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Counter-terrorism by trial and error
July 9, 2005 7:22 AM   Subscribe

The French experience of counter-terrorism (PDF): from the "sanctuary doctrine" to active prevention, a detailed history of how France learned counter-terrorism the hard way. Since [the French revolution] France has been on the bleeding edge of terrorism, confronting terrorism in all its guises, from bomb-throwing anarchists to transnational networks. In the last 20 years, France suffered repeated waves of terrorism of both domestic and foreign origin, each which spawned a variety of reforms to an already complex system for combating terrorism. As a result, France has developed, largely by costly trial and error, a fairly effective, although controversial system for fighting terrorism at home.
posted by elgilito (54 comments total)

 
Yet again France leads the historical trend. It's been that way since the collapse of the Roman Empire the examples are endless. Perhaps instead of Japan watching or West Coast watching, watch France for the next new thing.
posted by stbalbach at 7:35 AM on July 9, 2005


You may have a point, or La Belle Weasel may have bought itself far enough down the list to have been safe so far. Other factors (as to why France hasn't been hit yet) include that France is more of a police state than either the UK or the US (easier for police to stop and search people without due cause).

But the French, apparently, do do security well.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:13 AM on July 9, 2005


The French secret services closely work with the CIA, as a last Sunday's Washington Post article aptly points out.
posted by ruelle at 8:59 AM on July 9, 2005


So, ParisParamus, if you read ruelle's link to the WaPo article, you'd find out that the French have and are actually doing and risking quite a lot to help the United States track down suspected terrorists. Would you still dare to call France "La Belle Weasel", or will you think first before dialing up your rhetoric?
posted by Rothko at 9:21 AM on July 9, 2005


elgilito - I'm definitely interested in this subject, and I'm sure the article is credible, but could you please give us some other links besides a report that is 23 pages long + citations?
posted by afroblanca at 9:36 AM on July 9, 2005


Not to derail the thread, but with the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior this week it should be pointed out that the French also do terrorism. It's still a sore point and any talk of French counter-terrorism is sure to produce many a suitably Gallic raised eyebrow down here in the South Pacific. Given the less than satisfactory results of that operation, I wonder whether France's ability to perpetrate terrorism has improved as much as their ability to fight it over the last 20-odd years.
posted by TiredStarling at 9:38 AM on July 9, 2005


So basicaly, france surrenders?
posted by delmoi at 10:06 AM on July 9, 2005


Rothko, while it is possible that the French are more allied with the US than appearances reveal, there's still something offensive and unconstructive about their public profile. And I think governments like those in Syria and even Iran would collapse a lot quicker if France and Company didn't offer the (false) hope that there was some sane position in the war on terrorism other than the American-British one.

It would also be nice if Chirac would redeem himself while he's still alive, unlike that fink Mitterand.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:16 AM on July 9, 2005


afroblanca: here's one by Scott Atran. The linked references are interesting, particularly this one about power-law distribution of casualties. Scott makes one analytic mistake, imho: he seems to think the expansion of terrorism is continuously increasing without limit (the power-law article makes the same fundamental error).

There's tons of historical evidence that terrorism follows self-limiting S-curve like an epidemic. The mistake of thinking it's unlimited and leads to some sort of millenium or apocalypse is widespread and largely unexamined.

Consequently, it creates the sorts of analytic problems typical of unexamined assumptions that are really tautological conclusions that were smuggled into the argument.

(self link) I've got a bunch of stuff here and here. Both are mostly archival, as I haven't been very active due to ill health. The first site was set up in 1995 as a clearinghouse, so it's really a pile of research material, but it contains some very early stuff on Leaderless Resistance and religiously inspired terrorism.

One of the best single books is Bruce Hoffman's Inside Terrorism. The link contains an excellent discussion of the "definition problem" - which is more troublesome than you might imagine at first glance.

The premier peer-reviewed journal is Studies in Conflict and Terrorism It is (sadly) not available online, but can be found in large research libraries.

