French to Impose Curfews, Deploy Forces
It turns out to be a good thing that France didn’t send troops to Baghdad: They’re needed in Paris.
France will impose curfews “wherever it is necessary” and call up 1,500 police reservists to stop rioting, the prime minister said Monday, as civil unrest erupted for a 12th night with youths setting fire to an empty bus and attacking police in Toulouse. The announcement came as similar violence was reported in neighboring Belgium and Germany and the French government faced growing criticism for its inability to stop the violence in its tough suburbs. Governments worldwide urged their citizens to be careful in France.
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said 1,500 police and gendarme reservists were being called up to reinforce the 8,000 troops already deployed to stem the violence that has shocked the nation. “The response is one of firmness,” he said on TF1 television, adding that curfews will be allowed “wherever it is necessary.” Local government officials will be able to put curfews in place “if they think it will be useful to permit a return to calm and ensure the protection of residents. That is our number one responsibility,” he said.
President Jacques Chirac, in private comments more conciliatory than his warnings Sunday that rioters would be caught and punished, acknowledged that France has failed to integrate the French-born children of Arab and black African immigrants in poor suburbs who have been participating in the violence, according to Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who met with the French leader on Monday. She said Chirac “deplored the fact that in these neighborhoods there is a ghettoization of youths of African or North African origin” and recognized “the incapacity of French society to fully accept them.”
These statements aren’t necessarily in conflict. It may well be that France needs both more law-and-order and more compassion to deal with this situation. Still, it is quite difficult to express the latter sentiment without appearing to both undermine the former and, more importantly, giving the impression that one is rewarding criminal anarchy by giving in to its demands.
I say that as observation rather than criticism. Whatever culpability the French leadership has in having allowed this situation to fester in the first place, there are no easy answers at this stage.
Ironically, they are faced with a situation analogous in some ways to the counterinsurgency we’re fighting in Iraq. Putting down violence requires violence which, in turn, engenders violence. It’s a nasty cycle from which escape is incredibly difficult.