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France needs no one's advice on fighting Islamist terror

A look at the facts.

In Israel and America, France has this reputation of being the ultimate effete, left-liberal country – so politically correct, so multiculti, so morally relativist and scared to death of offending any minority, especially Muslims, that it’s incapable of dealing with the threat of jihadist terror. Israelis and Americans (led of course by Bibi Netanyahu) are now lecturing the French that they have to wake up, get tough, crack down on these bastards or they’re going to be conquered by them.  (A lot of right-wing French are saying the same thing.)

Stock photo of French marines patrolling in Paris. (Photo by Kavalenkau / Shutterstock.com)

Stock photo of French marines patrolling in Paris. (Photo by Kavalenkau / Shutterstock.com)

I don’t think that’s going to happen. When it comes to fighting Islamist terrorism, the French are world-beaters – going back to the 1980s. It’s difficult to say which attack was France’s 9/11, but it happened a long time before the massacre at Charlie Hebdo. France probably has the West’s toughest laws against terrorism, and it has no problem targeting Muslim suspects. One other thing – France’s mainstream Muslim population joins the rest of the country (except for adamant civil liberties advocates) in supporting the policy. And another point – France’s fight against terror is aided greatly by undercover French Muslim agents infiltrating certain mosques.

Two weeks after 9/11, TIME Magazine ran a story whose title pretty much tells it all: “Fighting Terrorism: Lessons from France.” Given the popular images of France and America today, it’s a real jaw-dropper to read:

Simply by citing “association with wrong-doers involved in a terrorist enterprise,” French police are able to arrest and detain any suspect in any crime whose goal, however remotely, can ultimately assist terrorist activity. That law shocks civil libertarians in the U.S. and Britain, but French officials retort that those countries’ commitment to strict civil libertarian principles has made them havens where Islamist militants can plot terror with less risk of detection because of the legal restraints on techniques such as spot ID checks and information monitoring.

And from a 2004 Washington Post article, “French push limits in fight on terror”:

While other Western countries debate the proper balance between security and individual rights, France has experienced scant public dissent over tactics that would be controversial, if not illegal, in the United States and some other countries.

France has embraced a law enforcement strategy that relies heavily on preemptive arrests, ethnic profiling and an efficient domestic intelligence-gathering network.

The Directorate of Surveillance of the Territory, the domestic intelligence agency, employs a large number of Arabic speakers and Muslims to infiltrate radical groups, according to anti-terrorism experts here.

Other countries, including the United States, have long-standing policies that restrict law enforcement agents from infiltrating places of worship. So far, however, France’s aggressive approach has not led to widespread criticism.

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, said many Muslims support the expulsions and are just as concerned about preventing terrorist attacks as other French citizens. “We find the public arrogance of these extremists completely intolerable,” he said. “Fundamentalism is on the rise. . . . This is a real danger. The state should take measures against these types of people that disrupt society, not only when there is a terrorist attack, but before.”

And a Foreign Policy article in 2006, “How the French fight terror”:

France… found itself in the cross hairs of Middle Eastern terrorists well before the United States did. France was the first to uncover a plot to crash a jetliner into a landmark building (the Eiffel Tower) a chilling preview of the 9/11 attacks. It was the first to face the reality that its own citizens could become assets of Islamist terrorist groups, long before British nationals bombed the London Underground last July. As a result, it has continuously adapted its judicial system and intelligence services to the terrorist threat that it faces.

Finally, from a New York Times 2012 article, “Fighting terrorism, French-style,” following the murders at a Toulouse Jewish school:

’France has a very aggressive system, and before 9/11 they were centralizing the intelligence process and fixing laws to let them grab people very early to disrupt anything in advance,” says Gary Schmitt, an intelligence expert and resident scholar in security studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “They do a lot of things, including telephone intercepts, that make the Patriot Act look namby-pamby. In the U.S., we talk of pre-emption in military terms, but the French talk of it on the home front, to discover plots and conspiracies.”

So I wouldn’t worry about France getting conquered by jihadists. Also, I would stop giving the French advice about how to deal with them. Finally, I would stop believing stereotypes about that great, precious country that are 180 degrees from the truth.

