Europe may not have fought any major wars since World War II, except for futile overseas deployments to hang on to way too expensive colonial empires, but that shouldn’t been mistaken for an inability to fight wars if necessary. In the more than forty years between the France-Prussian war and World War I, the European powers, for all their global domination, hadn’t experienced any major wars either. The fighting that did take place was located overseas, and back then as in our immediate past, all about colonial holdings. European, and especially German, militarism might be a striking feature of the early 20th century, but the only troops to enter the Great War with any combat experience worth speaking of was the small professional British army. The big mouthed saber-rattlers had no idea what they were talking about, and neither had Europeans in general, who were, if anything even more ‘soft’ than we are today. And yet these ‘soft’ people started the slaughter of WW I virtually overnight.
Historical experience gives us pause, and makes us reluctant to take up arms, and this reluctance dresses up as multiculturalism and pacifism. The true believers are only a small minority, though, the rest of us merely gives lip service to these concepts. Europeans are chauvinists in every sense of the word, and wouldn’t dream of regarding other cultures as superior, or even equal, to Western civilization. Modern manners dictate to pretend otherwise, but ‘Multiculti’ means to us nothing more than ‘Alright, do your funny dances and rub blue mud into your bellybuttons if you want to, but leave the rest of us alone’. European pacifism doesn’t amount to anything either, during the war on Yugoslavia there were too many in Western Europe who demanded that the crap should be bombed out of the Serbs to claim otherwise.
Our militaries also may seem small and insignificant compared to the American one, but they tower over any potential enemy, foreign or domestic. We do presently lack the capability to project power, but that would change very quickly if necessary. Conscription has seen to it that many millions of European men in fighting age, most of them having gone through military training already, could be called up to arms. Troops aren’t supposed to be deployed in domestic fighting, but if certain minorities start to seriously feel frisky, such constitutional niceties would fall by the wayside.
Keeping all that in mind, I’m not too unhappy with a certain amount of restraint on part of the French authorities. If it takes time to formulate an effective strategy, then, by all means, let them take that time. A massacre can be committed in a very short time, but the consequences would be with us for decades. It would make the Irish ‘Bloody Sunday’ and its aftermath look like a picnic, and make it necessary to crack down ever harder in the future. Right now there still is time to calm things down, and to integrate the vast majority of Muslims into European society, once we finally get around to actually formulating an integration policy, but that window of opportunity would close if the response were too harsh. The problem has built up over decades, and it can only be solved slowly and deliberately. Whatever else may happen, a mass-expulsion of minorities just isn’t in the cards, and we will have to live with them, like it or not. Let’s not make that coexistence, and gradual assimilation of minorities, anymore unpleasant than absolutely necessary.
In the short run the mistake to lump all the inhabitants of the suburbs together with the riots also needs to be avoided – the peaceful majority there is already staging protest marches against the violence.
25 thoughts on “Restraint is neither weakness nor appeasement”
Do the events in France imply restrictions on owning guns works?
I am not arguing against the 2nd Admendment. I am not suggesting that preventing gun ownership is generally a good thing.
I am commenting on the fact that the people rioting in France burn cars but seldom shoot at anyone. In this one case, is the French public better off because of limited ownership of guns?
The short answer to your question is, “No.” The short explanation for that answer is that the gendarmerie and their commanders are proving themselves incapable of controlling the Muslim rebellion (let’s call spades “spades,” here) even with the rebels lacking firearms. Molotov cocktails are destructive enough, and thus this intifada is already sufficiently well-armed that it is able to mount the thing in the first place. It would be good if their targets among the citizenry were able to defend themselves without waiting for the “authorities” to come along. It’s the equivalent of trusting yourself to the tender mercies of 911 in the U.S. The poor soul who was doused with gasoline and set afire would have been better off if the driver of and riders on her bus had been armed and able to fight the enemy off.
What makes one assume that the Muslims will and can integrate into French society in the first place?
Calling lots of riots a rebellion or an intifada is not calling a spade a spade but a “bloody shovel” as people who pretend they come from Yorkshire say, without realizing that spades and shovels are different things.
The situation in France has been caused by a series of events and developments in France since the Algerian war. These riots have been expected for some time and that is one of the reasons for the French attitude to foreign policy in the Middle East and the Gulf (there are others, as well, of course.It is, perhaps, extraordinary that the government lost its head so quickly. But then, the same thing happened in 1968.
I agree with Ralf – a massacre (which would not be the first one) is easy to perpetrate. It would be easy for the police and, possibly, the army to raze all the banlieu, arrest all the men, whose bodies will then be found in the Seine but what will it achieve long term?
Surely, somebody should be asking some questions about the European social model that the French or, at least, the French elite is so proud of. It has produced high unemployment, which, added to all the other problems, produced an incendiary situation. Believe me, guys, if there had been riots in Chicago, the European media would have had wall-to-wall coverage and endless unctious so-called analysis about the dark underbelly of American capitalism.