The French have moved away from condoning terrorism as an instrument of state policy. The U.S. still defines terrorism by political instrumentality -- i.e. they subscribe to the fallacy of "one man's terrorist is another man's freedomfighter."

A good way to dispell the fallacy is to repeat: "One man's cannibal is another man's homophagic gourmet."
posted by warbaby at 10:19 AM on July 9, 2005


oops. This one on power law distributions.
posted by warbaby at 10:21 AM on July 9, 2005


They're fighting terror like they fought the Nazis. Cheese eatin' surrender monkeys.
posted by keswick at 10:23 AM on July 9, 2005


This is no surprise if you've seen The Battle of Algiers, where French counter-terrorism forces tirelessly track down and corner Algerian militants who have been bombing police stations and markets. The French won the battle, but the political repercussions were severe, leading to the fall of the Fourth Republic and the eventual independence of Algeria.

More recently, you can ask the hijackers of Flight 8969, which they planned to crash into the Eiffel Tower, how effective GIGN is. Or Khaled Kelkal.

I'm thinking somebody's invented a new nickname for himself, personally.
posted by dhartung at 10:24 AM on July 9, 2005


ParisParamus said: France is more of a police state than either the UK or the US (easier for police to stop and search people without due cause).

Than the UK? Ok, let’s review.

United States: Warrants are required for wiretaps, searches must be approved by a court (except in well defined "exigent circumstances"). Evidence seized in violation of this requirement is routinely suppressed.

United Kingdom: Only the approval of a Cabinet official for wiretaps, secret break-ins and searches. Evidence is not suppressed.

United States: Congress has authority over the FBI's budget and broad powers to oversee and investigate operations.

United Kingdom: Parliament has no direct authority over MI5's operations or specific budget. MI5 reports to a Cabinet member, the Home Secretary, and only the Prime Minister and cabinet officials have oversight authority.

United States: Operates for the most part in the open. Agents testify publicly at trials. The FBI (as well as all other US agencies) is subject to FOIA laws, and there is a judicial remedy available if a request is denied.

United Kingdom: Highly Secretive. Except for the Director General of MI5, names of staff are official secrets. MI5 officers are allowed to testify behind a curtain and their names are not disclosed. Testimony is also allowed to be given in secret without defense counsel present to cross-examine the witness. Exempt from FOIA; no judicial remedy available.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Secrets and Spies: UK Agency Makes Gains in Terror War; Can It Work Here?" October 6, 2004, p. A1.

Also, remember there is no Fourth Amendment in the UK.

I am astonished to read your comments above, given that you have a JD.
posted by mlis at 10:38 AM on July 9, 2005


Note this guy's background and associations. Brookings profile of Shapiro and a profile of the Brookings Institution itself.

What does arguing France is doing it right imply in terms of suggested policy changes here in the US?

Don't get me wrong: I think France is doing a better job of reducing terrorist activity than the US. Still, lines like ``The expression of weakness was not lost on terrorist groups," are repeated in bold to the side. Another, ``The magistrates deny that the French code contravenes public liberty," points more completely to what Shapiro is arguing: (1) We have to be ``strong" on terrorism, and (2) we're not really losing personal freedoms by increasing police powers. This maps very directly onto our current political scene as (1) Support the (not at all patriotic) PATRIOT Act and other similar legislation, and (2) criticism from the ACLU and others of such legislation is not valid.

We need a more open and progressive debate about how to best reduce terrorist activity, yes, but this article repeats the unfounded claim that ``The very notion of a `war on terrorism' implies that the struggle will someday end." This notion has dangerous consequences for policy that are inherent in the phrasing.

The use of the phrase ``war on terrorism" has a very weighty web of connotation and framing that cannot be argued against. If you call what you're doing a ``war on terrorism" and so do those who are arguing against you, you've already won the argument.

If everybody called Bush's plan a ``War on Windmills" there is no way he would've garnered the support for his invasion of Iraq.

Words are powerful. Note that the so-called patriot act is actually an elaborate acronym. How do you argue against the ``USA PATRIOT ACT?" How much easier would it be to argue against the ``FBI and Local Police Powers Act?"

