Sunday, November 06, 2005

While Europe Slept

"Wake up, Europe, you've a war on your hands" says Mark Steyn:

Ever since 9/11, I've been gloomily predicting the European powder keg's about to go up. ''By 2010 we'll be watching burning buildings, street riots and assassinations on the news every night,'' I wrote in Canada's Western Standard back in February.

Silly me. The Eurabian civil war appears to have started some years ahead of my optimistic schedule. As Thursday's edition of the Guardian reported in London: ''French youths fired at police and burned over 300 cars last night as towns around Paris experienced their worst night of violence in a week of urban unrest.''

''French youths,'' huh? You mean Pierre and Jacques and Marcel and Alphonse? Granted that most of the "youths" are technically citizens of the French Republic, it doesn't take much time in les banlieus of Paris to discover that the rioters do not think of their primary identity as ''French'': They're young men from North Africa growing ever more estranged from the broader community with each passing year and wedded ever more intensely to an assertive Muslim identity more implacable than anything you're likely to find in the Middle East. After four somnolent years, it turns out finally that there really is an explosive ''Arab street,'' but it's in Clichy-sous-Bois.

What will it take to awaken these slumbering dreamers? You have to wonder if this is just the lingering results of the 20th Century's World Wars, and the demoralization of a continent that will go to extreme lengths to avoid ever going to war again. Yet I am also tempted to see in this faith in appeasement a longer-lived European tradition of paying off invading armies. I'm reminded of the political chaos of the 14th century as chronicled by Barbara Tuchman in "A Distant Mirror", and the roving mercenary bands of knights that extorted tribute from the various small kingdoms and cities of western Europe. While watching a History Channel production of "Barbarians" today, I was struck by the parallel of the eastern Roman Empire's paying an annual tribute to Attila the Hun to avoid invasion and the attempts of the French government to pay emotional tribute to the Islamic thugs wreaking havoc on their capital.

The French have been here before, of course. Seven-thirty-two. Not 7:32 Paris time, which is when the nightly Citroen-torching begins, but 732 A.D. -- as in one and a third millennia ago. By then, the Muslims had advanced a thousand miles north of Gibraltar to control Spain and southern France up to the banks of the Loire. In October 732, the Moorish general Abd al-Rahman and his Muslim army were not exactly at the gates of Paris, but they were within 200 miles, just south of the great Frankish shrine of St. Martin of Tours. Somewhere on the road between Poitiers and Tours, they met a Frankish force and, unlike other Christian armies in Europe, this one held its ground ''like a wall . . . a firm glacial mass,'' as the Chronicle of Isidore puts it. A week later, Abd al-Rahman was dead, the Muslims were heading south, and the French general, Charles, had earned himself the surname ''Martel'' -- or ''the Hammer.''

Poitiers was the high-water point of the Muslim tide in western Europe. It was an opportunistic raid by the Moors, but if they'd won, they'd have found it hard to resist pushing on to Paris, to the Rhine and beyond. ''Perhaps,'' wrote Edward Gibbon in The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, ''the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.'' There would be no Christian Europe. The Anglo-Celts who settled North America would have been Muslim. Poitiers, said Gibbon, was ''an encounter which would change the history of the whole world.''

Battles are very straightforward: Side A wins, Side B loses. But the French government is way beyond anything so clarifying. Today, a fearless Muslim advance has penetrated far deeper into Europe than Abd al-Rahman. They're in Brussels, where Belgian police officers are advised not to be seen drinking coffee in public during Ramadan, and in Malmo, where Swedish ambulance drivers will not go without police escort. It's way too late to rerun the Battle of Poitiers. In the no-go suburbs, even before these current riots, 9,000 police cars had been stoned by ''French youths'' since the beginning of the year; some three dozen cars are set alight even on a quiet night. ''There's a civil war under way in Clichy-sous-Bois at the moment,'' said Michel Thooris of the gendarmes' trade union Action Police CFTC. ''We can no longer withstand this situation on our own. My colleagues neither have the equipment nor the practical or theoretical training for street fighting.''

Theoretical training? There is no need for theory, you merely put them down with decisive force. It is backbone that is wanting, not equipment or training. Bring in the army if the police can't handle it. I was watching film from the riots in Buenos Aires in response to President Bush's visit. The commentator described it as a kind of choreographed dance between the police and the protestors that happens in many of the nations where Bush visits. I was struck by the level of tolerance the police seemed to be giving to the rioters, as if burning and smashing windows were a valid expression of political speech. I wondered why they didn't just open fire. But there seems to be such a lingering affection for radical political movements im much of the world, and a political desire to equate democracy with a restrained response to politically motivated violence.

A few years back I was criticized for a throwaway observation to the effect that ''I find it easier to be optimistic about the futures of Iraq and Pakistan than, say, Holland or Denmark." But this is why. In defiance of traditional immigration patterns, these young men are less assimilated than their grandparents. French cynics like the prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, have spent the last two years scoffing at the Bush Doctrine: Why, everyone knows Islam and democracy are incompatible. If so, that's less a problem for Iraq or Afghanistan than for France and Belgium.

If Chirac isn't exactly Charles Martel, the rioters aren't doing a bad impression of the Muslim armies of 13 centuries ago: They're seizing their opportunities, testing their foe, probing his weak spots. If burning the 'burbs gets you more ''respect'' from Chirac, they'll burn 'em again, and again. In the current issue of City Journal, Theodore Dalrymple concludes a piece on British suicide bombers with this grim summation of the new Europe: ''The sweet dream of universal cultural compatibility has been replaced by the nightmare of permanent conflict.'' Which sounds an awful lot like a new Dark Ages.

A new Dark Ages indeed.


Blogger Oroborous said...

Some people argue that France and other European nations will passively allow themselves to be overrun and taken over by invader-immigrants.

I'm inclined to believe that most Euro nations will become alarmed, and cut back on their immigration policies, and might even kick out some people previously allowed in.

Hopefully, the tension will be mostly rhetorical, but I don't rule out massive bloodshed.
(Massive meaning much more than is currently occurring, and much less than another Holocaust).

November 07, 2005 4:03 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

I wonder how things would be different if the French had a Second Amendment.

November 07, 2005 4:42 AM  

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