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"CRS - SS!" 1968 - 2005?

by susanhu Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 11:27:40 AM EST

Edited for formatting

By Patrick Lang, from BoomanTribune.com. Col. Lang was Defense Intelligence Officer for the Middle East, South Asia and Terrorism for the Defense Intelligence Agency, and later the first Director of the Defense Humint Service. He was the first Professor of the Arabic Language at the U.S. Military Academy.

With 897 vehicles destroyed by daybreak Saturday, it was the worst one-day toll since unrest broke out ... In a particularly malevolent turn, youths [prevented] paramedics from evacuating a sick person ... pelting rescuers with rocks and torching the awaiting ambulance ... A nursery school was badly burned ..." AP

CRS -SS!." That was the street chant in 1968 when the students decided to raise hell ...

(More below -- including an updated section on the economic issues)


"CRS" The "Compagnies Republicaines de Securite." These are the riot troops of the Ministry of the Interior. They wear dark blue, carry submachine guns generally and are not polite. The students obviously did not like them in 1968. There are a lot of these police troops.

"Gendarmerie Mobile." ("GM") These are the mobile tactical reserves of the Military Police, who in France also mostly work for the Ministry of the Interior but, who are actually soldiers. They police the French countryside. In addition to their posts in towns they have large armored units in the GM. These GM units have armored personnel carriers and tanks, real tanks. They wear black uniforms and are called in to back up the CRS if it looks like a situation is "going south." They usually are polite.

Then there are also "La Police Nationale," (ordinary cops, usually in cities, you know, Cluseau, Maigret, etc) Not significant in street riots.

If you start to see either the CRS or the GM in the streets of Paris you will know that the government has decided to do something serious against the rioters. So far the poor "pompiers" (firepersons) are taking a beating in trying to deal with insurgents who, at this point, probably think that their hellraising is doing something good for them.

Most Americans claim to dislike France. I have puzzled over why this is true. Were they snubbed in Paris by waiters, department store clerks, abused by cab drivers? Have they never been to New York City? Can they not deal with people like that? Is this visceral hostility a left-over from a millennium of hostility between the English ancestors and the French "enemy?" Is this really a hold-over from the Hundred Years War?

Are we really so small-minded that we are angry with their insistence on following an independent course in foreign affairs?

Do we not know how many times the French Armed Forces have stood beside us since WW2? I do, because I was often at the heart of such cooperation.

...

Americans, who know anything about foreign affairs, often believe that France withdrew from NATO back in the '60. Not so! They withdrew their forces from the PEACETIME command of SHAPE, the NATO heaquarters in Belgium, but they never withdrew from NATO. Their forces remained firmly embedded in war plans and in position to participate in repulse of the Soviets for all those years.

I confess to liking France, the French language, the cuisine, the whole thing. Sorry folks, there it is. I have actually been to the French military cemetery at Yorktown, Virginia where their valor was essential to the triumph of American arms (and our independence from the British).

When I was in government service I was often the grateful recipient of their help in difficult situations. I have been to the Church of St. Louis in Paris. This is the official church of the French Army. In the Church there is a stone monument about four feet tall and shaped like a bullet. It is carved with the symbols of the United States. There are identical monuments along the roads in northern France from the beaches in Normandy to the German frontier. They mark the route of advance of Patton's Third Army. This is called the "Route of the Liberation." The one in Paris is filled with earth from all the American military cemeteries in France. I once spent some time at the US cemetery at Belleau Wood. This is the "Aisne-Marne" cemetery.

The US guardian there lives at the cemetery. He told me interesting things:

  1. That his predecessor had lived at the cemetey throughout the German occupation in WW2. The Heer (German Army) placed a guard on the place and provided required logistics until the US advance in 1944 "uncovered" the area.
  2. That his maintenance budget from the US givernment was sadly inadequate and that the way he dealt with this was that he had a list of French contracters who, when called on, maintained the cemetery gratis. If this does not meet your pre-conceived notions on the subject, "Tant pis.." (Too Bad)

Having said this, I am sorry to say that France has a problem involving un-assimilated Muslim immigrants and citizens which the government and people of France have themselves caused over the years.

Simpy put, they have let too many people into the country who came only for economic improvement and who had little or no interest in becoming French. This developed largely after the liquidation of France's colonial empire. In the immediate aftermath of the independence of Algeria, many partly assimilated Algerians moved to France to escape the rule of the FLN in Algiers. These were the so-called "Harkis." They wanted to be assimilated and, in the main, have been. The later immigrants were different. By and large, they came to France"for the passport," and with no intention of accepting the idea of being French.

