November 9, 2005
France Must Evolve
Paris?" Adolf Hitler asked in August 1944. "Is Paris burning?"
garrison commander, German Gen. Dietrich von Choltitz, finessed
the Fuhrer's "scorched earth" evil. His forces put up
a fight, but Paris wasn't torched and turned to ash.
two weeks of immigrant riots haven't burned Paris, at least not
literally. That's part of the story. The neighborhoods afflicted
by violence aren't the toney blocks and chic boulevards -- not
from France's former Muslim colonies initially came to France
seeking jobs, often the jobs the French no longer deigned to do.
The immigrants stayed. Whether the immigrants wanted to assimilate
(of course many do, some do not), assimilation has not occurred.
Now, France's "Muslim neighborhoods" and "African
neighborhoods" exist as permanent "cultural islands,"
scarred by high unemployment and bitter resentment. These are
the "quartiers sensible" -- the sensitive neighborhoods.
public neglect and ethnic hatred are not news, nor is the religious-political
violence of Islamist militants. In 1995, I wrote an article for
The San Antonio Express-News analyzing France's entanglement
with Algeria's Armed Islamic Group. A couple paragraphs emphasize
the deep roots of the current crisis:
struggles with its own internal 'Islam problem.' About 4 to
5 million Muslims, most of them Arab immigrants and a third
of them Algerian, live in France. In 1970, France had two dozen
mosques. In 1994, there were around 1,000 mosques in France.
French government confronts many difficult choices. A tough
response to terrorists is one thing; a 'state of siege,' which
leads to ethnic carnage between the French and Arab immigrants,
is a step toward a kind of smoldering civil war, and one that
plays into the hands of extreme right-wing politicians."
to burn Paris, and I doubt teenagers with flaming Molotovs or
even Al Qaida's bombs will reduce The City of Light to embers.
But the Molotovs shed hard light on political, economic and demographic
problems France has ignored and tried to hide for four decades.
France didn't invent Bonapartism, though it invented the word.
It's certainly familiar with the concept of a hard-line "man
on a horse" using bayonets to "bring order" out
of revolutionary anarchy. Recall that Jacques Chirac faced Jean-Marie
Le Pen in the last French presidential election. Le Pen, a far
right denizen and former paratrooper, outpolled the Socialist
candidate. Le Pen attracts communist support, which should surprise
no one, since communism is red fascism.
addresses its domestic woes is critical to the rest of Western
Europe, and a "man on a horse" from either the right
or left is not the answer.
evolution, not revolution. France's stated racial and cultural
integration policies don't square with its ghetto and Molotov
reality. Over time, a jobs-producing economy might create something
of a Gallic melting pot, but France's statist economy doesn't
produce jobs. The Euro-socialist economic model may enthrall leftist
intellectuals, but its dole doesn't satisfy immigrants seeking
a better life. Fundamental economic change requires leaders with
vision who will accept domestic political pain, not to mention
the international embarrassment of "Americanization."
may be a step ahead of France in confronting the immediate "worst
case" scenario of a jihadist-engineered "intifada-like"
revolt. The Dutch are expelling non-citizens suspected of ties
to Islamist terrorist groups. The November 2004 vicious murder
of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a jihadist told Holland its
fashionable multiculturalism didn't appease terrorists.
means isolating and, if necessary, arresting Salafist/Islamist
radicals. The French government, albeit belatedly, has encouraged
the spread of what for want of a better description is called
"Euro-Islam." Turkey, however, can argue that implementing
"Euro-Islam" has been its policy since the 1920s.
On the international
front, evolution means two things: The first is fostering economic
development in Francophone Africa. France still operates a rapacious
African empire, an ugly truth. The second is helping develop democratic
alternatives in the politically dysfunctional Arab Muslim Middle
is evident. In terms of here-and-now policy, that means helping
the Iraqi people defeat the Saddmist killers and Al Qaida theo-fascists
2005 Creators Syndicate