Don't fall for it. Ask instead how increased police powers are going to clean up our water and air. How does spending on wire-tapping and other intrusive measures help to reduce lead levels in our municipal water? How does it protect our families and communities from corporate malfeasance?
posted by tarheelcoxn at 10:47 AM on July 9, 2005


keswick says: They're fighting terror like they fought the Nazis. Cheese eatin' surrender monkeys.

I have not read the entire linked article, but my understanding of it is that the French have improved their anti-terrorism measures since 1980, and there are lessons the United States could learn from them.

Everyone loves to cite France's collapse in WWII, but no one seems to remember that they, with help from the UK, halted the Germans on the western front in WWI, albeit at the cost of 1.3 million dead and over 4 million wounded.
posted by marxchivist at 10:50 AM on July 9, 2005


Yeah, I love how the people that trot out the "French surrendered in WW II" meme never mention the 335,000 British troops chased off the continent in retreat at Dunkirk by the Nazis.
posted by mlis at 10:55 AM on July 9, 2005


Jesus fucking christ. Sorry to vent, but why does every decent article about France on the blue bring out the same old France bashing neanderthals? Seems to me that the major justification for France hating among this sorry crew is that France has consistently furthered their own national interests above those of the USA's, which they are well within their rights to do.
posted by psmealey at 11:00 AM on July 9, 2005


Is this hijack over or do we have to send in the SAS?
posted by warbaby at 11:03 AM on July 9, 2005


Afroblanca: could you please give us some other links besides a report that is 23 pages long + citations

This reports gives (IMHO) a very comprehensive account of what's been going on on the French side in the past 20 years and is the best one I've seen so far (particularly as it reports the many concerns about public rights that are the by-product of "tough" handling of terrorism). In addition to Shapiro's own papers (listed in his profile), there's a chapter on this topic in this paper by the Atlantic Council of the US that makes similar points (Annex A).

Unfortunately, many of the events described in the paper happened in the pre-internet days and didn't much register outside France, so English-speaking sources are scarce (or heavily partisan). I remember searching for internet-based information about Khaled Kelkal last year without much success (he's got his own wikipedia page now, linked above).

BTW, there's something strange in the history of the wikipedia entry about the Airbus flight 8969: the first version claimed that US Marines had participated in the rescue operation and went so far as to give the name of the US officer. This bogus factoid was removed but has since resurfaced (and had to be removed again).
posted by elgilito at 11:08 AM on July 9, 2005


psmealey writes "Sorry to vent, but why does every decent article about France on the blue bring out the same old France bashing neanderthals?"

You know, if you don't ignore them they'll keep coming back and pushing your buttons.
posted by clevershark at 11:08 AM on July 9, 2005


Btw, nice post elgilito.
posted by warbaby at 11:12 AM on July 9, 2005


good call, TiredStarling

I think governments like those in Syria and even Iran would collapse a lot quicker if France and Company didn't offer the (false) hope that there was some sane position in the war on terrorism other than the American-British one
-ParisParamus

(1) The collapse of the Syrian and Iranian governments is a good thing? For whom? I suppose you think a certain amount of violent upheaval and loss of life is acceptable?

(2) ``France and Company" == ? Anybody critical of Bush?

(3) ``some sane position in the war on terrorism" -- there is no such thing. A ``War on Terrorism" is bound to be about as successful as our ``War on Drugs" has been, and we know how terribly difficult it is to get marijuana in US high schools.

(4) American-British one? The US and Britain aren't two people, they're 300,000,000++ people, the majority of whom don't actively support their governments' activities in Iraq. The unity isn't there.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 11:15 AM on July 9, 2005


The Bush Administration has been supplied with lots of pertinent info from French intelligence regarding terror cell activities. The French have just about the only intelligence service with a large amount of native Arabic speakers and operatives.

That doesn't stop the Bush administration from bashing the French when the election year need arises.