It has to be said that the French are by and large an ethnic people. (Yes, I know about Corsica and Martinique) They, like the Germans and English have a difficult time thinking of immigrants as really having become them. The immigrants know what the French really think they are. This is a problem. Nevertheless, I have "rattled around" in the "boondocks" in France because I have friends there, and in every town in the provinces I find that these same immigrants occupy most of the low-cost public housing and that their children go to state run schools just like the kids whose ancestors marched with Napoleon.

What's the problem? The French have allowed this situation to fester. If a lot of people from another culture immigrate to your country and you accept the idea that they will remain something different, then, in the end, you have to expect that there will be trouble when these folks begin to realize the strength that their numbers give them.

Update [2005-11-6 14:29:57 by susanhu]: I can hear the economic determinists howl. "Not by bread alone.." folks. Nevertheless... According to the CIA "World Factbook." the population is 99% literate, The unemployment rate is 10.1% and the percentage of residents living below the poverty line is 6.5%. The high (for us) unemployment rate is attributed widely to structural rigidity in the more or less "statist" French economy. By contrast, our unemployment rate is 5.5% and the percentage of people living below the poverty line is 12%. So, I guess we are more productive but have less social conscience. That sounds about right.

What will happen? If the hoodlums in the streets don't calm down, the French government will finally decide that order must be restored. This will be a tough decision. The post-colonial French treasure their self-image as great humanitarians, and the Left will spin and howl, but self interest will triumph.

The Muslim kids can go home and go look for a job or they can expect to meet the CRS and GM.

..............................................................

Col. Patrick W. Lang (Ret.), a highly decorated retired senior officer of U.S. Military Intelligence and U.S. Army Special Forces, served as “Defense Intelligence Officer for the Middle East, South Asia and Terrorism" for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and was later the first Director of the Defense Humint Service. Col. Lang was the first Professor of the Arabic Language at the United States Military Academy at West Point. For his service in the DIA, he was awarded the “Presidential Rank of Distinguished Executive.” He is a frequent commentator on television and radio, including PBS's Newshour, and most recently on MSNBC's Hardball and NPR's "All Things Considered.".


Personal Blog: Sic Semper Tyrannis 2005 || Bio || CV
Recommended Books || More BooTrib Posts
Novel: The Butcher's Cleaver (download free by chapter, PDF format)
"Drinking the Kool-Aid," Middle East Policy Council Journal, Vol. XI, Summer 2004, No. 2
..............................................................

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Display:
Are there jobs to go out and get?   Does France need to do more to reach out to assimilate these people?
by eRobin on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 11:24:32 AM EST
My perspective...probably not right now, but could be, and yes, more should be done: The devil is in the details...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 12:01:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
susanhu asks: "Most Americans claim to dislike France. I have puzzled over why this is true."

It's perhaps not that 'most Americans" dislike France (most of them have never been to France), but that a tiny vociferous fraction of the AngloSaxon neocon elite (who have all been to France and wildly enjoyed it during their Trotskyte student years) make the claim that France should be punished for its moral (sic!) wrong doings.

So, why would they do that?

The answer is simple:

Other than the US there is now only France (the USSR has ceased to exist) that makes a claim to universality. France like the US is also the only nation which can authoritatively define what the "West" is.

And more: France like America are not necessarily linked to a specific territory and ethnic people, both are open projects towards the future.

The neocon project for a new American century (PNAC) seems to be broken (due to Iraq and the misfortune in South America), the French project for a more robust and 'more perfect' European Union otoh is still making (slow) progress.

It all boils down to the question: Who will define the future of the West? France or the US?

It is an ideological war about the supremacy of interpretation of universal progress. It is a battle about the 'glue' which will hold everything together. About the what 'taste" of ideological resolve will be needed to tackle the future.

The American recipy tastes very much like the bitter medicines of bygone Victorian days. (God - flag - nation)

The French EU recipy is still in the making because parts of the English public are toujours used to the old Victorian stuff and it will need some extra time to develop their organoleptic senses to fully appreciate and enjoy the multitude of the wide ranging and diverse continental tastes.  

"The USA appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty." Simon Bolivar, Caracas, 1819

by Ritter on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 12:30:08 PM EST
I'm very interested that you've linked recent event to 1968.

It's been my feeling for a while that we are entering a period of questioing the established order in a way that hasn't happened since 1968 or 1848.  A year that wants to changed the world, when across the planet there's a general rejection of the the status quo.  It isn't just America, but the sens e of deja vu with a VP who looks to be on his way out to be replaced by an awkward Republican from Illinois, deja vu.  Not 1968, but it seems that the Bush adminstration has managed to channel the ghosts of watergate. Spiro Agnew eat your heart out, Dick Cheney looks to be head to the street as well.

