October 22, 2006

The Beirut of Europe, Revisited

Just under a year ago I wrote the following while Paris burned:

They say Beirut is the Paris of the Middle East. Does that mean Paris is the Beirut of Europe? Or is that an insult to Beirut?
A week later my mother visited me in Lebanon after I finally convinced her it was safe. “Thank God we didn’t stop in Paris on the way to Beirut,” she said with an absolutely straight face. And I laughed out loud. Beirut, in her mind, was the epitome of urban disaster areas. Paris, as far as she was concerned, was the greatest city on earth. I loved the sudden inversion.

In hindsight I was naïve. I feel chagrined now after arguing long and hard that no one in Lebanon would hurt her, me, or anyone else. To be sure, even if she had visited during this summer’s war she would have been safe from Lebanese. Israeli warplanes were the hazard I hadn’t considered.

Lebanon was not as safe as I thought, and it’s less safe today. Last week someone fired rockets at the Buddha Bar across the street from UN headquarters. I took my mother to that bar. The attackers might be Syrian, but they also could be Lebanese. Nobody knows.

Perhaps I was dumb for suggesting that Beirut is safer than Paris even in jest. But sometimes I wonder.
Before next week’s anniversary of the Clichy riots, the violence and despair on the estates are again to the fore. Despite a promised renaissance, little has changed, and the lid could blow at any moment.

The figures are stark. An average of 112 cars a day have been torched across France so far this year and there have been 15 attacks a day on police and emergency services. Nearly 3,000 police officers have been injured in clashes this year. Officers have been badly injured in four ambushes in the Paris outskirts since September. Some police talk of open war with youths who are bent on more than vandalism.

“The thing that has changed over the past month is that they now want to kill us,” said Bruno Beschizza, the leader of Synergie, a union to which 40 per cent of officers belong. Action Police, a hardline union, said: “We are in a civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists.”
I doubt this is the work of radical Islamists. Violence in France looks a lot more like race war and class war than jihad. Either way, burning cars -- even at the insane rate of 112 every day -- certainly beats massacreing commuters on the way to work in the morning or blowing up tourist hotels.

Most of the violence is in the outskirts of Paris rather than in the city center. The Buddha Bar and the UN are in downtown Beirut. Parts of Paris may be safer than anywhere in Beirut if you forget, for the sake of discussion, that no one ever gets mugged in Lebanon. There is no chance at all that any country will drop bombs on Paris from warplanes.

Comparing Beirut and Paris is, I admit, a bit ridiculous.

Even so, 15 attacks every day against French police and emergency services is astounding. 3,000 injured police officers is an incredible number. How many cars can even be left if 115 are burned every day?

We’re not talking about jihad or a war against infidels here. But is it crazy to ask how many Israeli police and soldiers have been injured or killed by Hamas and Hezbollah at the same time?

The point is not that France resembles Israel in any meaningful way, or that the suburbs of Paris are a match for the dahiyeh south of Beirut which was controlled by a private Iranian army. I'm comparing these places because I want to draw attention to the enormous disconnect between perception and reality.

If 80 percent of the foreign correspondents in Israel, Iraq, and Lebanon moved to France and covered that conflict instead, France would look like a frightening place indeed. It would, in all liklihood, look more dangerous than it really is. (No cars are burned in the Latin Quarter as far as I know.) Instead the Middle East -- with the probable exception of Baghdad -- looks more dangerous than it really is.

I'm not saying the Middle East isn't dangerous. Some parts of it are. Other parts are safe, though. Even some of the dangerous places are reasonably safe most of the time. My friend Michael Dempsey described Beirut as a "safe dangerous" place, which nails it exactly I think.

My friends and family no longer give me a hard time when I travel to places they wouldn't go. Every time I come home unharmed and untraumatized they lighten up a little bit more. But people who don't know me well, who don't read my blog, and who don't follow the Middle East closely still have a hard time understanding what it's really like across the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. My wife has decided that she will no longer tell people when I'm out of town.

"So," one of her clients said the other day. "What hell-hole is your husband in now?"

"Is your husband in Iraq?" our corner grocer asked her in August.

"No," she said. "He's in Israel."

"Oh no!" he said, genuinely alarmed.

She hears this sort of thing constantly. It stresses her out, and it annoys me.

The media make the Middle East look like one never-ending massacre and explosion. France, meanwhile, looks like a storybook land of gourmet cheeses, cafes, and castles. So perhaps I can be forgiven by responding to one cartoon with another, as long as I admit that's what I'm doing. It's fun telling people who think I need body armor in the Levant that Paris is the Beirut of Europe.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 22, 2006 03:44 PM
Comments

An excellent DVD to see as background (so that you can actually see a banlieu) is "La Haine" ("Hate") directed by Mathieu Kassovitz. This may also give one some idea why most Parisians are not really terrified yet. The Arab-dominated suburbs (banlieues) are off-stage, out of sight, and the "youths" tend to stay where they feel safe.

