Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Is Paris Burning?

I haven't posted anything yet about the rioting in the Paris suburbs. This is chiefly because I haven't had anything much to say. I have to confess that on the first night or so I experienced a certain schadenfreude. I'm not especially keen on the French - and haven't been for as long as I can remember, so this isn't an Iraq War thing - and there was a certain pleasure in seeing them, and their vaunted social program, taken down a peg. That was a wicked thing to feel, and I'm sorry for it.

What else is there to say? I'm genuinely shocked by how badly Chirac has acquitted himself over the last week and a half. I wasn't expecting Churchillian leadership, but Chirac seems to have basically sat on his hands for a week while his capital city went up in flames. Even now, he's issuing weak declarations that order will be restored and that those responsible will be punished. (False declarations, too, in all likelihood: does anyone really believe that after the riots are quelled there will be mass arrests in the suburbs? Of course not; there'll be a few trials, and de facto amnesty for the rest.)

The immediate concern has obviously got to be ending the riots. I'm not sure how that happens, short of sending in the army. From everything I've read (which is, admittedly, not even close to everything that's been written) it seems like the French police are totally unprepared to handle the kind of mass violence they're facing now.

And after the riots, then what? Are we witnessing a one-off event, like 1968, or a harbinger of things to come, of a graying Europe locked in a death-spiral with a large, isolated and disaffected Muslim minority prone to periodic outbursts of violence? As a pessimist, I'm inclined to think something like the latter is more likely, though I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

For related thoughts from vastly more intelligent and eloquent men, see the latest pieces by Theodore Dalrymple and Mark Steyn.