Again, though it's no just America. In France there are the riots, in Germany there's a tremdously unstable coallition, in Italy Berlusconi seems to have revived the ills of  Democrazia Cristiana with a passion.  And in Spain the country's going through that awkard trasnsition that occurs when you realize that you're no longer a poor homegeneous country, but a wealth mulitcultural society.  

France may have an ethnic tradtion, with the Corsicans and the Bretons being the outliers, but if the idea of paramilitaries putting down "popular" (by this I mean street violence) rebellions, this could be horrible for surrounding countries.  What the Brits have done in Ulster, and the willingnes of Spanish government to ban parties (and the allegations of torture in Navarra and the Basque country), all this with the idea of violent police action by the established order to keep the ethnic minorities and people who want change down.  This is a dangerous thing.  

Europe has a terrible angst about violence by the state (see their position vis a vis the dethe penalty) , this beng the legacy of centuries of warfare, and of course the holocaust.  Do we really want to consider what it means if that angst and the taboo against state violence is relinquished.?

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 12:42:11 PM EST
Simpy put, they have let too many people into the country who came only for economic improvement and who had little or no interest in becoming French. This developed largely after the liquidation of France's colonial empire. In the immediate aftermath of the independence of Algeria, many partly assimilated Algerians moved to France to escape the rule of the FLN in Algiers. These were the so-called "Harkis." They wanted to be assimilated and, in the main, have been. The later immigrants were different. By and large, they came to France"for the passport," and with no intention of accepting the idea of being French.

It has to be said that the French are by and large an ethnic people. (Yes, I know about Corsica and Martinique) They, like the Germans and English have a difficult time thinking of immigrants as really having become them.

You're right about the Germans but wrong about the French. The French notion of citizenship and nation is primarily an ideological one - like the US and unlike most of Europe. France also has a long history of large scale immigration dating back to the late nineteenth century. Even in the postwar period a majority of these immigrants have been Europeans. Almost all of them came for economic rather than political reasons - same as the US. The white ones have been largely assimilated, the non-white immigrants not so much.  Where the French and American models differ dramatically is the degree of assimilation that they require. Americans are fine with 'hyphenated' groups. It is seen as perfectly normal to identify oneself as an Irish-American or a Polish-American or whatever. In France assimilation means the complete obliteration of all ethnic sub-identitites.  You might take note of the fact that two of France's Prime Ministers over the past twenty years have been either immigrants or children of immigrants (Balladur and Beregovoy). The current favorite to take over the leadership of the right from Chirac, Nicholas Sarkozy, is also of immigrant origin.

Now to be fair, there is a tradition in France that sees 'Frenchness' in ethnic terms. That is the tradition of the anti-Republican right. Their association with Vichy resulted in their marginalization in the post WWII period where both the left and the dominant strain on the right see themselves as supporters of 'Republican values.'

by MarekNYC on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 01:38:31 PM EST
It is critical to understand the Republican Principle underlying France since the 3rd Republic, and in my opinion Ritter is very right in his assessment. Despite the existence of ethnic tensions in peripheral regions, the French nation is emphatically not ethnic but civic.

The French Republic has, for the last 135 years, rested on the idea that citizenship is defined by a set of shared civic values  which are the foundation of the stability of the State. This is, by the way, why laïcité (currently under attack as being a hindrance to integrating muslims) is so important: France had a history of religious prosecution and the antisemitic Affaire Dreyfus shook the 3rd Republic to the core and only reinforced the idea that religion needed to be kept out of the public sphere, by law if necessary.

Since the 1870's the French educational system has had the explicit function of instilling the shared Republican values in all pupils. Call this indoctrination if you must, but the US and France are the only two western nations that tradiationally and explicitly teach civic values in school.

Over the last 10 years or so, France has started to depart from the Republican principles in three ways (that I can see):

  1. It has been mentioned in comments before that French-born children of immigrants now (for the last 10 years, I think) must "affirm" their French citizenship on turning 18. If they have double nationality they don't get to keep the French one automatically.
  2. Laïcité is under attack.
  3. Recently, the French assembly decided to change the way French history is taught, to paint French actions in a better light. This is a victory of nationality over rationality (a value strongly associated to the French enlightenment).

Jérôme has argued repeatedly that, after the oil shocks 30 years ago, French elites made a conscious decision to protect those who had jobs then over the interests of all (young French, and immigrants) who came later. This is not an analysis I was aware of, but I see it as yet another breach of the Republican principle of égalité.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 02:06:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes... I think you're three points are right on !
It is a "political" riot in an economical sense, not ethnic or religious!
And we've been dropping those districts for years, just getting some small efforts when cars start to burn at night.

