My mixed feelings about the French police’s restraint

On the one hand I’m appalled that the French police is reacting this passively to the Muslim riots. On the other I think that it may be better to show restraint while they don’t have a real strategy for handling the rioters. Going in without a plan could well lead to more bloodshed than would otherwise ever happen. Besides, so far nobody has been killed except the two idiots who were electrocuted when they ran into a transformer house.

Also restraint definitively is better than this:

On October 17, 1961, thousands of Algerian immigrants living in Paris took to the streets in support of the national liberation struggle being waged in Algeria against France by the FLN (Front Libération National – National Liberation Front). In response, the Paris police department violently broke up the demonstations, as well as took other severe actions related to the demonstrations. While the police originally claimed that only three deaths resulted from the conflict, historians estimate that between 32 and 200 demonstrators died. With almost no media coverage at the time, the events surrounding the massacre, as well as the death toll, were almost unknown both in France and worldwide for decades. For this reason, there is no generally-used name to designate these events.

The Paris massacre of 1961 appears to have been intentional. …

As noted on this Wikipedia page, some question the article’s objectivity, so here’s another source for corroboration.

Also, don’t forget that French troops killed several hundred thousand Algerians between 1952 and 1962 in order to keep the country a French colony.

Compared to this, (maybe) excessive restraint, or officials squabbling among themselves if Sarkhozy was wrong to call the rioters scum, doesn’t seem to be all that bad.

Update: Some may have misunderstood what I was getting at. I wrote that I have mixed feelings, but I don’t advocate a weak response to the riots at all. Then again, any response has to be based on some kind of plan, and the French leadership doesn’t seem to have any right now, nor are they agreed on what to do. A crackdown is fine, as long as the police moves into the suburbs with some kind of plan. If they go in without some kind of strategy, and are beaten back, if only locally, it will be far worse than maybe excessive restraint, as far as encouragement for the rioters is concerned. Once they go in in force and well prepared, and finally rout the mobs, any perception of weakness on the side of the authorities will soon be forgotten. In the meantime the non-violent majority in the suburbs, including the Muslims, are getting fed up with the riots, for they bear the brunt of the riots.

For perspective, the riots in L.A. 1992 cost 50 lives in three days, so far there don’t seem to have been any in France. Ginny raises the point in the comments that rioting deaths in France may have been gone unreported since the police isn’t going into these areas even in good times, but I think that is unlikely – if there had been any deaths, the organizers behind the riots would have tried to blame them on the police. They would be eager to drag dead bodies into the spotlight, and if the media wouldn’t report them, they would do it themselves online.

To sum it up, the situation is serious, but it isn’t desperate, and I don’t feel any psychological need to prove that I have big pair by calling for bloodshed. It’s all fine and good to demand a crackdown from a distance, but up close it isn’t all that simple.

Update II: Please see my next post above.

18 thoughts on “My mixed feelings about the French police’s restraint”

  1. An interesting point someone made re: the “scum” remark – the word Sarkozy used (I can’t find the French at the moment) translates more accurately into “rabble” or “mob” than “scum.” Meaning that he was essentially pegging them with the same label that has been applied to other revolutionary groups of people in the past, from the time of the French revolution onward.

    It would seem to put a less inflammatory and more politically astute spin on the events, I think.

  2. Riots need to be stamped out early, with overwhelming force. Otherwise they spread. Rioters are opportunistic. If the police respond roughly and soon, most decide to sit it out. If not, then many who would be deterred join in, and it balloons into a huge problem which the police are no longer able to overwhelm.

    The French have made a foolish error, and far more destruction and loss of life will ensue when they finally take the necessary — harsh — steps to restore order.

    Tear gas and clubs would have worked the first night. Now it is going to take troops and police snipers. Maybe tanks.

  3. No one killed yet, Ralf, but not for want of trying. The disabled, elderly woman, set on fire by “youths” is lucky — maybe — to be alive. With this much arson it is pure luck that there are no fatalities, if that is even still correct.

