An American observer comments on French politics.
Look forward to reading you, Art.
Please pay close attention to the convening of the Congress which normally only meets to ratify international treaties. Some momentous decisions are clearly about to be announced by the President.
Thanks Art. Everybody is fine in Argenteuil.
Bernard, I have been wondering about this big Congress and Hollande’s speech on Monday. I really don’t know what momentous proposal he could make. Frankly, I think France and Europe are simply stuck. Maybe some travel restrictions and maybe an extension of the state of emergency to include more wiretapping and some travel restrictions on French nationals who travel to Iraq or Syria and seek to return. But, seriously, what can he do beyond things that are largely symbolic or practical but only minimally so?He can’t physically get at Islamic State partly because the French Army is already overcommitted but mostly because there’s no way of resolving crisis in Syria that is creating these millions of refugees and strengthening Islamic State without getting rid of the Assad gang; and that’s impossible without confronting Iran and Russia, something for which the West has absolutely no appetite. In a way, Islamic State is protected by Iran, Russia and the Assad regime. There isn’t any practical way of getting at Islamic State in Syria without resolving Syria’s civil war first. A deal that would leave Assad and his gang in power is unthinkable. It would mean that Europe would need to absorb the millions who have already fled and the millions more who would flee from a victorious Assad. But does Europe really have the stomach to round these refugees up and return them to be horrifically killed?But if we aren’t going to act in defiance of Iran and Russia, then it seems clear that the Islamic State is invulnerable to large scale military action by the West, which means that’s there nothing to be done militarily except perhaps to make a few more entirely symbolic airstrikes.What proposals could Hollande make that would address future “urban warfare” type attacks? It seems to me that one reason why France has suffered these many attacks—of which Friday night was simply the largest—has a lot to do with its huge Muslim population which has been both an incubator and a source of succor for these young jahidis. If the published descriptions of the operation are correct, this was a very highly sophisticated involving a lot of people moving in and out of France and Belgium over a fairly long period of time. We are not talking about a handful of teenagers with guns.We're talking about lots of people and lots of stuff. . The people, guns, explosives and vehicles took time to assemble in Paris. It should have been very noticeable. It seems very, very likely that these teams stayed in certain areas and that more than a few people in those areas were either involved or at least had some level of awareness of what was being planned. And it seems likely to me that there were more than a few people who must have had some very strong suspicions but somehow weren’t able to do so much as make an anonymous phone call. But what measures could Hollande propose on Monday that would begin the necessary process of draining the warm sea of support in which these terrorists thrive without further alienating and stigmatizing France’s already alienated and disconnected Muslims? I have no answer and I’ve seen nothing to suggest that anybody else has a good one either, so what’s Hollande going to propose on Monday?
This is a second chance for France to get it right. After Charlie we saw a deluge of grandiose, self-congratulatory neo-republican rhetoric and the consequence was that, if at all possible, the part of the French population for which this ideology is a death pact was even further alienated ( see Emmanuel Todd's inspired "Qui est Charlie") . Not to mention that people were hauled into police stations for stating that no, thank you, they were not Je suis Charlie. The net effect was that after a few months the situation was roughly the same as it was before the shootings. Hopefully this time there will be less triumphalism and more pragmatism. Philippe
Philippe,Could you perhaps be more specific in describing what it is that you think France has been given a second chance to do? Just so I can be sure that I know where you're coming from.
@ Mitch Guthman: wherever Philippe comes from, there is an issue in becoming effective against ISIS, whose support networks in France likely rose steadily since months. Bombings and "haussements de menton" are not that effective.The talks of "total war" (Sarkozy) or "counter-strike in order to destroy" (Valls) obviously remember of Lyndon B. Johnson's escalation against North Vietnam, as told by Art in "Shooting war". I read in http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/vietnam-war/lyndon-johnson-and-vietnam/ (wherever this site comes from) that in 1964:"On national television Johnson told the US public:“Repeated acts of violence against the armed forces of the United States must be met not only with alert defence, but with a positive reply. That reply is being given as I speak tonight.”Congress gave Johnson near enough total support for his actions (Senate 88 to 2 and House 416 to 0) and also authorised him to take whatever measures he deemed necessary against North Vietnam."
(but by the way, I would certainly not endorse Philippe's way to describe what happened in January 2015).
When Roosevelt and Churchill allied with Stalin to defeat Nazi Germany, they did not have to like Stalin or be under any illusion about him. That has been my position for a long time now.Additionally, I am growing a little bit tired of hearing arguments about how the Russians are not hitting ISIS but democratic opponents of Assad. Why did ISIS then plant a bomb on a Russian airliner? Assad and family are very bad guys, I would be the last to deny this. We can deal with them later. The first order at this time is to form as vast an alliance as can be to exterminate the ISIS army. Literally. It is not to keep Russia out of the Middle East.As for what President Hollande will announce on Monday, I do not feel that we need to speculate, we will know on Monday. But I do suspect that it will be very, very major.
A "second chance" to heal the country's divisions and formulate a forward-looking , consensual project ("projet commun"). My point is that post-Charlie many in France did not join "Je suis Charlie" for various reasons (reasonably so imo). My hope is that the official rhetoric this time around will have broader appeal . Philippe
The last Congress in Versailles that I recall was not to ratify an international treaty but to hear from the new president, Nicolas Sarkozy. He announced a great plan of expenditures and loans that would leverage the technical and physical capacities of Paris and lift the French economy.
@MGC,you're right, I forgot the 2008 revision of the constitution.
@BernardYou're right about momentous decisions.
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