If they would only look up from their freedom fries they would see that France is still one of the few countries who maintain a realpolitik towards terrorism that not only shows results - they share their expertise with the US, Brits, and anyone else who needs it...

Have I just fed the PP troll??? Sorry.
posted by zaelic at 11:17 AM on July 9, 2005


Excellent article. And thanks for the additional info, dhartung.

tarheelcoxn: "We need a more open and progressive debate about how to best reduce terrorist activity, yes, but this article repeats the unfounded claim that ``The very notion of a `war on terrorism' implies that the struggle will someday end." This notion has dangerous consequences for policy that are inherent in the phrasing."

I think you've misunderstood this paragraph. The article contrasts the American perception of a "war on terrorism" with the French perception that terrorism is an endemic problem. It doesn't imply that the American perception is correct.
posted by russilwvong at 12:20 PM on July 9, 2005


The new big thing on the web is all these sites with names like "I Hate France," with supposed datelines of French military history, supposedly proving how the French are total cowards. ...

Well, I'm going to tell you guys something you probably don't want to hear: these sites are total bullshit, the notion that the French are cowards is total bullshit, and anybody who knows anything about European military history knows damn well that over the past thousand years, the French have the most glorious military history in Europe, maybe the world.


So sayeth the War Nerd.

I can't tell you how reliable this guy is, but it's always a great read.
posted by guanxi at 12:33 PM on July 9, 2005


If terrorism is crime, then the whole concept of a war on terror is deeply flawed. The notion that terrorism can be confronted soley by military means is just goofy.

The UN working group on crime and terrorism has an operational definition that terrorism consists of acts that, if committed in wartime, would constitute war crimes. Their site used to be much more informative, but since the US debacle in Iraq, they have scaled back their activity a great deal.

There is a huge difference between anti-terrorism (which seeks to reduce the incidence) and counter-terrorism (which is a form of limited war). There is ample evidence that models and strategies drawing on the public health model are more successful than military models.

In the U.S. terrorism studies community, there was a great deal of anguish when the Bush administration dumped most of the people who actually knew something about terrorism and replaced them with people who mostly knew about limited and covert warfare -- mostly Iran-Contra retreads and people who were active with the Reagan Doctrine in Central America.

I'm not saying that military methods don't have a place for dealing with armed groups, but that military conflict models (like the French pursued in Algeria) are unsuccessful in confronting the entire range of terrorist activity.

The current "border militia" activity in the U.S. is going to lead to terrorist incidents, just sure as fate. The movement is riddled with the same white supremacists who were active ten years ago in the militia organizing that preceeded the OKC bombing. Yet, once again, those same people are sucessfully subverting local government and law enforcement, while right-wing politicians egg them on. This is going to end badly. And it is very much due to the embrace of military notions of terrorism as a form of war, as opposed to crime that is rooted in political violence.
posted by warbaby at 1:11 PM on July 9, 2005


And I think governments like those in Syria and even Iran would collapse a lot quicker if France and Company didn't offer the (false) hope that there was some sane position in the war on terrorism other than the American-British one.

The sane position is you want neither government to collapse. Not without some sort of legitimate government in waiting, not without an organized opposition other than the Muslim Brotherhood or equivalent. Toppling states is easy. But failed states breed terrorism. We made a devil's bargain in using Islamic fundamentalists to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Once they were driven out, we walked away and left Afghanistan to fester until the Taliban came to power. And look there that lead to--9/11. Iraq is not Vietnam II--it's our own Afghanistan II, our own civil war in Lebanon II.

Wanting to repeat the process with Syria--a stable state and currently the most secular Arab state in the Mideast is just criminally stupid and insane. What's worse for Syria, Israel and Europe than Assad ? A Syria with no government. A Syria that resembles present day Iraq or worse. And there is no American-British view. (Hell, there isn't even a coherent American view on Syria in this adminstration, for that matter.) When it comes to toppling Assad, Britain is in lock step with France--for God's sake, don't do it.

