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France As the West Bank

The 'new kind of war' facing the French challenges liberal democracy at its foundations

From The Guardian:

As police worked to identify the militants, all of whom died in the attacks, Molins also confirmed that at least one of the fighters, identified by his fingerprints, was a French national from the Paris suburb of Courcouronnes. The man, born in 1985, had a criminal record and had been flagged as an extremist as early as 2010, the prosecutor said.

He also said a Syrian passport, belonging to a man born in 1990 who was not known to the French authorities, had been found lying close by the bodies of two other jihadis, who both blew themselves up in the course of their attacks.

Greece’s citizen protection minister, Nikos Toskas, said earlier that that the passport’s owner had entered the European Union through the Greek island of Leros on 3 October, adding: “We do not know if the passport was checked by other countries through which the holder likely passed.”

National Front leader Marine Le Pen held a press conference today. The NYT reports:

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s extreme-right National Front party, declared at a news conference on Saturday: “France and the French are no longer safe. It is my duty to tell you so.”

Ms. Le Pen expressed her condolences to the families of the victims and praised the work of emergency and security forces, but she said that France had to “finally determine who are its allies and who are its enemies.” She accused unnamed countries of having “benevolent” relationships with radical Islam and “ambiguous” ties with terrorist groups.


Ms. Le Pen also said France had suffered a “programmed collapse” of its security and defense capacities, and that it needed to strengthen its military and police forces.

“Finally, fundamentalist Islam must be wiped out,” she said. “France must ban Islamist organizations, close radical mosques, and kick out foreigners who are preaching hatred on our soil, as well as illegal immigrants who have nothing to do here.”

She said that people who are members of Islamist movements and who have dual citizenship — from France and another nation — should have their French citizenship taken away and should be banned from French territory.

As many of us have been saying for some time, if the mainstream parties cannot deal with this problem, Europeans will turn to the far right. I was talking earlier today with a reader in Paris who is mourning the murders of two of his friends in the Bataclan. I told him that the video of the anonymous musician playing John Lennon’s “Imagine” on a piano decorated with a peace symbol, outside the nightclub, was touching, in a way, but also emblematic of the reason France is so unprepared to deal with this situation. That song — an anthem of hippie nihilism — and that symbol are all that the Soixante-Huitard (literally, “Sixty-Eighter,” or a participant in the 1968 student unrest symbolic of the Boomers) generation has to offer, and it cannot stand up to radical Islam. You cannot fight something with nothing. If liberal society cannot defend itself, the weakness of the authorities calls up illiberalism.

The reader, a mainstream French conservative who is plugged in to French politics, responded:

I do agree with you on all fronts. But the French population is now divided into three groups: “Imagine” singers, plain ignorants, and — how to put it — pragmatic pessimists. This third group hovers between mainstream conservatism and the new Le Pen flavor. Starting today, I guess they’ll flock around Marine Le Pen.

Oddly, classic French conservatives are moving from the traditional Atlantic alliance to the reemerging Russian raw power. President Putin is praised in private, a lot! President Obama is now considered a huge disappointment, a weak president who wobbled on the Syrian problem.

Right now, a mainstream conservative (Laurent Wauquiez, close to Sarkozy) is floating the idea of internment camps for all French citizens under suspicion to be linked with radical Islam. This idea is now very popular.

Houellebecq is spot on. The fact that some of those terrorists were born in France, that’s a big problem. The Us vs Them thing doesn’t run along nationalities any more; it’s not a passport thing. Our enemy lives in the desert but he has many allies on our soil. This is a new kind of war — part classic, part civil. I won’t say that in public but we have to admit that a large part of the French population – I mean people born in France or French citizens – hates our guts. France we’ll end up like the West Bank. I could draw the map right now.

France as the West Bank. Imagine that.

Andrew Bacevich says the West cannot win this fight with radical Islam by bombing more people in the Middle East. Rather, he suggests an alternative strategy:

Rather than assuming an offensive posture, the West should revert to a defensive one. Instead of attempting to impose its will on the Greater Middle East, it should erect barriers to protect itself from the violence emanating from that quarter. Such barriers will necessarily be imperfect, but they will produce greater security at a more affordable cost than is gained by engaging in futile, open-ended armed conflicts. Rather than vainly attempting to police or control, this revised strategy should seek to contain.

Such an approach posits that, confronted with the responsibility to do so, the peoples of the Greater Middle East will prove better equipped to solve their problems than are policy makers back in Washington, London, or Paris. It rejects as presumptuous any claim that the West can untangle problems of vast historical and religious complexity to which Western folly contributed. It rests on this core principle: Do no (further) harm.

Hollande views the tragedy that has befallen Paris as a summons to yet more war. The rest of us would do well to see it as a moment to reexamine the assumptions that have enmeshed the West in a war that it cannot win and should not perpetuate.