005 01:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dr. de la Vega presents the Frank Drebin theory about how we should view the troubles in France: "Nothing to see here -- please disperse!"

Which is fine. I have no strong ideas on how French government or society should respond to the late disturbances or the social problems that may have contributed to them. All I can offer is the rather pedestrian observation that rapid demographic change is often harder for any society to deal with than any other kind. The French population, most of it anyway, appears to wish that most of the newcomers from Africa and the Muslim countries would stay invisible or (better yet) go away; Muslim immigrants want to be regarded as French while keeping important aspects of the cultures from which they came -- most especially their religion -- that historically are very un-French; French government officials possessed of a greater-than-ordinary sense of personal and class entitlement are sure that whatever the cause of the current troubles, it is not them.

My guess -- it is no more than that -- is that the beliefs and preferences of none of these groups can be fully accommodated. If that is so, it might be best if it were acknowledged openly by everyone. This might if nothing else deter some people from seeking distractions (Islamist terror conspiracies, McDonalds, Doha) having little to do with what must be the very serious problems underlying such widespread disturbances.

Posted by: JEB at November 8, 2005 04:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Doctor, you need to take your meds. So now we have an alliance between the hated Israelis and their Wahhabi enemies. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Thrown into the mix are the Neocons, also dreaded, but now combined into an nefarious alliance. What unadulterated bunk!! Talk about trivial damage! The French press reports that the damage from these riots was only exceeded by the damage by the Nazi's during WWII. Fortunately, there have been few deaths. But comparing the East LA riots with a Schwarzenegger film is another fraud, as the majority of those deaths were caused by gang on gang competition and the settling of old scores combined with the stupidity of entering burning, collapsing buildings by overly enthusiastic looters. A number of the deaths, by the way were the result of attacks on Korean businesses whose owners were vets and fought back, and by black on white opportunistic attacks. And what do we hear from the French government? "We must adopt training programs for 14 year olds who do not wish to continue with their educations." Really! Shall we train them to pick grapes during the fall harvest?? No, we can't do that because grapes become wine and you know about the prohibition against alcohol. Of course, there doesn't seem to be much adherence to the prohibition anyway and particularly to the prohibition against drugs. What hypocrisy!! Perhaps we should train them to be computer scientists. Of course, that would require some dedication on their parts and, well we just can't insist on that can we?

If the French problem is caused by a handful of malcontents as you describe, then the solution is clear and should be easy. I understand, again from press coverage, that upwards of 2,000 have been arrested and that the rioting goes on. Apparently the French were relieved that only 1300 cars were burned last night instead of 1450 the night before.

And if you think that the American approach is crude, ineffective, discriminatory, etc., may I remind you that we have 14 million Muslims integrated into our society, many of whom retain their Muslim identities, but who also start businesses, have educated children who attend our colleges and universities, who are educated in our public and private schools, and who are productive citizens and who fancy themselves as Americans. We have millions of Hispanics, many of whom trace their transit to this country as illegal immigrants, who own houses, have educated children, own businesses, who live in our cities and our suburban areas and are active participants in our economy and in our politics. I so enjoyed watching Pakistani and Arab children (as well as Asians, Hispanics, Blacks, etc., etc.) boys and girls together playing in the jazz band at the high school attended by my children (who also played in the same band). What could be more emblematic of social integration here than foreign children belting out Coltrane, Ellington, and the good old twelve bar blues? (Do you know about the blues?? "If you want to sing the blues you have to pay your dues, and you know that won't be easy." Ringo Starr) You see, if you want anything from life, you have to make an effort, you have to pay your dues. And how about the Vietnamese, who seem to excel in everything from law and medicine to poker (Scotty Nguyen). Perhaps that explains why 700,000 well educated Europeans have successfully immigrated to America during the past three years as have hundreds of thousands of well educated Russians. And they ain't going back. Their children speak English without an accent, dress and act like American kids, and sing along to hip hop tunes like the best of them. No it is not perfect and it is always a work in process, but America, being a country built by immigrants, is far more successful at integrating our newcomers than have been our condescending European friends. We have our social and racial problems, but we deal with them, perhaps in fits and starts, and not always effectively, but there is a national will to do so and by and large it works. Perhaps our success at integrating immigrants has something to do with our notions of individual responsibility - sometimes diluted by political apologists and almost non-existent in France, but nevertheless, a strong force within our culture.