It's not rocket science to figure out why: having two out-of-control hellholes of our own making in the MidEast is awful enough--but it beats having three or four. The less recruiting offices and training grounds for suicide bombers in the world, the better--that's another way of stating the European position.
posted by y2karl at 1:29 PM on July 9, 2005


One big difference between the U.S. and France not discussed in this article is the basic issue of the difference in the relative size of the two countries, which compounds the U.S. problem with terrorist activities enormously. The U.S. has lots of empty space, long borders with desolate areas that are notoriously hard to patrol and control, and several times the annual number of visitors that France has. And, as a bigger country, it has a bigger reliance on aircraft as a part of public transport, as well as a greater acceptance of personal movement and relocation as a social norm. The most deadly act of terrorism to date on U.S. soil, the coordinated attacks of 9/11/01, exploited all these differences, in parallel. The French system of coordinating anti-terrorism efforts through the Paris district, may not have evolved at all, had the French problem been spread across 4 or 6 time zones.

The U.S. can take lessons from the French experience, in the value of intelligence coordination and judicial activity, but the lines between investigative agencies and the judicial system in the U.S. are drawn far differently for social and historical reasons, and have historically tended to meet in the prosecutorial function. That may not be so different in practice than what is described in the FPP article as the investigative functions assumed by the Paris district special magistrates.

In my mind, what this article has uniquely identified about the French system, that is far different than the American system, is the value of the French magistrates in building up an institutional memory and pattern recognition capability, that is not well developed in the prosecutorial system in the U.S. In the U.S. prosecutors, even at the federal level, tend to move on to political or judicial jobs in a comparatively short time; it's unusual for anyone, even at the federal level, to be a U.S. attorney or senior level state prosecutor for as long as 20 years. That is a major problem for emulating whatever success the French have had in domestic anti-terrorism, and is a main reason why the effort to institutionalize U.S. domestic anti-terrorism effort in a Department of Homeland Security has been given such priority. Yet, if you look at the current organization of DHS, it is clear that any interface to prosecutorial efforts (upper right corner of the chart, I guess) may be high level, but it is pretty far from the investigative operations people, and unlikely to be a major pipeline for getting criminals arrested, tried fairly, and sentenced.

Instead, we in the U.S. seem willing to support measures like Gitmo and administrative detention, which I think ultimately deprives our society of the chance for creating a sense of justice and redress for terrorism, that is essential in reducing the potential for development of domestic terrorist networks. There is value in publicly trying and convicting terrorists of their crimes, because in doing so, we de-glamorize them, as we define and confirm our own societies commitment to due process.

The big problem terrorism presents is that in combating it, a society must retain its ideals, or the terrorists win, as the early French failures at accommodation showed. We only win against terrorists when we are big enough to bring them to justice, and do so.
posted by paulsc at 1:43 PM on July 9, 2005


We made a devil's bargain in using Islamic fundamentalists to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Once they were driven out, we walked away and left Afghanistan to fester until the Taliban came to power.

Dead on target. Not that it justifies a damned thing Al Qaeda or it's ilk does, but our governmant made some boneheaded moves that laid a load of grief at our doorstep.
posted by jonmc at 1:43 PM on July 9, 2005


Namebase is crucial for hunting down operational links between intelligence agencies. Well, mainly their operatives and associates. The entry for Dominique Prieur, one of the French state terrorists that bombed the Rainbow Warrior, is instructive.
posted by meehawl at 2:26 PM on July 9, 2005


The French have just about the only intelligence service with a large amount of native Arabic speakers and operatives.

You think that might have more to do with their success than anything mentioned in the PDF? I was sort of disappointed by it. Started out well. But then there was too much hand-waving about how this caused that, and it all fits neatly into the broad historical drama that the authors want to describe. Maybe the picture given is mostly accurate, or maybe it's misleading. There isn't enough substance to it to tell.
posted by sfenders at 2:43 PM on July 9, 2005


paulsc: The U.S. [...] has several times the annual number of visitors that France has.

If by visitors you mean "tourists", France had 75 millions visitors in 2003 compared to 41 millions to the U.S.

