President Clinton’s European affairs guy on the riots in France

Professor Charles Kupchan of Georgetown University appeared on Brit Hume’s news program tonight to discuss the rioting in France. Kupchan was Director for European Affairs on the National Security Council during the first Clinton administration, and I’m sure he’s a well-respected expert. Still, his analysis of the situation in France struck me as breathtakingly superficial. His only explanation for the riots was the poor effort of the French government to integrate Muslim immigrants. Kupchan never mentioned the possibility that there might be some resistance to integration on French terms. Everything turned, instead, on the need for better outreach on the part of the government, as proposed by de Villepin.

Hume established that many of the rioters are teen-agers, and suggested that they might improve their prospects for intergration into French society by attending school. Kupchan muttered something about how the government needs to do a better job of breaking down the language barrier, but then agreed that, as a group, the rioters speak French.

In a certain kind of liberal universe, French Muslim rioters are victims who want nothing more than to enjoy the bourgeoise pleasures of secular France. Iraqi Muslims, by contrast, have little yearning for freedom, self-government, and prosperity, preferring civil war, a Saddam-style strong man, and/or a theocracy. They are victims of U.S. aggression, which denies them these things, at least temporarily. To me, however, it seems plausible that Iraqis Muslims will find satisfaction in their own democratic state before European Muslims find satisfaction in a western-style democracy.


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