Also, there's no body count yet, because the police are at most using rubber bullets and guns are hard to come by for anyone else. There was a rumor late last year that weapons were coming in from Bosnia. I guess we'll see.

Don't forget, also, that the French do not have a free press. Last year an editor at France2 TV admitted that he was not broadcasting footage of burning cars in order not to "incite" the general populace.

Posted by: Todd Grimson at October 22, 2006 04:34 PM

Michael -
You discount the role of Islam in the riots... there is a purely religious element and a cultural religious incitement element which is mixed in with class struggle etc... but part of the reason why 2nd and 3rd generationals don't evolve and succeed is certainly a separatists Arabic/Islamic rejection of French society.

I'm sure there is French prejudice but that is always given as the reason and the former totally discounted

Todd -
France2 recently sued an independent Media Analysis Group (Not Zionist or Jewish) for lible for accusing them of footing a hoax on Mohammed Al Dura. The counter suit wanted the judge to implore them to release the un-released footage which proves this... many have seen it and say it is a blatant fake Hollywood production.

Michael -
The truly horrible death count and world tragedy is occuring in Darfur... where no reporters go...... wonder why? and most likely North Korea.

Posted by: Mike Nargizian at October 22, 2006 05:25 PM

France has about 150,000 police officers on payroll nationwide. So 3,000 injured in these clashes = 2% of the entire French police force nationwide.

In Israel, the biggest risk is getting killed on the roads by aggressive drivers. This risk is much greater than the risk of getting killed in a war or terror attack.

For that matter, the same is probably true in France and the US.

Posted by: Zvi at October 22, 2006 05:47 PM

Violence in France looks a lot more like race war and class war than jihad.

Dunno, Michael, what do race and class wars look like. Do you have other examples to compare Paris too?

I think France is rather unique, unique in the degree of isolation of the emmigrants, the lack of assimilation, and in the fruity abstractions that drive policy. As far as I can tell the latter is along the lines of: the most important thing in life is money, so if people have money they will, ipso facto, be happy and satisfied; thus all problems can be solved by handing out money. Left out of the equation is pride, direction, hope, esteem, and family. So I don't think this is class war, I think it is war to obtain the most essential parts of self, none of which comes with the money.

Anyway, the Islamists provide another route to the same end and eventually it will all merge together. Not my problem, though, France's problem, and let's keep it there.

Posted by: chuck at October 22, 2006 06:51 PM

Great Post!
If you're going to compare European and Middle Eastern danger zones you should write about skinhead attacks in Prague, Moscow, Warsaw, Bratislava, and Budapest on Roma, Africans , and Asians. I have no idea what the situation is like in Beruit, but non whites in eastern and central Europe are attacked and murdered with some regularity and face little to no reprucussions from the state or police.


Frydek-Mistek

Posted by: Frydek-Mistek at October 22, 2006 07:12 PM

Mike N.,
Darfur is a problem I agree, once again you see the world complaining about the Americans not helping but should we intervene we would be criticized. Its a catch 22. The Europeans should step in and solve it, as with Muslim nations. Considering they are the ones who are the most critical of the U.S.

Posted by: Andrew at October 22, 2006 07:39 PM

The Jihadis haven't yet built the courage for large scale carving of dhimmi throats; they're still carving their territory of French Jihadistan.

Posted by: redaktor at October 22, 2006 07:42 PM

3,000 wounded over a year... I don't know if it's all that much. What's the number in America? Is it 15,000 or more?

Murder rates are over twice as high in the US, as are rapes, while assaults are 5 times as high in the US. (stats from nationmaster.com)

France's assimilation problems are real (though more economic/structural than cultural, Islamic extremism is far more prevalent among British Muslims than French Muslims), but in terms of crime and violence, France is positively rosy compared to the US.

LBJ left, abandoning the War on Poverty, with Reagan began instead the War on the Poor (AKA drugs). If we want to compare police brutality, armed conflict, violent crime and alienation, American police's treatment of the poorer African-American and Hispanic communities is far far worse than anything that occurs in France.

Lets remember that despite Sarkozy representing "toughness" and "law and order", only 1 person died in the 2005 unrest, and not a single French Arab.

Paris is not Watts, not LA, not Cincinnati, and certainly not Beirut. If Paris is Beirut, then your average American city is Baghdad.