World Tourism Barometer, January 2005 (PDF link)

Couldn't pick more faults from your post though.

TiredStarling / meehawl: It's interesting to see how an intelligence operation from one country (bombing of Rainbow Warrior), albeit a complete and utter failure, can be perceive as an act of terrorism by other countries. To France, neutralizing Greenpeace and other environment activists was a matter of national security. To set the record straight, twelve people were on board when the bombs exploded, eleven reached safety unhurt, while a twelfth, the portuguese photograph Fernando Pereira, drowned trying to save his equipment from the wreckage. The head of the DGSE at the time admitted that there was no intention of killing anyone.
Surely testing nuclear bombs in the Pacific, even on what is French territory, had to have terrible diplomatic consequences. However I don't think French pacifists would have been welcomed with flowers if they had tried to interrupt the English nuclear tests in Australia, or the American tests at Bikini atoll.
posted by surrendering monkey at 3:14 PM on July 9, 2005


Seems to me that the major justification for France hating among this sorry crew is that France has consistently furthered their own national interests above those of the USA's, which they are well within their rights to do.
No, the problem isn't that the French consistently put their own interests first, but that when certain other powers do the very same thing, the French are giving to lambasting it as "unilateralism", "hyperpower", "Anglo-Saxon hegemony", or (when dealing with the UK in particular) "the perfidy of Albion." The only foreign states the French don't seem to have a problem with are those which either uncritically follow their lead (e.g, Germany), or just those ones decent people are given to regarding as most reprehensible, i.e, China, Russia, Zimbabwe, or any number of other dictatorial regimes scattered across the globe.
posted by Goedel at 3:35 PM on July 9, 2005


The current "border militia" activity in the U.S. is going to lead to terrorist incidents, just sure as fate. Yet, once again, those same people are sucessfully subverting local government and law enforcement...

You're either fucking nuts or ignorant of history or both.
posted by keswick at 3:35 PM on July 9, 2005


Goedel writes "No, the problem isn't that the French consistently put their own interests first, but that when certain other powers do the very same thing, the French are giving to lambasting it"

Yeah, that's completely unlike that whole "freedom fries" bullshit and the continued anti-French tirades one can still hear often by American and Englishman alike...
posted by clevershark at 3:56 PM on July 9, 2005


Which European nation has the toughest record in fighting terror at home?
Actually, it's France. Yes, France, favourite whipping-boy of the right-wing press for its supposedly endless attempts to ingratiate itself with Islamist extremists

That requires a formidable Arabic-speaking spy force, which would take years to build from scratch. But the French already have one, retained from their days as colonial masters of Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco, not to mention their mandates over Syria and Lebanon. French intelligence knows how to root out Arabic-speaking insurgents. And while Jacques Chirac may not lend us any French soldiers, he’s apparently been generous with the French spy network.

Lack of Arabic Speakers is a crack in US security
posted by zaelic at 4:05 PM on July 9, 2005


I don't think French pacifists would have been welcomed with flowers if they had tried to interrupt the English nuclear tests in Australia, or the American tests at Bikini atoll

Bikini tests ran 1946-1958, that was a very different era. And the US demonstrated that it meant business by the forcible expulsion of the aboriginal inhabitants for many decades following its invasion. And the indiscriminate use of above-ground air-burst detonations. Nobody imagined that the US would back down. My God, it was even busy during that time irradiating large portions of its own western states.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands was not established until 1979, and it still does not have full sovereignty but is instead an associated state of the US. Back then, Bikini was effectively under martial law. Protestors within the territory would have been liable to military sanction.

French Polynesia was administered as an overseas territory of France until 2003 or so. Now it is an "overseas country", but remains part of the French Republic (and the EU!). It's a popular place for EU junkets. Additionally, France did not sign the Partial Test Ban Treaty during the 1960s and only signed up to a ban with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996. Should the US resume testing (as some dangerous small-weenied individuals in the US elite wish), bet your arse the French will also resume testing. In any cased, being part of France, protestors within that territory expected to enjoy certain rights guaranteed to them by the constitution of the Fifth Republic.

