by Austin Bay
November 8, 2005
"Brennt Paris?" Adolf Hitler asked in August 1944. "Is Paris
The Paris 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.
The past 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 yet.
Migrants 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.
The poverty, 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:
"France 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.
"The 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
Hitler failed 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.
Perhaps 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.
How France 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.
France needs 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."
Holland 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
French evolution 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
The irony is evident. In terms of here-and-now policy, that
means helping the Iraqi people defeat the Saddmist killers and Al Qaida
theo-fascists in Iraq.