Posted by: Craig at October 22, 2006 07:49 PM

3,000 police wounded in civil unrest, Craig. Where's the civil unrest in America? Nothing like that is happening here (now).

Violence and crime keeps dropping in America and rising in France.

Anyway, I wasn't comparing violence in France and America. I was comparing the conventional notions of violence in France and the Middle East.

Beirut under normal conditions (not war) is safer than anywhere in the U.S. or France.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 22, 2006 09:09 PM

Craig, there were indeed 16,500 police officers injured in America. Per capita, the same rate as in France. And the French crime rate is lower - astonishingly so, considering the enormous unemployment problems in France. (Certainly the French statistics are reliable, and for instance rapes in the suburbs are well-reported.)

Your assertion about crime in American minority communities is broad, anti-American, and presented without a shred of evidence. Are you by chance French yourself?

Posted by: bgates at October 22, 2006 09:13 PM

It is indeed strange to think of the France that way for most people.

On the other hand, I think the French state is more sclerotic than the British state (with the weight of some serious comparative political study - and coming from a liberal) - and the French majority is significantly* more racist than the British majority -

and yet the British are the ones with a serious Islamic terror threat. The French aren't.

Strange, isn't it?

Posted by: glasnost at October 22, 2006 09:30 PM

glas, I would guess it is because most of the muslim immigrants, 1st-3rd?, in Britian are from Pakistan and immigrants in France are from North Africa. Pakistan has lots of insane muslims so it's more likely that people will start blowing themselves up in England.

It looks more like an American riot then a Palestinian intifada to me. There isn't any excuse for their actions no matter how badly they are failing, but this probably isn't jihad.

Posted by: mikek at October 22, 2006 09:44 PM

Pakistan has lots of insane muslims so it's more likely that people will start blowing themselves up in England.

As an alternative hypothesis, let me propose that the Muslims in Britain are more prosperous. It is the educated classes with some time on their hands that are most taken with idealistic movements and revolution. Indeed, the French revolution started among such people, the Sans Culottes were just cannon fodder and finally disposed of by a whiff of grape when the time came. Poor folk hardly have the means for large scale insurrection. Result: France=riot, Britain=jihad.

Posted by: chuck at October 22, 2006 10:02 PM

"How many cars can even be left if 115 are burned every day?"

Let's not allow innumeracy to get us carried away. That's 50,000 cars a year, which a moment's thought should reveal is somewhere around two tenths of one percent of all the cars in France.

Posted by: ZF at October 22, 2006 10:06 PM

ZF,

I don't recall exactly, but I think the number last year was up around 35,000. Indeed, the French Embassy supplies this tidbit:

All in all, the cost of those two weeks of unrest is estimated at $250 million, including $20 million for the 9,000 cars.

So 50,000 this year doesn't seem impossible. Sorta a car tax, I suppose. Better cars than people, no?

Posted by: chuck at October 22, 2006 10:19 PM

two tenths of one percent of all the cars in France.

Well, yes, but they aren't burning cars everywhere in France. Only in the poor ghettoes, unless I'm mistaken. How many cars are in the poor ghettoes? I don't know, but they must have made a dent in the percentage by now.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 22, 2006 10:57 PM

Better cars than people, no?

Chuck, you know who will burn if everything breaks down. I would bet the house that it won't be frogs.

Posted by: mikek at October 22, 2006 11:47 PM

It is impossible to measure the level of assualts and especially rapes from country to country.

You can only measure crimes REPORTED, which in no way reflects reality.

Some cultures have an "honor code" which gurantees silence from the victom. Other cultures have the "Jerry Springer Show" where everything that is wrong with society is exposed for all of the world to see.

Posted by: Jordan at October 23, 2006 03:51 AM

no one ever gets mugged in Lebanon

Same in Israel. Isn't that interesting?

Posted by: Yafawi at October 23, 2006 04:46 AM

"Craig, there were indeed 16,500 police officers injured in America. Per capita, the same rate as in France. And the French crime rate is lower - astonishingly so, considering the enormous unemployment problems in France."
French unemployment has become the perennial and fundamental problem facing the French economy. Its consequences are negative, but attenuated by two things:
- The Black Market of Labor is fairly widespread (it is not uncommon for a person to both claim unemployment benefits and work unofficially on the side)
- A social safety net which, while unevenly applied and not as good as most Scandinavian countries', does help stop the unemployed turning to crime or radicalism

"Your assertion about crime in American minority communities is broad, anti-American, and presented without a shred of evidence. Are you by chance French yourself?"
Well, I'm French-born, though my father is American. Admittedly I'm not an expert on crime, but my understanding of certain segments of the African-American and Hispanic is one deep alienation from society and dehumanization by law-enforcement. (I do know that African-Americans face continuted discrimination in housing, continue to be heavily over-represented in jails and are far more likely to be executed than Whites for comparable crimes, that much has been conceded by the Supreme Court)

I didn't want to attack the US, but just put France's problems in persective. The impression you get from media and most blogs (even French ones, one prominent French Blogger, Jacques Attali, even compared Paris to Bagdad, though he has since removed the post after it was pointed out it was silly) is that France is some kind of warzone.