Australia during the period in question was a fully sovereign nation, and as such was sadly within its rights to grant land use to the British. As was New Zealand. Protestors there expected to operate within the umbrella of standard civil rights. I believe the core issue is that trans-national state terror was used by one sovereign nation within the borders of one sovereign nation to attack citizens of a many sovereign nations.

I am not really clear what it is you are trying to say with your negative conjecture, but if the implication is that the postulated actions of the US military during the 1950s towards protestors somehow validates attack by the French executive on the nationals of countries engaged in peaceful protest within the borders of countries with decent civil rights records, then I must disagree.
posted by meehawl at 4:17 PM on July 9, 2005


Oh, also, of course, the joint UK-Australian Maralinga tests also took place during the 1950s.
posted by meehawl at 4:20 PM on July 9, 2005


MLIS, I understand, and appreciate your comment. And I wasn't even speaking of French society/government's talent to get around its own laws, or change them, seemingly constantly, for some emergency

I am aware of the lack of constitutional protections in the UK, but I think there's just a different security/police vibe in French culture; the whole thing with bobbys(sp?), at least until recently, not carrying guns. I'd still rather be arrested by mistake in the UK than France.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:40 PM on July 9, 2005


OK. An orderly change from corrupt and/or terrorist regimes to something better. But the point is that France seems to perpetuate these regimes more than it should.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:47 PM on July 9, 2005


However I don't think French pacifists would have been welcomed with flowers if they had tried to interrupt the English nuclear tests in Australia, or the American tests at Bikini atoll.

Set the record straight? You weasel apologist.

The Rainbow Warrior was in port in New Zealand when the French blew it up, killing Fernando Pereira, and only missing the rest of the crew by acccident. Never intended to kill anyone? Well, they would say that, wouldn't they - and only when their agents were in the dock.

Others "reached safety"? They happened, by chance, to be ashore.

If I ever accidentally stumble across Alain Marfart or Dominique Prieur, you can be sure they will be getting a comemmorative smack in the teeth from me. Not that I intend to hurt them or anything.

The fact remains that French agents under instruction from the French goverment committed murder in my country, and I'm not fucking happy about it. And they did it to civilians, with the intent of intimidation, and in my book that's terrorism. I'm merely sorry we caved in to the French goverment's threats to block our exports to the EU, otherwise Mafart and Prieur would only just be getting out of jail now.

Intelligence operations are supposed to gather intelligence. I do not believe attaching a limpet mine to a vessel in port provides intelligence.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:55 PM on July 9, 2005


ParisParamus writes "But the point is that France seems to perpetuate these regimes more than it should."

15 out of 19 9/11 terrorists can't be wrong!


posted by clevershark at 7:09 PM on July 9, 2005


clevershark wins.
posted by wakko at 7:45 PM on July 9, 2005


Did anyone else think it was strange that there were so many grammatical and spelling errors in a paper posted on the web site of the prestigious Brookings Institution? That is the big time think-tank which brought us the concept of Mutual Assured Destruction, isn't it? Or am I confused?
posted by wpbinder at 7:59 PM on July 9, 2005


wpbinder, you're confused. The paper was published by the Institute for Strategic Studies. It's only hosted at Brookings. Typos happen. Tony Cordesman frequently posts raw drafts. One of the more brilliant papers around, Truth From These Podia is an utter mess. Some do and some don't.
posted by warbaby at 9:18 PM on July 9, 2005


PS: From an NYT article today, qouting Le Monde's report that MItterand knew about the bombing (unfortunately I can't find the actual cartoon described in Le Monde online):

"Devoting an entire page to the affair, the [Le Monde] story begins on the front page with a large cartoon of Mr. Mitterrand, dressed as a frogman, a snorkel on his head and a bomb under one arm, telling schoolchildren studying history: "At that time, only presidents had the right to carry out terrorism.""

Terrorisme! If it's good enough for Le Monde, it's good enough for me.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:39 PM on July 9, 2005


1 bomb - terrorism. Thousands of bombs, liberation.

