The Long View 2005-11-09: French Nuances

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French Nuances

 

Here's an occasion for a bit of Alternative History. Writing for the BBC in a piece entitled Violence exposes France's weaknesses, John Simpson offered this aside on the relationship between France's policy of appeasement in the Middle East and its troubles at home:

No matter that events have thoroughly borne out his criticisms of the US and British invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Muslim teenagers who briefly applauded him then have long since forgotten all that - though of course if he had supported President George W Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair then, he would be in even greater trouble now.

It is hard to see exactly what the French government was right about. Like everyone else, they thought that Iraq had an active WMD program, but that the Baathist government could be trusted to abandon the project after one last round of inspections. The inspections after the invasion proved both beliefs were wrong. The French also warned against an uprising of the Arab street. That did occur, after a fashion, but it happened about 10 klicks from the president's office.

Imagine that the US and UK had adopted the French position and settle for inspection rather than invasion. The results would have been negative. The sanctions would have been lifted. Iraq would have gone back into the WMD business, since we know for a fact that the plan was to wait until the UN went away. Baathist Iraq was ruled by a kind of Islamofascist distinct from the Islamists, but they had reached the point where the victory of one was celebrated as the victory of the other; celebrations were held in Iraq after 911, for instance. Similarly, the end of the sanctions on Iraq would have been seen, correctly, as a victory of militant Islam over the West, France included. This could only have enhanced the appeal of Islamism to the immigrant communities in Europe. For that matter, the Iraqi government would have been in a position to press for concessions to the energized Islamic minorities.

One can argue, though I think incorrectly, that the US would be in a better position today if the Iraq War had been aborted. In such a scenario, however, the position for France would have been far more desperate.

* * *

I myself have used the term "Intifada" to describe the events in France, but I recognize that this needs qualification. Many bloggers have noted that the Mainstream Media rarely mention the Muslim angle. Libertarians mention it, but discount it. Culture war types, a group that includes me for most purposes, seem to speak of little else. Certainly the tactics used by the rioters appear influenced by television reporting of the Palestinian Intifada. If you want to make a case that the riots are an Islamist uprising, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence. A site called Information Regarding Israeli Security has compiled a long list of links to support that proposition: see Evidence the "Paris Riots" Are Actually the "French Intifada"

However, though there is a degree of coordination in the violence, it is not organized in the semi-military manner that we see in the Palestinian territories. Casualties have been light. There have been no suicide bombings.

Mark Steyn says that we should take no comfort from these differences:

As to the "French" "youth", a reader in Antibes cautions me against characterising the disaffected as "Islamist". "Look at the pictures of the youths," he advises. "They look like LA gangsters, not beturbaned prophet-monkeys."

Leaving aside what I'm told are more than a few cries of "Allahu Akhbar!" on the streets, my correspondent is correct. But that's the point...But, whether in turbans or gangsta threads, just as Communism was in its day, so Islam is today's ideology of choice for the world's disaffected.

That sounds plausible to me, but it makes the threat a little hypothetical. When I used the term "Arab street" above, I used it advisedly. What seems to have happened is that the French and other European countries have succeeded in transferring Arab (and South Asian) political culture to their own soil, gangs and all. What we have seen in France in recent days is what would happen in the Middle East if the regimes there had not learned to keep the Arab street clear by shooting the Arabs in it.

Will that happen in Europe? Some people think so, but I rather doubt it. We have to remember that the problem is neither class warfare in the European tradition, nor the sort of racial conflict that bedevils American history. A Middle Eastern millet is trying to form in Europe. That has to be prevented, but it cannot be prevented by pretending that we are dealing with a class or a race issue.

* * *

Meanwhile, a new evil has been discovered by Andrew Sullivan:

CHRISTIANISM AND THE LEFT: The emergence of Christianism in this country - a political movement founded on evangelical doctrine - is arguably the most significant political development of the new millennium. And what's critical about this new movement is its relationship to government: there's nothing Christianists like more than active, interventionist government to right wrong, police private lives and uphold their version of morality.

There is a very old New Age term, "Christine," for an follower of the alleged esoteric teachings of Jesus. That coinage did not stick. I have small hope for "Christianist."

* * *

But what if we are attacked by pirates!?! Well, obviously, you fire your sonic blaster:

MIAMI - The crew of a luxury cruise ship used a sonic weapon that blasts earsplitting noise in a directed beam while being attacked by a gang of pirates off Africa this weekend, the cruise line said Monday...The LRAD is a so-called "non-lethal weapon" developed for the U.S. military after the 2000 attack on the USS Cole off Yemen as a way to keep operators of small boats from approaching U.S. warships.

The military version is a 45-pound, dish-shaped device that can direct a high-pitched, piercing tone with a tight beam. Neither the LRAD's operators or others in the immediate area are affected.

Piracy is no longer a joke. Shipping companies and the world's navies seem to have gotten the memo, but more needs to be done.

* * *

A Correction: A reader informs me that the Alternative Minimum Tax was not, as I had recalled, created in 1986. It was augmented as part of the TEFRA reform of that year, but a version of it was created in 1978, which was actually a modification of an earlier "minimum tax" that dates to 1969. You may read the whole sorry tale here. (Thanks, Adam!)

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