Michael

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at November 8, 2005 05:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The problem the French have is that their economic engines of growth have completely collapsed. With no ability to expand the tax base to provide social spending to diffuse political discontent, the basest elements at the margin of French society have now acted out. Given that this margin consists of Frenchmen of African and Arab origin and they have not been beneficiaries economically and our racially discriminated against it can not said to be unexpected.
That said it has to be disturbing that the jihadists now have an opening that was likely under tight control given French security laws. A Sept 11, 2001 event in France will provoke a more draconian response than we have had here and it will not change the basis of their economy. The only way out is for France to expand the economy. This will mean a debate about how much money the government will spend for social stability and changing laws to encourage job creation. This is likely to turn violent as Caucasian Frenchmen are confronted with change. That challenge to the French political establishment is the one to watch.

Posted by: Robert M at November 8, 2005 05:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JEB, thank you for your voice of reason and your calm. I may have gotten a little hot.

Michael

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at November 8, 2005 05:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How long does anyone think it will take for an al-Qaeda off shoot, or al-Qaeda itself, to inject itself into this situation in France, or the other European countries where this activity is reported to be spreading. If they are not already there, helping fuel the fires (sorry for the metaphor), they very well could be be soon.

I believe this will take the form of behind the scenes encouragement and support, with the distinct possibility of Madrid/London type attacks on high value targets.

Posted by: Real Deal at November 8, 2005 07:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, Michael, you and others. The way I figure it, no one is burning my car, so why should I get upset:-)

By the way, I don't think the United States has anything close to 14 million Muslims. I could be wrong about this, but my understanding is that many immigrants from predominantly Muslim parts of the world like Lebanon, Palestine, Iran and so forth are not themselves Muslims. If you have better information I'll gladly stand corrected.

Posted by: JEB at November 8, 2005 07:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JEB, I have seen the 14 million figure in a number of places. Wikipedia claims that in 2002, 0.6% of the US population identified themselves as Muslim and that would be a higher figure. I am a bit rushed at the moment but will delve into this a bit further as I like to be accurate. By the way, I always enjoy your posts, agreement or not.

Michael

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at November 8, 2005 08:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have noticed a disturbing tendancy amongst a number of diarists and commenters to try to understand the extensive urban rioting in France through the prism of Salafi/Wahabbist extremist of the Al Qaeda vintage, and to try to draw comparisons to some of the events occurring in the Netherlands and Britain. To put it briefly, such opinions are either the result of people who know nothing about French society or who are paranoid Islamophobes, because they are just flat out wrong and bear zero scrutiny.

In other words, eliminate any thought of AQ style Salafism from your analysis of what is happening. The reasons for these riots has a distinctly French context, and if it can be internationalized in any way, a better analogy would something like the LA riots in the US in '92, or the nationwide urban riots of the late 1960s. The youths involved in these riots share a culture similar to urban African American and Latino in the United States, oscillating between a glorification of "thug life" and criminality and criticism of injustices, past and present. Indeed, there is a large and very good hip hop scene in France that largely comes from the "Banlieues" that are currently rioting, as well as a kind of form of street slang known as "verlan," not unlike American hip hop lingo, or ebonics. (I won't get into what verlan is, you can ask me below). As a starting point, try watching Mathieu Kassovitz's film La Haine, which, while 10 years old, pretty much captures exactly what is happening today in France. If there is a tendency towards Islamic traditionalism, it is found much more in older generations, who are strongly opposed to the current rioting. This is not to say that there isn't stray youth who might fall pray to Salafism extremism. But they represent a tiny minority of the youth, and these folks have nothing to do with the current riots.

