Saturday, November 05, 2005

Paris Riots: Wanna-Be Insurgency

The rioting near Paris has all the earmarks of a wanna-be insurgency–even though almost every news story mentions poor living conditions as the reason for the rioting. A recent AP report is no exception:

ACHERES, France - Youths armed with gasoline bombs fanned out from Paris' poor, troubled suburbs to shatter the tranquility of resort cities on the Mediterranean, torching scores of vehicles, nursery schools and other targets during a 10th straight night of arson attacks.

Police deployed a helicopter and tactical teams to chase down youths speeding from one attack to another in cars and on motorbikes. Some 2,300 police were brought into the Paris region to bolster security, France-Info said. More than 250 people were arrested.

The violence _ originally concentrated in neighborhoods northeast of Paris with large immigrant populations _ is forcing France to confront long-simmering anger in its suburbs, where many Africans and their French-born children live on society's margins, struggling with unemployment, poor housing, racial discrimination, crime and a lack of opportunity.
(emphasis mine)

The hit-and-run attacks on “resort cities” and soft targets (nursery school, paramedics, youth center) are more indicative of a desire to demonstrate muscle than of rage and frustration.

Most rioting has been in towns with low-income housing projects where unemployment and distrust of police run high. But in a new development, arsonists were moving beyond their heavily policed neighborhoods to attack others with less security, said a national police spokesman, Patrick Hamon.

"They are very mobile, in cars or scooters. ... It is quite hard to combat" he said. "Most are young, very young, we have even seen young minors."

There appeared to be no coordination between separate groups in different areas, Hamon said. But within gangs, he added, youths are communicating by cell phones or e-mails. "They organize themselves, arrange meetings, some prepare the Molotov cocktails."

France has not understood the importance of defeating terrorists in Iraq. French authorities and the press now seem to be avoiding the issue in France itself. At present the insurgency consists of ill-equipped youth who have not done the planning necessary for a real insurgency. But, French authorities need to come up to speed fast.

When residents of the area where the nursery school was burned asked for French army protection and suggested that they might form citizen groups to protect their neighborhood, their mayor said, "We are not going to start militias. You would have to be everywhere."

But the residents were smarter than the mayor. They saw that mere police action could not protect them. Police can’t be everywhere. Only the army or citizens themselves can come close to being “everywhere”. Rather than pooh-pooh the use of citizen groups, the French need to encourage citizen involvement.

Even more important the French need to get serious about the War on Terror and the impact of their failure to join the coalition of nations fighting Islamic terrorism. This a wake up call. The insurgency mind set has taken hold in the Paris suburbs. At present the insurgency is mostly inept–though with enough force and diversity to give French police more than they can handle. It’s time for the French to rethink their role in the War on Terror.

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