Sunday, 13 Nov 2005
Al Gore, speaking at a recent interview:
If there are any democrats who wouldn't prefer to have Al Gore in the White House instead of George Bush, I haven't met them.
This is what's at stake now. This is why we vote.
Sunday, 06 Nov 2005
I've been watching the media reports on the rioting in France and reading what analysis I can find. My knowledge of French culture, French law, French economics and French politics might fill a thimble on a good day, so I limit myself to the basic facts and try to take it from there.
One thing really seems odd to me. Given the scope of the rioting there have been very, very few casualties, yet an astonishing number of cars have been torched in the streets. So far as I know, not one person has been killed in the riots themselves, but something like 1300 cars were burned just in the last night alone.
Now, like I said, I don't know France at all. Maybe this is the way that a wide-spread civil disturbance might play out for those folks. Cultures vary a lot, and patterns of criminality vary as much as anything else. I really can't say.
But what if this is unusual, even for France? What does it suggest? A little speculation on that question leads to some rather uncomfortable conclusions.
Discipline is what distinguishes an army from a mob. A mob is unpredictable, chaotic, uncontrolled. It might have a defined goal but it does not really have defined tactics, and various elements of a mob will pursue their objectives in different ways. At any given moment, a violent mob might turn its attention to arson, looting, murder, street battles with the police or red-on-red battles with each other. A mob in one neighborhood is likely to behave quite differently than a mob in another. Inevitably, their actions tend to change over time, typically devolving into disorganized criminality within a couple of days.
What I've seen reported from France looks nothing like this. It's been ten days now, but the fighting seems even more organized and disciplined than before. Concurrent actions in several cities, all following a similar pattern; cars and some buildings burned, the police slowed by sharp but limited resistance, civilian deaths carefully avoided. The rioters (I'll resist the temptation to call them 'insurgents') seem smart enough, and controlled enough, not to vent their rage in a full-on fight with the authorities, preferring to execute small, fast, mobile attacks that always seem to stop just before things really get out of hand.
Wretchard at The Belmont Club believes that we are seeing a clever, if spontaneously organized, attempt to maximize the propaganda value of the rioting while limiting the government's response. The burning of a car does not justify the use of lethal force in return, but it looks great on the TV cameras and it is easy for a small, mobile band to execute. It is a perfect way for the rioters to maximize their strengths while playing to the authorities' weakness.
Such tactics can emerge spontaneously, of course, but I don't think this adequately explains the apparent level of discipline the rioters have sustained over this time. I want to know why we are not seeing this disturbance spiral down into disorganized criminality. I want to know why the fighting has been increasing in strength over so many days, and why this particular tactical doctrine has not varied for so long.
Maybe things are different in France, but in my experience, ordinary mobs are not like this. Armies are.
What I think we are seeing here is an organized Islamic minority fighting, ultimately, for partition. This is an early stage of an incremental, nearly bloodless civil war, one that would transition the Islamic ghetto into something more akin to an occupied territory.
They might get it, too, if they are smart. I think the French are now talking to the leaders of the Islamic community, and that they will soon reach an agreement. There will be only one part of this agreement that matters - the part that allows the Islamic enclaves greater autonomy to govern and police themselves. Once their leaders have won this strategic prize, the 'rioting' will come to a quick and disciplined end.
Of course, after a period of relative calm, further demands for further autonomy will always continue. Call it a fifth-generation civil war. Many citizens won't even realize they are in a fight until it is over.
The French are not stupid, and I'm sure they realize how dangerous this could be to their long term self-interest. Of course, they surely realize the dangers of their growing economic and demographic problems as well, but simple awareness of a problem does not automatically imply either a willingness or an ability to address it. Few nations can claim that they have not ignored their own simmering troubles. France simply cannot put this genie back in the bottle without very great cost, but it can easily surrender just a little at a time. Why not? Perhaps partition would bring peace.
I don't believe it, of course, but I'll bet that many French do. We might all find out, soon enough.
A few years back I was criticized for a throwaway observation to the effect that ''I find it easier to be optimistic about the futures of Iraq and Pakistan than, say, Holland or Denmark." But this is why. In defiance of traditional immigration patterns, these young men are less assimilated than their grandparents. French cynics like the prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, have spent the last two years scoffing at the Bush Doctrine: Why, everyone knows Islam and democracy are incompatible. If so, that's less a problem for Iraq or Afghanistan than for France and Belgium.
Even if the riots began opportunistically, the French govt's reaction has provided fuel by making clear that substantial political gains for the Muslims are attainable by force. The sky's the limit now. I didn't see the WSJ article yet, but concession talk was foreordained by the leftist political culture which knows only to appease in response to attacks. God help them, and us, if they give in and grant the Muslims some kind of formal autonomy within France. It would be like the beach head of an invasion where the nation being invaded didn't realize that it was at war.