Indeed, if you look more closely at who is involved, while a substantial segment of the rioters are Arab North Africans, probably a majority aren't, and include subsaharan Africans from places like Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, etc. as well as probably a number of "white" native French youth. Economic impoverishment and social exclusion are the primary factors driving what is occurring. Culture is a factor at work, but not in the ways you want to describe. If radical Islamic AQ things become involved, it is only because they will be trying to capitalize on discontent after the fact, much as Marxists have done in the past - i.e. try to coopt a discontent and protest after the fact for their own ends. They have nothing to do with why these riots are happening in the first place. Nothing. As such, the situation is fundamentally different than the London bombings and the societal crisis the Netherlands is experiencing. Indeed, France has a reputation as being especially ruthless at rooting out Al Qaeda like organizations and sympathizers. In fact, the French approach is often favorably contrasted by counter-terrorism experts and even hardline American rightists like Daniel Pipes, to the policy of the British government, which has, in the words of various members of the French intelligence and security community, created "Londinistan" (there is actually a French book with this title)

So what is causing the rioting? Well, I allude to the causes above, but the problem is deeper and more structural than that, and I think it goes to the very heart of the French notion of republicanism: "color blind," all individuals are basically the same, they must conform to some kind of model of "Frenchness," etc. Secondly, the French labour model is biased in favor of protecting older workers with "cushy" jobs at the expense of enabling younger workers to enter the labour market. In other words, risk and economic pain is loaded on to one segment of the population - primarily young, primarily minority - in order to protect the privileges of generally older, whiter workers.

As such, the French republican ideal and the nature of its political economic have meant it has difficulty dealing with a multi-ethnic society, and as such, I think it has to be rethought to provide a more flexible, decentralized polity. as well as a labour model biased to protect older workers with established "cushy" jobs.

As such, the French republican ideal has difficulty dealing with a multi-ethnic society, and as such, I think it has to be rethought to provide a more flexible, decentralized polity.

Posted by: Ben P at November 9, 2005 09:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ben,

Reasonable observers of the riots in France would agree with you that race, crime & economics are significant factors in the riots. However, you have dismissed the influence of religion, and specifically the politicized version known as Islamism. If Islamism is of no consequence to the rioters, then why are there repeated shouts of "Alluha Akbar" to be heard in this newsclip of the unrest?

http://media.putfile.com/French-riots

They are not shouting, "Black power" or "Workers unite!", which would be the logical assumption if your analysis is correct. Western elites will continue to dither and ignore the reality of what is happening all around us, smug in the illusion that our political obsessions are what matters. All the while the ground is changing under our feet.

Posted by: Kenneth at November 9, 2005 04:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, yes, but remember that real Salafists -- whatever else one might think of them -- are first-class terrorists. They are far too bloodthirsty to trifle with burning cars or throwing rocks through shop windows. A week's worth of riots with only one fatality? Your genuine Salafist would feel humiliated and unclean even to be associated with such an unholy (in his view, anyway) spectacle.

The flip side of this is that a large number of Muslim immigrants would be a difficult problem for a country like France even if Islamist terrorism did not exist. Religion if it cannot serve as a means of bridging racial and ethnic differences will tend to strengthen them. There may be a "best way" for France to address this issue, a combination of government policies and adjustments in public attitudes that will reduce the explosiveness of the racial and religious differences in French society. I can suggest only the wisdom of facing all the relevant issues directly and openly, advice that is conveniently applicable to many situations that otherwise have little in common.

Posted by: JEB at November 9, 2005 10:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh, for heaven's sake! The teenage sone of an Ivory Coast immigrant wants respect from Frane? He wants appreciation? Where the hell does he get off.

The average IQ in the Ivory Coast is about 71. Do you realize that the US Supreme Court says we cannot execute adults with an IQ of 75 because they re not fully rational? They do not have capacity to know right from wrong. An IQ of 75 is retarded here in the states and in France, too.

So here we have the son of retarded parents, most likely retarded himself, who wants "respect". And for what, I ask?