I'm suspicious on why US and UK media turns it to a "Jihad" sort of thing?!

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 06:49:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm suspicious on why US and UK media turns it to a "Jihad" sort of thing?!
As usual, The Independent's front-page report today paints a balanced picture. They say early and often that the gangs are "multiracial". And then there is this questions-and-answers section entitled No intifada, no cause, just poor kids defending their territory which brings home many of the points that Jerome especially and others have been making over the past week.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 05:27:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is one of the main things that running this - good on you for bringing it up. The French care about multicultralism and cultural equality, they just have a very different way of thinking about it. A good example was the row over Muslim headscarves being worn in school. Most Americans would say "fine, let them wear their headscarves, they're expressing their personal religion and we're accepting that because we can display our personal religion." In France, the (idealistic) thought process would be that "these people are French just like I'm French, and since we're both French and therefore don't really have any religion, neither of us should be displaying any religious paraphenalia."

In short, the mentality behind French assimilation is that if everyone's equaly French, then you've got your equality, liberty, and fraternity right there, problem solved. It's an inside-out way of accepting multiculturalism by making everyone identically multicultural in pulic life. As may be evident, however, is that this becomes a problem when you have groups of people who migrate to France for economic reasons (which is a perfectly good reason to migrate), but who refuse to take up the cultural aspects of their new home, and try to keep the same cultural norms as the places they came from. While this works in some Western countries (look at the various Chinatowns of the US and Canada, or the integrated-but-still-distinct Indian and Pakistani communities of the UK), it can't work in France, owing to their definition of Frenchness.

So in short, you have a bunch of migrants who are looking for low-to-middle skill jobs initially, who have come to a country with a significantly different social structure than the one they came from, who refuse to adapt to this new social order, and who are marginalized and unhappy. Most of these immigrants make it "into" France and get their citizenships, but don't make it into French culture, and thus never get into the economy that they came for. Could anyone not have seen this coming?

by Scipio on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 02:18:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They could not have seen it coming because philosophically, France is organized around the belief that a system based on liberty, equality, fraternity, secularism and rationality must be (superior and hence) compelling.

On the other hand, you could argue that decolonization showed that Indochina and Algeria did not feel very compelled by the rational idea of Frenchness, and it should have been a wake-up call.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 02:30:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks Marek.

I meant to post an answer on this as well, but you put it quite well.

It is important to remember that France has ALWAYS been a country of immigrants - in fact one of the few such countries in Europe, and has assimilated foreigners throughout. It's never been easy, but it has always been done so far.

I wrote this elsewhere, but with our obsession with quarterly results and instant gratification, we expect that process to happen quickly and smoothly. It did not happen smoothly with Italians, Poles and others before ("strange-looking people attached to their fundamentalist religion and unwilling to cut links to their home country" was the description then...) and it does not now with North Africans. Nut I am confident that it will.

Now I know that Marek disagrees with me on this point, and thinks that some positive discrimination would be very helpful today to help the French integratio model work better. I am not so sure. What's true is that we need to change our socio-economic model to not exclude so much such a narrow category.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 03:46:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To expand on Jerome's point: yes, France is a country of immigration since the ice age, at least.

Nothings surprising: look at the geography and the temperate climate (not the political one obviously).

Gauls (Celts), then Romans, and Goths. Later, the Franks (not a bunch of guys all named Frank, but a tribe from Germany, yes Germany; that's where the word France comes from; in German, Frankreich: kingdom of the Franks).
Also some Vikings (Normand: north man) who later also moved across the Channel. In the 19th and 20th century: a lot of Poles, then Italians in the 1930's, Spaniards and Portuguese in the 50's, Maghreb folks (Algerians, Morrocans & Tunisians) in the 60's, and more recently: Africans, Asians and South Americans. Not to forget, a couple of Britons and Americans here and there (Hi there :-)

You can be sure about one thing: There's no such thing as ethnic French; just depends on how long your ancestors settled there.

by Bernard on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 04:35:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And let's not forget the battle with Charles Martel  who stopped the Arab army at Poitier (732) (so goes the myth)... As usual in those times, those armies had combatants.. And a full caravan of various people making a living on those wars.
When defeated, the chiefs were held as guests under ransom (and less as guests when the ransom failed to come)!
But most of the "piétaille" (plain soldier) were not held as POW nor killed, they were given some tools and sent in really underdeveloped part of the country...
They are still there !

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman
by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Sun Nov 6th, 2005 at 06:41:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
great diary..why no recommend button?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 08:23:00 AM EST


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