Makes sense to me.
posted by clevershark at 12:03 AM on July 10, 2005


I always love it when the winger knuckle draggers start bashing the French. If it weren't for our old pal Lafayette, we'd still be running around with bad teeth and stale fish'n'chips. Bob's yer uncle.
posted by stenseng at 12:53 AM on July 10, 2005


There are cultural differences between the French and Americans, which could explain why many Americans like ParisParamus feel frustrated with the French. But if you think the French are bad, you'd go plum crazy during negotiations with the Chinese or Koreans: try sitting in heavy silence for 10 hours staring down a very zen negotiator who simply refuses to speak.
In general, you could say Americans are more straightforward, blunt and shoot from the hip. The French, on the other hand, kinda follow a "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" approach. Keeping close contact with the nasty regimes that overtook French ex-colonies is a smart tactic: it allows for information flow between let's say, Syria and the US, via French diplomats. I bet the US wishes it had a "common friend" with North Korea, China having proved to be an unsatisfactory messenger.

In international relations, France and the US are dancing a tango: on the surface, both loudly denounce each other which encourages some countries to trust in the French, other in the Americans; but there exists a web of allied cooperation between the two countries which works well for the US, harnessing the good reputation of the French in Arab countries to further the US agenda.

ParisParamus: I am aware of the lack of constitutional protections in the UK, but I think there's just a different security/police vibe in French culture; the whole thing with bobbys(sp?), at least until recently, not carrying guns. I'd still rather be arrested by mistake in the UK than France.
Indeed, but once again this is down to cultural differences. France is pretty used to mass-transit bombings since oh, about the French Revolution. Really. Not only do the French get their own share of foreign terrorism but also the French population is a people that can be bitterly violent during demonstrations. Think may 1969, where the population took Paris under siege and the then French president seriously considered rolling the army's tanks on Paris to contain the population. Frankly, I wouldn't be as much afraid of being arrested by mistake in France, as I would be afraid of finding myself in the wrong place at the wrong time. I once had the enlightening experience of observing from a balcony how a handful of French riot police can subdue dozens of protesters: in a dead calm manner, the protesters were tightly encircled until the noise died down, no one spoke anymore, the rioters were probably gasping for breath.

...different security/police vibe in French culture...
Indeed. As any traveler has noticed, way before 9/11, machine-gunners often patrolled French airports. I'm not in no way associated with the French security forces, but from the outside it looks like they place highly visible deterrents in soft targets (machine gunners, sniffer dogs, perhaps even snipers in airports, train stations and metros), and back up the police with a very efficient territorial security and intelligence scanning.
The WaPo article I previously linked just barely hints at the intelligence force the French have in place: from orchestrating coordination between Saudi Arabian authorities with travel agents in Germany to visa-issuers in France to wiretapping and sharing intelligence and missions with the West - it's a powerful machine that the US would be foolish to ignore.
posted by ruelle at 5:47 AM on July 10, 2005


Think may 1969, where the population took Paris under siege and the then French president seriously considered rolling the army's tanks on Paris to contain the population.

I'll take historical accuracy to block, Alex:
What is 1968 and and who was Charles De Gaulle ?

Sheesh, you kids can be so... well, you know:  disappointing.


posted by y2karl at 6:34 AM on July 10, 2005


I'm not in no way associated with the French security forces...

Drop the beret, the loaf of bread and put down that barrel of fish, Pierre!
posted by y2karl at 6:49 AM on July 10, 2005


sorry, may 1969 is suppose to be may 1968, the then French president was Charles de Gaulle, and yes, that double negation y2karl ponts out does make me cringe too.
:)
posted by ruelle at 6:55 AM on July 10, 2005


We're done here then. Now go put the tools away.
posted by y2karl at 7:04 AM on July 10, 2005


wow. just finished this today. was sitting in my bag all this time.
great read, especially illuminative of the bombings which I got to witness in 1986 in Paris.
posted by Busithoth at 12:07 PM on July 14, 2005


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