There are three rules worth remembering before everyone gets surprised by the eruption of violence in France this year.
1) As a general rule in Europe for the last 500 years, if instability is going to erupt, it’s often going to start first in France. New intellectual currents, tides of unrest, civil conflicts, periods of anarchy… always look to the French first.
2) The first rule in counter-insurgency — never let the bad guys have a sanctuary area. If you can’t govern somewhere on your own territory, be assured that somebody else will and they will probably be hostile to you.
3) Trouble always comes in on an exponential curve. Tensions build up, a few prescient people start issuing Jeremiads, hardly anyone listens because the predictions seemed impossible… and then boom!
The jeremiads are being issued for France, starting with the head of the General Directorate for Internal Security, Patrick Calvar, in July 2016. City councillors, scholars and others have also tried to explain what is coming.
The key issue is that numerous ‘No-Go’ areas have developed around the country over the last few years. Most of them are largely inhabited by Muslim immigrants; but the French economy has been under-performing in recent years and the effect is most strongly felt in these neighbourhoods. Worse, Salafist recruiters (the variation on Islam behind the Muslim Brotherhood, al Qaeda and ISIS) have been hard at work among the young men and are making the most of this opportunity.
A growing number of French citizens are growing frustrated and afraid of these islands of instability distributed throughout the country. For that matter, a number of French Muslims in these areas are also alarmed by the growing Salafist presence, particularly as it alienates their young and threatens the stability of the whole country.
The rioting of the last week has been a divisive point. The Salafists now know they can construct a false narrative, it will rapidly spread between enclaves, and even attract support from the Left. They have also seen the police back off and know their power. The Salafists dream of bringing the French down.
The Presidential elections are coming in April, and tensions are already rising… particularly as Marine Le Pen of the National Front and Emmanuel Macron of the brand new Left-of-Centre En Marche! are the front-runners.
That exponential curve will be getting steeper by the week.