As the whole world knows by now, France has been buffeted by nightly riots for the last two weeks.
American mainstream media coverage began with one of the most stupid editorials I have ever seen. Mark Steyn suggests that what was happening in the Parisian suburbs was akin to war and that should be addressed as such with troops.
After four somnolent years, it turns out finally that there really is an explosive ''Arab street,'' but it's in Clichy-sous-Bois...For half a decade, French Arabs have been carrying on a low-level intifada against synagogues, kosher butchers, Jewish schools, etc....Unlike America's Europhiles, France's Arab street correctly identified Chirac's opposition to the Iraq war for what it was: a sign of weakness.
From what I can understand of this preposterous rant, is that Steyn considers that in the best of cases the French should regard these citizens (almost all of these young people are French) as the Israelis regard the Palestinians.
They should deprive them of their rights, terrorise them, attack them in their homes and put them behind checkpoints.
Given the success of Israeli policies in bringing peace and prosperity to Israel, this is a very intelligent suggesion. Then the French too could live under constant threat of suicide bombing in their churches, schools and markets in perpetuity.
As France is the number one tourist destination in the world with 75 million visitors/year representing 34.5€ billion euros, destroying the entire tourist sector with internecine violence would be a great first step to bankrupting the country.
This would set the stage for an Iraq-like situation with widescale ethnic violence and regular military action.
While this may suit the American neocon/PNAC cheerleaders like Steyn, happily the French have a great deal more sense than this.
Indeed, they understand the grievances of these young men. Basically it is next to impossible for them to get decent jobs. First there is a dearth of jobs to be had - in general one has to have connections to get a job (pistonner is the word in French) - whether French or not. As the parents of these young men are for the most part working in menial service jobs, they don't have a lot of pull to push their children into good careers.
There is another social concept in France - it's called chasse gardée (the English historical equivalent would be royal forest). What this means is that all good jobs in France belong to the French. And in this context, French means born French and born part of the French elite.
The school system in France is quite unique. While there is a large university system, the universities actually represent a second-tier education. Anyone who aspires to high office in either industry or government must study in something called a grande école. The elite of government, politics and business have almost all studied in one grand école or another. In the case of politics, most of them studied at the Ecole Nationale d'Aministration in Paris.
After the second world war, fifty percent of those admitted into the grandes écoles had to come from a worker or popular background as a matter of state policy. With time that figure has slipped to five per cent of those admitted. All the rest of the students are either children of the elite or of the bourgeoisie. I don't know if exact figures exist for the division between these two categories.
One's fate is more or less decided by twenty with one's admittance into a grande école or not.
And these young men in the Paris suburbs have definitely been left out of the game. But even for normal employment, the unemployment rate for people in their twenties is as high as 25% - a figure in itself kept down by the high number of young people studying for higher degrees.
As the grievances of these young men in the Paris suburbs are real, there are very few in France who would like to see an attempt to crush these youths. Far from being some kind of Islamist terrorists, these are disadvantaged young people legitimately expressing grievance.
Since the police have kept their heads and the French have not shed large quantities of blood, these riots will probably pass without leaving much trace or doing much damage to the economy.
Were Paris to go up in flames as a consequence of punitive and murderous assaults by police and/or military units on these youths, the immediate damage would be enormous.
Moreover, the French have no desire to have an incarceration system like the United States with two million behind bars, half of them from the black underclass. It's less expensive (and far kinder) to provide state aid and work training programs and welfare than to keep people in penitentiaries.
There is strong evidence that the inflammatory comments of Interior Minister (and would-be presidential candidate) Nikolai Sarkozy made the situation much worse. That had someone else intervened in a more conciliatory way earlier that the rioting would have just stopped, as it seems to be petering out now.
Keeping level heads and the redressing injustice seems to a good plan.
Further commentary on the historical background with emphasis on the Algerian colonisation from Juan Cole.
Over at the moral cesspool of Little Green Footballs, the rhetoric is incredible. Here is a contribution from longtime LGFer savage_nation:
ENOUGH TALK! When are we going to see some ACTION? Every second spent flapping your lips means the Islamists are gaining ground! Crush these cockroaches once and for all. Declare martial law! Fuel up every Mirage and unleash HELL on the rioters. Western Civilization is at stake, you morons!
For more of the same visit - http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=18137#comments.