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October 07, 2002

MORE ON FRANCE: Reader Peter Ingemi sends these thoughts on why France is likely to be targeted for terrorism in the near future:

The French are the natural target of Al Qaeda at this point. The UN is the one place where they can deter the US diplomatically and France is the one to do it.

It is very clear to them by now that attacks on the US are not going to deter them, (although they will be done if practicable) in fact any attack on a scale less than an airline disaster will be seen as a weak response.

There is also no point in attacking England which is solidly behind us. Given the character of the British it is more likely, not less likely to drive them into our arms.

Russia has a history, and that history says they have no compunction about attacking and slaughtering Al Qaeda and any of their friends in ways much more troubling than Americans can think of.

China is even more likely than Russia to retaliate, (and I suspect they have much more knowledge of Al Qaeda then they let on) in fact a public attack on Al Qaeda might be a diplomatic coup for China. Don't be surprised to see one with a lot of press for small potatoes.

France is a totally different matter, it has a veto in the UN, Its ability to project military power is less than all of the others by far, it has a large Arab population, huge economic ties to the Arab world, and a history of appeasement, anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism. I personally think France never recovered psychologically from in succession being conquered by Germany, driven out of Indochina, and driven out of Algeria.

Truly or falsely Al Qaeda will figure that France is the target that can be pressured by terror and the attack on the mayor and the Cole style strike are in my opinion aimed in that direction.

Interesting observation.

UPDATE: It's a France-a-thon at InstaPundit! Reader Thomas Briggs monitors French media regularly and offers this observation:

I listen to the French evening news just about every day (amazingly three networks are streamed free later in the same day at www.tf1.fr; at www.france2.fr; and at www.france3.fr), and so I can report that there's no punch pulling whatever on the Arab nut-job who stabbed the mayor of Paris. The evening news on Channel Three interviewed the guy's Arab-surnamed neighbors, filmed his building in one of those Stalinist/Robert Moses-looking tower complexes that the French do so well, and mentioned his views on homosexuals in politics. The news also reported that he's got ten arrests already on his rap sheet!

Your readers are also wrong, I think, about how the French will react to terror attacks against them. The lead story in Le Monde this morning is "French Tanker on Fire: Terrorism's Shadow." (The second lead is "Homophobic Aggression against Delanoe," by the way.) I understand the spirit of Vichy as well as any of your readers, but I believe that the real danger today comes from the thought that Qaida is the Hyperpower's problem and that maybe France can stay off the target list. But the latest Cole-type attack changes everything. The practical effect of the tanker attack will likely be to dump the French into the same boat with us: we'll then all sink or float together. French efforts to find a third way have been undermined.

Well, in fairness to Mr. Ingemi, he suggested that peeling the French off was the plan -- not necessarily that it would work. Judging Western reactions has not been a strong point of the Ladenites, or of Saddam Hussein for that matter.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Stephen Gordon has some thoughts on this, inspired by the latest "bin Laden" tape.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: The France-a-thon continues, with this from Claire Berlinski:

Thomas Briggs is right on both points. Peter Ingemi rightly observes that France is something of a swing voter where the Islamic world is concerned. But the conclusion he draws from this premise is wrong. The key to the French psyche is the word "bribery." Whether explicitly or by tacit agreement, the French now have something of a deal going with the terrorists -- leave France alone, and France will do a few favors for their sponsors in the UN and from time to time instruct a foreign minister to say something handsome about the dangers of American military hegemony. If the bombs start going off in Paris, this will change faster than you can say "seven years without a trial" -- which is the length of time the putative 1995 subway bombers have been rotting in French prisons, under conditions that have no doubt been immensely less attractive than those at Camp X-ray. While it's true that neither al Qaeda nor the heavies of the Ba'ath regime have been terrific at gauging probable Western reactions to their actions, it doesn't take profound insight into France and its history to see that this is the deal, and that it's in their favor. I doubt they'll want to screw up something that is, from their point of view, a very good thing. One can't be sure when dealing with lunatics, but that's my instinct, anyway.

Reader Phillipe Richard adds:

If this is what Al Qaeda intended, it was pretty silly. I mean, France once bombed a ship owned and operated by Greenpeace because it being used to protest nuclear tests.

Stay tuned.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Rod Dreher says that if the stabber had been a fundamentalist Christian people would be making a bigger deal of his religion, which seems right to me.

THE FRANCE-A-THON CONTINUES! Nelson Ascher writes from Paris:

As far as I can tell, in Israel, those who distrust the Arabs most deeply are the Sephardic Jews, who have lived among them for generations. The Jewish left that is in any way sympathetic to the Palestinians is usually recruited among the Ashkenazis. Thus, here in France, you'll find, among those who were driven out of North Africa, a hatred of Arabs and Muslims for which there is no correspondence in the US. They know them, their habits and frequently speak their language. An anti-Arab backlash in France is not exactly a remote hypothesis. And I am sure their cops and secret services know much more about the local Muslims than they would publicly admit. The sudden end or at least interruption of most anti-semitic acts immediately after the elections is proof enough of it: they knew the culprits, their addresses and phone numbers. The French were also quick in getting to the guys behind the 95 bombings and they also captured their own Osama, Carlos the Jackal. Besides, if the government turns against the Arabs and Muslims, I believe that most of the French intellectuals, who are now so vociferously their allies, will soon fall in line, because almost all French intellectual activity is, at least partly, state-sponsored, and the boss here is not fond of too much criticism. Let's wait and see.

Indeed we shall.