I certainly agree that “restraint” is appropriate, in the sense that France should not send troops into the banlieus with the orders to start machine-gunning people at random. But if “restraint” means all kinds of public agonizing about “root causes” at this particular instant in time, then I think it’s harmful. The strong message from the government right now must be that the violence must stop, and perpetrators will be dealt with very severely.
Ralf’s writings and comments across blogs dealing with eu issues normally seems delusional at best. Ralf, you state- “We do presently lack the capability to project power, but that would change very quickly if necessary”
Do you really believe that? Your professed “millions of conscripts” (read un-willing draftees)have never proven themselves- not in kosovo where the german “troops” hide like rabbits (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/05/09/wkos09.xml&sSheet=/news/2004/05/09/ixworld.html ), nor in sebrinicia where Dutch troops can be easily handcuffed to a bridge railing. Now you have the french troops worrying about muslims conscripts whose percentage in the french “forces” numbers roughly 15%. see http://www.strategypage.com/dls/articles/200511513428.asp
Now you mention europe’s “experience” with wars as being a catalyst for the “pacifism” (should be read correctly as impotence) yet within the last 100 years the europeans’ have drawn the US into each of it’s conflicts, with two of these instances being kosovo just 6 yrs ago(!), and within yugoslavia just ten years ago.
Please advise if you can, where it is you draw your logic from and within WHAT historical context do you draw the conclusions you mention above?
Steven Zoraster, betsybounds,
problem is. Europe hasn’t got anything you might call a ‘gun culture’ as now, so just letting everybody buy guns would be pretty problematic. A lot of people would be less than perfectly resonsible in the use of guns.
The gret majority will, if only the French will let them. The rest can then be taken of by the police.
I agree, but the French police needs to have a real plan on how to do that, lest they arrest all the wrong people. Right now they would end up doing just that, alienating those who would be needed to help get things back under control.
Pato, yes, an unit failed to come to handle riot adequately, but they didn’t have proper rules of engagement or equipment.
Once we are forced to get our forces up to strength, all these little detaisl will fall into place.
The gret majority will, if only the French will let them.
Ralf, what is that makes you think these muslims want to integrate into French culture? You say they will if only france will let them. Why? What evidence is there that they’re interested in identifying as part of French uniculturalism?
I don’t see it. And if that isn’t so, your premise fails due to lack of foundation.
Oh. Right. No gun culture. What was I thinking? A firebombing culture, though–that they have, responsible use and all that goes with it.
And what are you prepared to do NOW? Oh. Right. A real plan, making sure not to arrest the “wrong” people. How about a committee to dream it up? Say, a Committee of Public Safety?
We do presently lack the capability to project power, but that would change very quickly if necessary.
No, it won’t, because it’s not the kind of thing that can be changed quickly. Projection of power relies on capital purchases. How long would it take to build a decent blue-water navy? How long to build 10 equivalents of the USN LHD? How long to build and acquire 150 heavy military cargo jets? How long to build enough aircraft carriers to be able to provide credible air cover and support to an invasion without any friendly airfields nearby?
Answer? Decades, not years.
Pablo, the French insistence to give immigrants the cold shoulder is part of the problem. Defining their uniculture a bit more broadly than the French are doing right now would also help.
I’m all for abolishing gun control laws, but that depends on greater readiness for self-reliance. A concerted, effective campaign towards that end will take some years, like it or not.
the resources for an invasion on the scale of the Iraq war would take that long, but building a navy that can blow any possible opposition out of the water, and bomb the vrp out of them ,and at least a somewhat limited intervention on land? We could indeed do that in five years or so, if necessary. European shipyards build great submarines, and can come up with some small and mediums size carriers that are far better than the Charles de Gaulle.
first of all one should put the riots in france into a cultural perspective. the french have a very high regard for civil unrest, they are proud of it and it it is part of their identity. burning cars and riot police in the streets of french cities? happens every time some truck drivers or farmers are pissed off with something. the big difference this time is, that there is an interior minister who wants to run for president. and be tough at that.
so, hold your breath, this is not south america this la grande nation. sure the goverment cocked up the integration of immigrants, especially from north africa, but the guys will certainly not start an intifada. it’ll peter off in a week or so.
secondly, i think ralf is halfway right in what he said about the eu military. by the way the british and second best army in the world (after the idf) plays a bit of a role in iraq as well (minus the casualties). but one might argue that they are part of the great community of the english speaking nations and not actually part of the eu. but even aside from them, one should not forget that the continental armies, when they will be combined into the eurocorps (or something) and outfitted with the hardware that they rely on the us to provide right now, will be a formidable fighting force.
one should not forget that the continental armies, when they will be combined into the eurocorps (or something) and outfitted with the hardware that they rely on the us to provide right now, will be a formidable fighting force.
