Monday, July 18, 2016

Reflections on the Tragedy in Nice.

For The American Prospect.


Jerry Lundegaaard said...

OMG ! France is on the verge of panic and chaos ! France is going down the drain ! The civil war is next ! ISIS won ! What are we gonna do ? I can feel the heavy breathing of Marine down my neck, it gives me the creeps ! Save us !

Bernard said...

I read your article and tend to share your main worry. At the same time I keep reminding myself that the principal aim of Isis is evidently to fracture french society along "ethnic" lines and provoke a civil war involving our presently largely peaceful Muslim population (as opposed to the 10,000 or so rabid islamists), which an MLP victory would go a long way towards creating. So I keep telling myself that maybe, hopefully we are being made exagaretely pessimistic by the enemy's propaganda.

I want to express my complete disagreement on a specific point that you make, knowing very well that it has become part of a common discourse criticising the efficiency of what the government is doing to protect our security. Operation Sentinelle is said to be useless and did not prevent the massacres that have hurt,terrified and angered our population. Indeed. Now let us run a counterfactual: Sentinelle is scrapped and those three soldiers standing guard in front of the Jewish school in Paris 5th district -you likely know the school as I do- no longer stand guard. Exactly how many days do you think will elapse before the children are mass assassinated? Myself, I give it 2 days at most and that makes my point quite vividly. Sure, some aspects of the operation could possibly be improved, including rules of engagement many like to say. But that has been anti-constitutional for a very long time in France for obvious reasons. Even the US constitution which unwisely protects the right to own firearms prohibits use of the army inside the US,for good reason.

Art Goldhammer said...

Bernard, Yes, you're quite right. I apologize for ceding to the conventional (non) wisdom.

Mitch Guthman said...

I have to agree with Art on the politics but disagree with both Bernard and Art on the virtues of programs such as the Sentinelle. When the political class seems to be helpless and endlessly vacillating instead of being seen as making a genuine effort to address problems like terrorism, the economy, globalization, the refugee/mass migration crises, their hesitancy tends to rebound politically to the benefit of one extreme or another. In France today, that means Le Pen and she doesn’t have to say or do anything right now to advance herself politically; it is probably enough that she waits in the wings as the political class self-destructs.

But I disagree with both Art and Bernard about security. These soldiers (and sometimes police) stationed in front of Jewish schools and so forth provide very little more than symbolic protection. As we’ve seen time and time again, the guards are among the earliest casualties because the first mover advantage for these kinds of terror attacks is much too strong. And the fact they these soldiers and police are heavily armed is probably more destabilizing than reassuring.

Obviously, they are important as symbols of the state’s concern but I think it would be much better if they weren’t so obviously armed. I think the French police should return to the uniforms that hid their weapons from public display. If you want to create confidence and a atmosphere of normalcy, you don’t really want to look like a third-world banana republic.

What Hollande should be doing, instead of extending his idiotic state of emergency, is recognizing that the difficulty of fighting terror inspired by ISIS is in no small part the result of decades of migration from the Middle East and North Africa into a very open society. It is simply impossible to defend against these lone wolves. Hollande must bring together leaders and thinkers from throughout French society to see if it’s possible to create a social consensus that would also the children of immigrants to be fully absorbed and to create a response within the Muslim community that would greatly enhance intelligence gathering.

But equally, there is the question of what can be done with that intelligence without destroying the qualities that have made France a great nation. I don’t have any answers at the moment but I’m certain that a conversation among all of France’s leaders and thinkers, including most especially those within the Muslim community, is the best hope for the future.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that an attacker who is willing to give his/her life in exchange for slaughter is very different from those who expect to get away with what they are doing. We see this not only in Nice (Brussels and Paris?), but also in Orlando, Dallas and Baton Rouge. For the moment, I don't see an effective way to cut these kamakazies off. We all may have to learn to live with terrorism the way that Israel does -- which involves a certain amount of curtailment of freedom/human rights.