Monday, April 21, 2008

America Lands in Clichy-sous-Bois

It seems that the U.S. government is taking a serious interest in the French suburbs: the official reason is that "Americans are interested in diversity and want to share the experience of minorities." But according to Ali Laïdi, a researcher at IRIS, the real goal is "to understand what happened in 2001." In other words, the embassy appears to have been assigned the task of understanding the radicalization of Muslims in Europe, of building bridges to the Muslim community, and of keeping tabs on developments among European Muslims.

If Cold War experience is any guide, that is only the most visible aspect of the project. As has been abundantly documented, American intelligence tried to influence European opinion in many ways during the Cold War, including the financing of journals, art shows, conferences, etc. And of course information-gathering never stops. Between "hard power" and "soft power" there is "malleable power": the use of abundant resources to entice, cajole, seduce, and co-opt.

Thanks to Éloi Laurent for the tip.

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