Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Sleeping at the wheel

Yesterday I wrote that IMHO the Paris riots have less to do with Islamism and intifada-like wars of attrition than with the lack of integration. Neo-neocon has prescient comments that cannot be dismissed:
So, are we in a clash of civilizations, or aren't we? Clive is always worth reading and listening to, and I think he is correct to ask the question, and to say the answer is not a simple "either-or."
But sometimes the answer is "maybe," or "yes, and." Unfortunately, I don't think we are in any position to say for sure that we are not in such a clash, much as I would like this to be the case. The "fog of riots" has not lifted. And although there may be no point in being apocalyptic (not Now, at least), I don't think it's a good idea to dismiss the "clash" possibility out of hand.
Reasonable people may differ on this, of course. But I tend to think the evidence is quite strong that if we aren't in a clash of civilizations at the moment, we are at least teetering on the brink. Whether or not these particular riots fall into the category "clash of civilizations" remains to be seen. But pundits and bloggers and people in the street are going to rush in to fill the vacuum of knowledge with theories, and the idea that there are Islamic fundamentalist supremicists behind this, pulling at least some of the strings (directly or indirectly, intially or presently), is not an entirely unreasonable one.
Do read the whole thing. Another interesting aspect that is worth noting (via ¡No Pasarán!, who has the translation):
But, like criminals always leaving their mark, the riots revealed their true objective through their targets: social schools, cribs, centers, community gyms, etc...
In other words they were mainly buildings representing the French Republic, those which symbolized the "policy of integration" the most were most prominently attacked.
These riots didn’t take place because "France refuses to integrate its Moslems", [or some such blather], but exactly for the opposite reason: because France tries to integrate its Moslems.
Whatever ends up being the significance of the riots, it is clear that the French government should have reacted more forcefully and earlier. Here is why it hasn't:
Sarkozy's decision to send the police back to the suburbs which had been abandoned by previous governments was resented by the "youths" who now rule there. That this would lead to riots was inevitable. Sarkozy knew it, and so did Chirac, Villepin and the others. Sarkozy intended to crack down hard on the rioters. If the French government had sent in the army last week, it would have been responding to the thugs in a language they understand: force. And the riots would long have ceased.
What happened instead was that Sarkozy's "colleagues" in government used the riots as an excuse to turn on the "immigrant" in their own midst. Paris is well worth a mass, King Henri IV of France once said. Bringing down Nicolas Sarközy de Nagy-Bocsa is well worth a riot, King Chirac must have thought. Contrary to the normal French policy in dealing with trouble makers, the authorities decided to use a soft approach. Chirac and his designated crown prince Villepin blamed Sarkozy’s "disrespectful rhetoric" – such as calling thugs thugs – for having detonated the explosive situation in the suburbs. Dominique de Villepin stepped in and took over the task of restoring calm from Sarkozy. While the latter was told to shut up and keep a low profile, Villepin began a "dialogue" with the rioters. As a result the riots have spilled over from Paris to other French cities. Do not be surprised if this French epidemic soon crosses France’s borders into the North African areas surrounding cities in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Also see this. I wonder if this political trick is spinning out of control? And what do the French people think?
Many protesters have focused their anger on Mr Sarkozy, the early favourite for the 2007 presidential elections, who said he wanted to "vacuum clean" the suburbs of "scum" and "riff raff".
However, the ambitious interior minister hit back, citing in an article in Le Monde a 17 per cent drop in crime rates over the past four years. "Obviously, if the criminals and thugs do not like our security policy, the French support it," he said.
In spite of the growing unrest, Mr Sarkozy's popularity has survived relatively unscathed. According to an opinion poll published this weekend for Le Parisien newspaper, 57 per cent of people had a positive image of Mr Sarkozy.
Good. Meanwhile, I am in Milan at the moment, but I will be going back to Brussels this week. I wonder what I'll find?

Post Scriptum:
Adloyada has an excellent roundup with personal observations:
When I was in Paris [in 1960], I was pretty much left to my own devices by my hostess and took to walking across the city, much as I had done when I acquired a taste for truanting afternoons in London in my previous year at school. I found I constantly got picked up by young Algerian men. It eventually penetrated my consciousness that the reason they made such a beeline for me was that no French girl would so much as look at them, and they were desperate for some sort of social and preferably sexual outlet.
I did begin spontaneously to think about what led to this state of affairs. Previously I would have thought of it as the product of something we in those days called prejudice. But I worked out for myself that it was more than that. There was clearly a system of importing the poor and desperate of actual or former colonies as cheap labour, and that the system would discard this labour as soon as it had served its purpose.
Do read the whole thing.

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