Hell, he ought to fall on the ground, kiss the dirt and thank his lucky stars that an intelligent society is willing to carry him on its back for the rest of his natural life.

And if he can't handle it, if he is too ashamed to admit his terminal and permanent dependency on inelligent people, he ought to have the decency to hit the road and move on.

How about moving back to the Ivory coast where he can expect to live to 46 and make $1500 per year instead of living to age 75 in France on the dole! I mean guys lets face it. A nation full of retards like th Ivory Coast lives on the ragged edge of death every day and there ain't anything you can do about it, other than spoon feed them forever and ever and ever ... ..

I am sick of neocons (actually neoliberals) with their "racism" and "colonialism" schtick. Hell, blaming the French the way they do, they sound just like their Trotskyite buddies back in carrel 2B of the City College of New York. Give it up neocons. You are nothing but liberals with a popgun on your shoulder. Ther ain't no French racism, there are a bunch of useless and ungrateful African mouths to feed. Whaddya expect the French to do huh? Throw up a "security fence" around the banlieus like Israel did to Gaza and the West Bank?

Give it up, guys. Countries all over Europe are drowning in retards taht are a net loss to their cultures, but won't go home because they figure street sweeping for 30 years in Europe entitles them and their retard families to welfare in perpetuity.

Posted by: Big Bill at November 10, 2005 04:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think sammler said things in a very articulate manner, as did a few others others, but there are a lot of apologists.

At the end of the day, there are people who make something of their lives and their are those who don't. We can make any excuses we want for people not taking this level of responsibility, but it doesn't really change anything.

I do admire western civilisation. I do think it produced brilliance, and still does in some ways. I do find other civilisations such as Islam, at least in its modern form, to be vastly inferior. In fact, in most ways, I find them an affront to all that seems good and right. I would feel the same if someone tried to argue for any form of the medieval west for that matter. Surely we'd laugh at anyone who wanted to reinstitute the feudal system or the sale of indulgences. We wouldn't try embrace such ideas as diversity or to embrace such people and take them into the fold. We'd just laugh at them. Why do we play that game with these Muslims then?

Yet at the same time, I find myself sighing at all those who want to wave the flag for the west. Ultimately, everyone makes his bed and has to lie in it, and the same is true of the west. These problems are ultimately the fault of westerners themselves and it goes back long before any of this. I don't know, maybe the whole post-modern demise of western culture was inevitable given where modernity was at, and so maybe the west has actually been on the way out for a long time now. Whilst I see many of the developments in culture and intellectualism of the 20th century as worthless, ultimately, doesn't everything contain the seed of its own destruction? Weren't those brilliant times in the Renaissance or the Age of Reason, taken to their logical and decadent conclusions where we're at now -- a sexual freedom that has produced a declining birthrate and family/social isolation; civil and intellectual liberties that have produced both a moral vacuum of anything being permissable and a lack of personal responsibility, as well as a kind of distinct anti-intellectualism and a growing functional illiteracy rate (even for so-called "natives"); etc.?

Maybe I'm defeatist or something of the nature, but when I think of a civilisation (western) that across the board, even encompassing the more vibrant New World (eg. NA and the Antipodes) to a lesser extent, can't even get the really fundamental cornerstone of producing 2.1 children per adult woman right, what hope is there for all the rest?

I love the idea of the west, but it seems like an old faithful pet dog that at some point you just have to put out of its misery. Or, to put it another way, as was said in Fight Club, "I felt like putting a bullet between the eyes of every panda that wouldn't fuck to save its species." Whether we're talking literally or metaphorically, the west can't even fuck to save itself anymore.

Yet what's our alternative? I certainly wouldn't see Islam as a worthy successor. That would be a major step backwards. That would be a regression. It would be like 476 A.D. all over again and it would take another thousand years to crawl out of that new Caliphate into any neo-Renaissance.

So what instead? I'm hamstrung by my own ideals that say I should give freedom of existence, expression, etc. to this cancer in my midst rather than stamping it out without a second thought.

Posted by: Caleb at November 12, 2005 01:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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