    It is astonishing even to cynical-old-me how little coverage this is getting in the American media.

  4. Sarkozy first used the word following the murder of a 10 year old child. Pretty tame word given the circumstances.

  5. Is is right or meaninbgful to r3efer to these younbg hoodlums as \”immigrants\” when in fact their parents have been in France for a very long time and these rabble rousers were all born in France? Isnb\’t labeling them \”immigrants\” setting them aside linguistically?

  6. Restraint in response to rioting or even threatened rioting is almost always a mistake. Order should be restored as quickly as possible. Rioting tends to feed on itself. The best strategy is to start with minimal force while being prepared to instantly ratchet it up as far as necessary.

    The L.A. Rodney King riots are instructive in this regard. The riots occurred in the first place because “community leaders” convinced the authorities that presence of the national guard or even the normal police would inflame passions. As a result, there was no additional forces in place and the normal police presence was intentionally reduced. The riots began as a smattering of spontaneous acts that the police could have stopped if they had been prepared to do so.

  7. Lex, How sturdy is the information on deaths? If the police don’t go into these areas in good times, surely they aren’t now. Who’s reporting? (I certainly haven’t seen anything that indicates there were more deaths – just wondered if we really know much.)

  8. This is the result of too much trust in pacificism.

    For too long, too many elites have pressed the belief that everything will be fine if we just trust each other.

    Just as if we only disarm, our enemies will see our good faith and do the same.

    And all bears are just like Yogi and BooBoo.

  9. Eventually the froggies will call out the army, then there will masacrees. The MSM and the international left will continue to focus on Israel, allegations of torture by the US, and George W. Bush.

  10. There is only ONE reply to terrorist violence like these Muslim scum are engaged in–overwhelming deadly force. Kill a few score of them now, and intimidate the rest. Delay only leads to more deaths in the end.

  11. No deaths, according to the news, though the cops and fire-fighters have been shot at. One French politician said something like “even one death and this will get out of control.” Ha. This is “in control”?

  12. I translated an op-ed piece from the Süddeutsche Zeitung on the riots. It’s not bad as far as it goes (e.g. it acknowledges that concessions would be useless in quelling the violence), but in the end it all comes down to “the dialog of civilizations”. Not a word given to how to deal with the present situation on the ground.

    “Next door” to it is an interview [using because the blog rejected the link: it has three sixes in it] with the director of the Criminalogical Research Institute of Lower Saxony (haven’t translated the whole thing yet). His view: it’s all Sarkozy’s fault:

    “Pfeiffer: These violent groups from North Africa act out of a deeply rooted culture of honor. When one insults them as Interior Minister Sarkozy did with the word ‘rabble’, one virtually provokes them to revolt against the state. One cannot act more stupidly. The chief blame for these riots falls to Sarkozy.”

    I guess he must mean that it’s Sarkozy’s fault that the riots got this bad. They didn’t start with Sarkozy’s comments. And evidently Pfeiffer regards the 30,000 cars burned by these youths this year before the riots as irrelevant.

  13. “America has rabies!”
    — Jean-Paul Sartre

    Ha … haha … ahh … hahahah! Bwahahahahaha!

    *gasp for breath*

    Hahahaha! Bwahahahaha!

  14. You want a plan? Here is one. Load up a bunch of guns. Put the sights of the guns on the first rioter you see. Pull the trigger. Repeat. Keep doing this until the riots stop.

    How simple is that, right?

  15. We really need a poll at this point. Will the US media blame the French riots on:

    1) Bush
    2) Cheney
    3) capitalism
    4) globalization

    I’d include a fifth choice, global warming, but that wouldn’t even make sense to Michael Moore. Maybe Time magazine could work in a sidebar about how all the cars being burned in Dick Cheney’s French riots is contributing to global warming.

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