The Bells of Ys 2
Francis Fukuyama writes about the Paris riots in Opinion Journal. He says the enemy is us.
We have tended to see jihadist terrorism as something produced in dysfunctional parts of the world, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan or the Middle East, and exported to Western countries. Protecting ourselves is a matter either of walling ourselves off, or, for the Bush administration, going "over there" and trying to fix the problem at its source by promoting democracy.
There is good reason for thinking, however, that a critical source of contemporary radical Islamism lies not in the Middle East, but in Western Europe. In addition to Bouyeri and the London bombers, the March 11 Madrid bombers and ringleaders of the September 11 attacks such as Mohamed Atta were radicalized in Europe. In the Netherlands, where upwards of 6% of the population is Muslim, there is plenty of radicalism despite the fact that Holland is both modern and democratic. And there exists no option for walling the Netherlands off from this problem.
He might be right, but think about what the proposition does to his thesis of the inevitable triumph of liberal democracy: it locates the seeds of its destruction in the same place as its strengths. No longer is it possible to simply contain radical Islamism the way one would a cheap copy of 20th century Bolshevism and await the inevitable vindication of events. In order to survive against Islam, the West, at least its European branch, has to reform itself.
Two things need to happen: First, countries like Holland and Britain need to reverse the counterproductive multiculturalist policies that sheltered radicalism, and crack down on extremists. But second, they also need to reformulate their definitions of national identity to be more accepting of people from non-Western backgrounds.
The Opinion Journal piece illustrates [in my opinion] a theory in transition, a point of view being held together by a patch. Is it possible to "reverse the counterproductive multiculturalist policies that sheltered radicalism, and crack down on extremists" and then "reformulate their definitions of national identity to be more accepting of people from non-Western backgrounds"? Or isn't that rather like taking two aspirins prior to massaging your head with a claw hammer? Nevertheless, Mr. Fukuyama's article is a welcome sign that the "police action" policy towards radical Islamic terrorism is following the "earth is flat" theory into its final intellectual moments.
The events in France may turn out to have a greater strategic impact than September 11. French policies, however maddening, had the virtue of serving as the control case to the American experiment of attempting to reform the Islamic world. The latter acknowledged, however shyly, that it was facing an aggression which had to be met at the root; which had to be resolved by building viable societies in Islamic homelands. The former, and France in particular, maintained there was nothing that temporizing and appeasement, in one form or another, could not solve. What events in France have done is discredit the liberal recipe so badly that even those who are not prepared to admit that American policy may have been right must now root around for an alternative theory. Fukuyama's essay is a good step in that direction. Faster please.
More reading has made me more familiar with the purely 'social' aspects of the Parisian rioting, i.e. hidden French racism, the failure of its economy to efficiently create jobs, etc. Juan Cole, for example, sees events in Paris as a simple "race riot". Others see it as the consequence of the French social model. From that point of view, the "Islamic" aspects are purely coincidental or of minor importance in comparison to the 'real' causes.
One argument for derogating the Islamic factor has been the absence, so far, of any direct link to terrorist masterminds. It could be counter-argued that Islam figures more broadly by fostering a sense of apartness or entitlement, etc. which then provokes the resented discrimination. I'll leave these caveats as they are for the readers to think about, although I am personally unpersuaded that Islamic cultural factors are irrelevant to the disturbances in France.