1. Where will the money come from? The welfare state is consuming everything the EU has, and it’s only getting worse.
2. Where will the political will come from?
Assuming both 1 and 2 somehow magically appear, it will take years, if not decades, to get the EU army up-to-speed. Even NATO troops, who are supposedly integrated, can’t keep up with the Americans. (Remember the fiasco of NATO troops blundering about in the dark without night-vision while the Americans where landing planes and deploying with no lights?)
Meanwhile, America will be on the next generation of equipment.
P.S. Since this is an economicly oriented blog: How long will it take for an ecomony growing at 3.8% to double in size compared with one growing at 1.8%? And how long until the 3% GDP military spending of the former surpasses the entire GDP of the latter?
(Of course, America has it’s own welfare state problem looming and no one seems to care enough to solve it.)
To get an approximation of how long it takes for something to double, use the rule of 72. Divide 72 by the interest rate to get the answer in years of how long it takes to double. For the actual answer, you need to solve for the exponent where
2 = (1 + i)^t
i = interest rate as a decimal, t = number of periods
Go nuts. It’s Sunday & my brain has the day off.
where the money should come from? from an increase in defence spending, where else? :-)
and forget about the eu welfare state gobbling up all the ressources and all that.
The public debt in the eu is lower than the us public debt, therefore there’s plenty of room to buy hardware.
the only difference will be that the hardware will be funded by the eu population and not the chinese :-)
it will take some years for the germans and italians and the others to get up to the level of the british or french, but the political will is there.
and a simple economic question: if the price of an asset is inflated, then used as a collateral to borrow and then spent on consumer goods hence increasing the growth rate, what happens when the asset price deflates? will the economy still grow at 3,8% ?
but we digress, back to the french.
This is fairly irrelevant with regard to the riots in France, but here are my two cents:
It´s not really a question of equipment. If they choose to spend the money, Europe can make the most excellent weaponry. On the other hand, American forces have frequently fought with less than optimal equipment.
But this is just stuff. The question is, who will do the fighting? You need a military culture. That means people and institutions (and not just in the military) who think about tactics, strategy, fighting, killing and winning all the time, and who can incorporate all the lessons of the past and present. It also means a culture that knows about much ridiculed concepts such as honour, sacrifice and heroism. The Americans still have some of that left, but we do not. Which is why I have no illusion about how EU troops would deal with an environment like Jenin or Fallujah.
And who will back them up politically, once things get ugly? Surely not the EU. Talking of Germany, will our politicians be able to explain “why we fight” – in the face of heavy opposition – when they would not use what little credibility they had to implement urgently needed economic reforms? Not much strategic thinking here.
Bush has been ridiculed for his constant reiteration of “stay the course”, but simple tenacity is a vital ingredient. Neither Berlin nor Brussels will be able to provide that.
But the question is moot because I cannot see many people brought up in the 80s and 90s volunteering for military service, or doing well if they are conscripted. One cannot blame people for not wanting to fight to protect an ungrateful population, idle intellectuals and leaders obsessed with political correctness and eager to curtail economic and civil liberties. By the way, I read the British have bad recruiting problems.
RG: “Whatever else may happen, a mass-expulsion of minorities just isn’t in the cards, and we will have to live with them, like it or not.”
If you want no expulsion, would a stop to immigration be allright ? Even if immigration stops completely, the Arab population will keep increasing fast, and the European lifestyle and identity is already seriously affected.
“A massacre can be committed in a very short time, but the consequences would be with us for decades.”
It doesn’t matter. We are headed for trouble in the next decades anyway.
For now, I guess the french government wants to avoid the risk of even one “youth” getting shot by the police, because it could spark off more rioting. They hope it is going to blow over. Meanwhile they are not doing their job of protecting people and their property.
Exchanges of gunfire may be coming whether the French government likes it or not.
Last night 29 policemen were struck by gunfire in Grigny.
Restraint may be good, but I don’t think that the French government is being restrained. I think they are doing their best imitation of a deer in the headlights.
This is tough situation, but the first task of government is to provide public saftey and the French government is not doing it.
In the spring of 1968, I lived on Woodlawn south of 60th street. The riots that spring were not very scary, they did not disrupt our routine. The French riots strike me as a different order of beast. The French Government needs to crackdown and now.
“Exchanges of gunfire may be coming whether the French government likes it or not.
“Last night 29 policemen were struck by gunfire in Grigny.”
Based on an article from todays The Washington Times the rioters have been firing some type of shootgun pellets from rifles. Thats why none of those 29 wounded police died.
The Washington Times article reports worry by
French police that rioters will deploy more sophisticated weapons.
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