Day 10 of the French Intifada has brought another 900 cars torched, buildings burned, with evidence of some underlying organization tot he riots (whether pre-positioned and pre-planned or an emergent phenomenon is unclear at this point):
Police found a gasoline bomb-making factory in a southern suburb of the city, with more than 100 bottles, gallons of fuel and hoods for hiding rioters' faces, a senior Justice Ministry official said Sunday.
At least 918 vehicles -- including those in Paris -- were burned during the 10th night of violence, said the Interior Ministry's operational center tracking the violence. There was no word yet on damage in Paris to shops, gymnasiums, nursery schools and other targets which have been attacked around the country.
Police made 186 arrests nationwide overnight.
Wretchard remarked upon the lackadaisical approach of the French in WWII to the Nazi threat (believing their defenses were impregnable) and their dawning realization that their defenses now, to an internal though heretofore cordoned-off threat, may be inadequate.
It's possible that the seriousness of the situation has finally forced the principal French political figures to bury the hatchet. The Telegraph reports the French cabinet has met in emergency session on the ninth day.
The French government is holding crisis talks after a night of rioting which saw nearly 900 vehicles torched and at least 200 people arrested. ... into the second week ... appear to have spread beyond the capital ... other French cities. ... now concerns that the violence is being organised by groups of youths using the internet ... de Villepin, has summoned eight key government ministers to his offices, to try and find a political answer to France's worst rioting in decades.
It was this last piece of news -- that de Villepin was looking for a political formula on the 9th day of the riots -- that most disturbed me, almost as if Gamelin on the 9th day of the Blitzkrieg had only then begun looking for his map. How long will it take to come up with a plan? How long to execute?
My guess is that by day 6 or 7 the French leadership began to doubt whether their impenetrable defenses would hold. By 9th day, I think, a real panic had begun to set in and they are now scrambling for a Plan B.
Betsy, historian that she is, discusses how, in retrospect, certain historical outcomes (specifically, the American Civil War) appear to have been inevitable, though one supposes the people of the times would have had trouble recognizing such inevitability.
But when I turn to what is going on in France now, I have that same sense of movement towards an inevitable cataclysm. The rioting is growing rather than being tamped down. It's spreading throughout France. And there seems to be such glee on the part of those rioting. There is nothing that they want or are asking for; they just are glorying in their destructive power.
From my Psychoanalytic point of view, I fear that the language, more precisely, the language deficit, with which the French, and the liberal elites in the West, describe the uprising will make the ultimate calamity more certain. In almost every story about the riots, the point is make clearly and overtly that the rioters are responding to their poor job prospects, unassimilated conditions, and discrimination they face. Here is the New York Times encapsulation of the situation in the :
The unrest is forcing France to confront long-simmering anger in poor suburbs ringing the big cities which are mainly populated by immigrants and their French-born families, often from Muslim North Africa. They are marked by high unemployment, discrimination and despair -- fertile terrain for crime of all sorts and Muslim extremists offering frustrated youths a way out.
In another article in the Times today, France Has an Underclass, but Its Roots Are Still Shallow, by Craig S. Smith, an effort is made to contrast the American race riots of the past with the current riots in France, again basing their entire thesis on the prevailing wisdom that the roots of the rioters' rage and despair (although as Betsy linked to, their glee is a powerful part of the rioters experience) lie in essentially economic grounds. The theory proposed int he article is that France is in much better condition to deal with their underclass than the United States because their underclass is of more recent vintage (as opposed to long standing American racism) and not yet entrenched:
The corrosive gap between America's whites and its racial minorities, especially African-Americans, is the product of centuries: slavery, followed by cycles of poverty and racial exclusion that denied generation after generation the best the United States could offer. France, on the other hand, is only beginning to struggle with a much newer variant of the same problem: the fury of Muslims of North African descent who have found themselves caught for three generations in a trap of ethnic and religious discrimination.
Even so, France is still low on the curve toward developing an entrenched, structural underclass - one that could breed extremism and lasting social problems.
So far, while hundreds of cars and buses have been burned and dozens of businesses destroyed in violence that has spread to a dozen towns, most rioters appear to be teenage boys bent more on making the news than making a coherent political statement.
It would be difficult for anyone to miss the point as much as Smith does without an underlying philosophy and linguistic bias which blinds him to reality. In the simplest terms, the American, black underclass may be alienated, angry, and bitter (consider Rap music, keepin' it real, if you will) but the majority share a fundamental middle class American outlook: they all want the American Dream, material success, though some want a devalued version of money, drugs, women, and a life of leisure and pleasure. On the contrary, the Islamists want none of this worldly corruption (oh, they will gladly steal what they can and use the wealth of the dhimmis for their own purposes, but their goals and aspirations are loftier than mere material goods.)
The soft Utopianism of the French model (Western socialism-lite; see Paris Burns, The Second Leftist Utopia Burns With It, for an excellent explication of this point) requires that there be no mention of Sharia law, French "Occupation" of Islamist areas, or that the rioters have no interest in assimilation; they see the French as decadent sensualists who are to be despised and forced into dhimmitude, not as people to emulate. Even worse, from the French point of view, the Islamist youth have tasted power. They run the ghettos and have shown themselves able to fight off the authorities, should they desire.
In reality, the French can re-assert their authority, even over the worst of the ghettos, but only at the cost of significant blood shed and a long campaign. The problem for the French is that in order to re-assert such authority, they first must recognize who they are fighting. If they are fighting discrimination, joblessness and despair, then more social welfare programs and entitlements are in order. The weakness of this approach is obvious. However, to recognize the enemy as Islamist fascism, a true Intifada, requires jettisoning some of the basic tenets of the multi-cultural, socialism-lite, PC world. The model cannot survive if its basics are found to be incorrect (it is dialectical, I suppose).
Whether or not the French, who have always loved language more than action, can survive, is in the balance.
Furthermore, once paradigms shatter, a period of chaotic reorganization is inevitable. When the ground is prepared in advance and new structures are already in place, the chaos and destruction can be minimized; when there is no new model in place, the outcome becomes much less certain and the chaos and destruction can be exponentially worse. (This is worth further posts and I will return to this shortly.)
Finally, even if quiet can be restored to the ghettos, it will be a mere interregnum; nothing will have been settled and the unsustainable quasi-stability will be, necessarily, short-lived. For the Europeans, this is the Fire Next Time.