Can France Regenerate Itself to Fight Radical Islam?

by Benjamin Weinthal

The nation of France imploded last week. Heavily armed Islamic extremists ran amok, massacring police officers, cartoonists, and shoppers at a kosher supermarket. The overall death toll reached 17, with four victims still in critical condition.

Much of the French intellectual elite has long been opposed to combating radical Islam within and outside of the country’s territories.

It’s worth recalling that the highly admired French sociologist Jean Baudrillard was euphoric when planes smashed into the Twin Towers on 9/11. Two months after those attacks, Baudrillard wrote in Le Monde that “In the end, they did it, but we wanted it.”

Dr. Richard Landes, an expert in French history, tackled Baudrillard’s “American Derangement Syndrome” in his fine analysis of rising French anti-Americanism. The kind of toxic, self-destructive, post-modern thinking that targets America and oozes contempt for the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel, has long been a fashionable philosophy among many politicians and intellectuals in France.

Just as troubling, French political and intellectual discourse is increasingly rife with anti-Semitism. The French journalist Catherine Nay exploited the alleged killing of Muhammad al-Dura, a Palestinian boy, by Israeli troops during the Second Intifada, saying that the boy’s death “cancels out, erases that of the Jewish child, his hands in the air from the SS in the Warsaw Ghetto.” Compelling evidence later revealed that the al-Dura event was staged by Palestinians to garner world sympathy.

In 2013, the Mayor of the French suburb of Bezons awarded honorary citizenship to a convicted Palestinian terrorist. Sadly, there’s no shortage of examples of French appeasement toward Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaeda, and other Islamic terrorist entities. The Middle East expert Amir Taheri has documented the full catalogue of French capitulations in a New York Post column.  

There is a natural temptation for Americans to toss up their hands at France’s intellectual and political cowardice. But that would be a serious mistake.

France implemented a burqa ban in 2011. Early in 2013, President Francois Hollande sent a sizable military operation into Mali to eliminate the Jihadi movement that had taken over the northern part of the country. And later that year, Hollande was more enthusiastic than President Obama about launching missiles at the Assad regime to end its use of chemical weapons on innocent Syrians. Put simply, France can fight back.

Domestically, French cities need to enact an anti-crime strategy similar to the one employed by former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the 1990s. France’s General Directorate of External Security is one of the world’s finest intelligence agencies when it comes to counterterrorism operations. French politicians have until now failed to internalize that their over-worked and under-resourced security forces cannot cope with the country’s large Jihadi network by themselves.

As a result, France is on its back today. But it can quickly get back on its feet by adopting an anti-appeasement philosophy.

Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal

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