Related:
Putting the Charlie Hebdo attack in context

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    COMMENTS

    1. Oriol2

      This reputation of French people as “softies” is a very Anglo-Saxon thing. I am a Catalan and I tell you that the French Gendarmerie does not have a reputation for being particularly lenient with trasngressors (specially if they are foreigners). They followed a policy of “laissez-faire laissez-passer” with Basque terrorists for a time (say, until the middle 80s), but it was politically motivated, not for lack of efficacy of their Police and secret services.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Er, really? I certainly agree that US stereotypes (don’t know Israeli ones) about France are wrong, but this article seems to be saying it’s a GOOD thing that France violates people’s civil liberties and ethnically profiles people, that France should be considered admirable for that. Hardly what I expect from +972. I don’t come here for racist authoritarian crap.

      France’s racist and Islamophobic policing doesn’t seem to have stopped it from having more issues with domestic Islamic violence than the US does.

      Reply to Comment
      • Under the circumstances, I think it is a good thing, and most French Muslims seem to agree. If you’re looking for jihadists, you have to ethnically profile. If you don’t ethnically profile, you don’t find jihadists, and the French – Muslims and non-Muslims alike – want them found.

        Reply to Comment
        • I didn’t think you would be in favor of ethnic profiling. The thing of it is, concentrating all your energy and brown-skinned young men means you’re not watching what the nice white boys who want to join the jihadists are doing. Wait, white boys don’t need to join jihadists and leave the comfort of their trailer park, then can join the local jihadis – the KKK!

          Reply to Comment
    3. Brian

      Terrific piece, Larry. Even though France was defeating the insurgents in Algeria militarily, and repeatedly, and even though de Gaulle believed France’s war in Algeria could be won militarily, and even though it led to a state crisis and earned him the wrath of rightists and several assassination attempts on him, de Gaulle, not believing that trying to win the war was the best alternative for France, negotiated and withdrew. Clearly, Bibi, that coward, presumptuously lecturing France, is no de Gaulle. And no Churchill. He can smoke all the cigars he wants. He’s neither.

      Reply to Comment
      • Phil Fumble

        That is one hell of a run-on sentence there girly. Chillax!

        Reply to Comment
    4. Oriol2

      Well, let’s say it is a superficial and frivolous article in a moment in which xenophobic movements are rampaging in France, Germany and other countries, and some experts are beginning to talk about the “Israelization” of Europe (and they do not refer to the consumption of kosher food). The implementation of harsh policies against Jihadism and the surveillance of European-Arabic population is not a good thing; it is simply an inevitable policy given the current situation. But this kind of naive celebration of the mere efficacy of the French security apparatus when most of European countries are undergoing a process of social deterioration, and growth of inequality and ethnic hatred is simply dumb.

      Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        No. You fight a war on all fronts not just one. The most immediate front: Stop The Behavior. Mass murder simply has to be stopped by whatever means necessary. All the other fronts you care about need to be fought on too. Larry is not “celebrating” French efficacy. He is merely debunking the disinformation/chutzpah that says “Those weak Frenchies will see what we feel like now finally and will identify with us and realize ‘we are all Israelis now’ –and we are so ahead of them and have so much to teach them now that they finally get it.” Larry is debunking that nonsense. The French need no lessons from the Israelis. The French are not occupying the Rhineland and Baden-Württemberg.

        Reply to Comment
        • ICat

          Brian, did you even understand the comment you are responding to before going off on an automated exhibition of irrational anger and regurgitation of same old recycled and incomprehensible rants?

          Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            What so upset you Icat – was it the suggestion that a normal state does not occupy its neighbour’s territory?

            Reply to Comment
          • ICat

            Bryan, you wrote that you are retired and seeking “justice and truth” to explain why you are obsessed with Jews. I read that the age of retirement in the US where you come from is 67. I read that you must be in your 70s. That makes you an old man with maybe a few more years. But it seems that your sense of “justice and peace” is only awoken when you hear the word “Jew” and/or “Israel”. What so upset you about Jews and Israel, Bryan/Brian? Why are you not fighting for “truth and justice” in your own country where worse happens, little old man?

            Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            I repeat I am not American, I am not in my seventies, I do not back American imperialism, nor does my country suffer the abject corruption of its democracy (only small-scale stuff) to support an alien foreign colonialism. We none of us know how long we will remain on this planet, and your remark about “little old men” reveals a host of prejudices (largism, sexism and ageism) that does your purported cause little justice. By the way how tall are you? (as if that was relevant – it may be the size and generosity of your mind that is more relevant)

            Reply to Comment
          • ICat

            “Small scale stuff”? Wiewf! I can’t forgive myself if I just let this one go. How about Falkland Islands? How about Gibraltar? Why is the UK occupying those territories one of which is in a different Continent? How many people has the UK killed in defending territories it stole from other People? I bet you like to know that the UK was kicked out of Hong Kong by China, after China made it clear that it will go to war and destroy the UK, if the UK doesn’t get out of Hong Kong? How many acts of Genocide and crimes against Humanity did the UK commit in South-, East- and West Africa (to name only but a few)? How about the UK Genocide in Dresden (Germany), something Israel could never ever do to Gaza no matter the magnitude of the provocation? You are an old man and should be informed enough to know that a Brit has no business lecturing Israelis and Americans on the issues of human rights, “truth and justice”, which are only important to you the moment you hear the word “Jew” and/or “Israel”! Btw. in the UK the age of retirement is 65. If you retired a while ago as you yourself wrote and living off of your government provided pension, then you must be between late 60s and early 70s. If you disagree, then tell us at what age you retired and when. We will do the rest of the math, Bryan.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            Who are you to interrogate anyone about their age or call them old? You’re an offensive punk with zero manners whose sole goal is to get people off topic. Bryan, stop answering him and playing his game. He does not merit it even remotely.

            Reply to Comment
          • C.C. DeVille

            Bryan, How do you reconcile British control of the Faulklands? Thanks in advance.

            Reply to Comment
      • I was thinking about it seriously, but to explain what I regret and what I don’t regret about my Greta Berlin columns would take too long, so the post would end up being more about me than the issue. So I’ll leave it to someone else.

        Reply to Comment
        • ICat

          Oh, I think you can- and are smart enough do it, Larry Derfner. It is not just about “the issue” as such, it is also about you because you have approached “the issue” in a way that makes you part of “the issue”. You owe it to yourself and those who believe that there is something fundamentally different between you and Greta Berlin and ilk. You need to go on record now – in your own words before it is too late. Don’t let others define you in this critical moment.

          Reply to Comment
          • Thanks very much, ICat. I’m still thinking not, though, because even in those two posts, I make it clear I don’t share Berlin’s political views, so anybody who thinks I do is just badly misinformed. In those posts I defended her against a specific charge that I still think was a smear, and against the general charge of anti-Semitism, which was based on what I knew then. Based on what I know now, I wouldn’t accuse her of anti-Semitism, but I wouldn’t jump to defend her against that accusation, either. There’s material for both sides of that argument. Does this make a post for 972? I don’t think so. But really, thanks very much for the comment. I appreciate it.

            Reply to Comment
        • Alan

          Larry– I appreciate the reply and honesty about your mixed feelings. I can understand why the anti-Semitism of Western activists and academics, whether explicit or implicit, conscious or unconscious, might pale before more urgent concerns for progressive Israelis. However, for someone like me– a liberal Zionist living in the U.S.– it’s absolutely maddening; it stifles any opportunity for meaningful conversations. I’m exhausted from explaining to well-meaning, well-educated people that AIPAC wasn’t behind the American invasion of Iraq, or that accusing Israel of genocide has more to do with anti-Semitic blood libels than with accurately characterizing Israel’s misdeeds. Of course, Greta Berlin is not well-meaning. She is driven by irrational hatred of Israel, which, by my lights, makes her an anti-Semite.

          Reply to Comment
          • C.C. DeVille

            Alan,
            Thank you for pointing this out to Larry and the community here. People such as Greta and Mary do significant damage in restricting constructive dialogue and problem solving.

            Reply to Comment
    5. Danny

      That video of Bibi waiting in Paris to board the bus to the rally is nothing short of priceless. The man seems to be living on a different planet from most normal people. He just doesn’t get why nearly everyone who’s ever had the misfortune of meeting him can’t stand the sight of him. The man is as tone-deaf as they come, which for tone-deaf Israel fits like a glove.

      Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        The French asked him to stay away so as not to confuse his issues with theirs but no, he heard Lapid and Lieberman were going so he had to barge on and crash the event and barge his way to the front of the line when he got there, and when he got there, wave to the crowd with a smile unlike any other leader there. Vulgar electioneering exploitation. Hollande walked off when Bibi started speaking later.

        Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        Danny, Richard Silverstein here gets it just right.

        http://www.richardsilverstein.com/2015/01/11/bibis-insult-to-france/
        Bibi’s Insult to France
        by Richard Silverstein on January 11, 2015

        You gotta LOVE the picture:

        “Bibi looks like he wants to be anywhere but where he is and Abbas seems to say: “whatever that asshole does I’ll do him one better.” (AP)

        Reply to Comment
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