Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Liberte! Equalite! Intifadeh?

Two views on the French crisis:

1) Defense and national security expert Tom Barnett identifies the problem of the
political disconnect in French culture:

Estimates of these Muslim slums are that 40% of the families there are dysfunctional in some way, leading to dropouts, drug abuse, crime, etc. It's the 12-year-old on the street at midnight that drives too much of this.

Fools will rush in with promises of crackdowns of all sorts (like Chirac), but we'll also get the separatists from among the Muslims who argue that salvation is cultural apartheid, a view that will get your serious cancerous tumors within your society, unless the Martin Luthers are replaced by the Martin Luther Kings.

In short, we need more than Reformation. We need political connectivity.
2) Paul Belien in the new blog-ish Brussels Journal examines the Frenchman at
the center of the crisis -- no, not Jacques Chirac -- the Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy: a second generation immigrant, the son of a Hungarian refugee and a Greek mother. “I like the frame of mind of those who need to build everything because nothing was given to them,” he said a few months ago about his upbringing.

The experience of his youth has made Sarkozy not only the most pro-American French politician, but also virtually the only one who understands what second generation immigrants really need if they want to build a future.

More important than the so-called “social benefits” – the government alms provided by welfare politicians like Chirac, Villepin and their predecessors – is the provision of law and order. This guarantees that those who create wealth do not lose it to thugs who extort and rob and burn down their properties.

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.

The entire post -- as are Belien's subsequent ones -- is well worth reading. Key lesson is something that can be gleaned also from Barnett: While a rising Muslim population is problematic, that is not the sole -- or even major cause -- of the French riots.

Instead, arguably, the uprising's spark can be gleaned in France's apparent inability to absorb two realities that America confronted on both national and local levels in the '90s: the importance of welfare reform as a major social policy tool and the "broken windows" theory of policing urban areas.

The first reality recognized that
family structure is important to welfare reform; government should promote family unity and responsible behavior and discourage dysfunctionality.

The second reality -- the
"broken windows" theory of policing popularized by Rudy Giuliani and the NYPD -- recognized the importance of setting up societal standards. It understood that cracking down on even slight deviations from the norm -- such as graffitti artists -- sends a signal throughout an urban environment that a social compact exists and will be defended.

(Continued commitment to that theory and the results it produces -- now going on eight years since Giuliani faced the voters -- is one major reason that Michael Bloomberg won an historic re-election Tuesday night.)

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