I'm just trying to dispel that image, there are far more severe problems of armed violence and "warfare" in parts of the US, Jamaica, South Africa, Brazil and a host of other countries. I'm not trying to underscore France's problems, but put them in perspective and limit misleading or unrepresentative metaphors.

Posted by: Craig at October 23, 2006 07:22 AM

but my understanding of certain segments of the African-American and Hispanic is one deep alienation from society and dehumanization by law-enforcement.

Certainly sounds like the French view of things over here. Who was the black Frenchman who arrived in Baltimore and was amazed to see black policemen at the airport, not to mention his surprise when he discovered that black people owned houses and drove cars? I believe he was inspired to return to France and establish a successful chain of stores.

The French myth of America is rather silly, but no doubt helps prop up the self esteem of a nation sunk in socialist dysfunction. I miss the France of old. Where are the Pasteurs and Poincares? Great men, great Frenchmen, where are they now?

Posted by: chuck at October 23, 2006 08:06 AM

Ah, here is the story. Mohamed Dia.

Posted by: chuck at October 23, 2006 08:14 AM

America has race relation problems, while these might create a distorted image of America abroad, the issue of race is hardly unresolved in the states. My point it's not just a "French" anti-American stereotype, it's a reality which manifests itself in high murder rates, justifiable homicides, housing segregation and riots which make Paris '05 look peachy.

France has her race problems too. Most French are self-consciously anti-racist, but there is a degree of implicit fear and hostility toward Arab Frenchmen very similar, but much less ackowledged, to what African-Americans experience. We don't know the extent because of the official ideology of "colorblind integration" (IE, no statistics).

On French socialism: France is not more socialistic than Germany, Italy or Scandinavia.
On French leaders: it looks like the next election will be between Nico Sarkozy (likes to portray himself as the tough "law and order" type, didn't kill anyone in the riots, but has been evicting illegal immigrants) and Segolene Royal (a smooth, pretty, vague and female politician).

Posted by: Craig at October 23, 2006 09:06 AM

If I could add one last thought. Beyond generic racism, France's biggest problem in terms of ethnic minorities is that "colorblind" doctrines mean one cannot officially recognise them easily. As such, there is very little discussion or awareness of the French Arab or French Black experience. This is slowly changing with groups like Ni Putes Ni Soumises and movies like Indigenes (showing Black/Arab French Imperial troops in WW2), but it's a real problem.

At this point France is teetering towards more Anglo-Saxon style "recognition" of minorities. Though I'd hate for racial communitarianism to become a permanent reality in France as it is in the States, this is probably inevitable, maybe even healthy.

Posted by: Craig at October 23, 2006 09:11 AM

This map (in Slovak, doesn't matter much) is a nice break -- a night map.
http://mapy.atlas.sk/mapviewer/mapviewer.aspx?appname=atlas_noc

The lights of Paris, of Beirut & Israel, and even of Wien / Vienna (on top of Bratislava) are cool. You've seen much of it before, but when was the last time?

An "immigrant-French" person can never become French like an x-American can become fully American. My wife said I might become a Slovak citizen, but will never be Slovak.
Sudetenland German-Czechs, who were Germans of Czechoslovak citizenship, were of the "German nation"; similarly Hungarian-Slovaks have Slovak citizenship but, officially, Hungarian ethnic "nationality".

America is NOT a "nation state", like most European nations are. [And the Slovak National Party - SNS - is in the gov't coalition and insulting Hungarians again, so the Hungarian gov't is insulting Slovaks...]

Sean Connery is proud that he's not English; so was Richard Burton. There's a huge identity issue -- who ARE you?

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at October 23, 2006 10:05 AM

France is not more socialistic than Germany, Italy or Scandinavia.

Never said it was. All four are corportist states building on the pathfinding economic experiments of Mussolini. Sweden, in particular, has made a great success of its brand of democratic fascism. And all four regions also suffer from similar problems at present.

Hey, nothing disreputable about fascist economic ideas. Roosevelt, too, tried to introduce some of them into America, collective bargaining and such. And what was the CCC, if not the American analogue of Komsomal, Balilia, the Red Falcons, and the Hitler Youth. Except, I think, less political. One sometimes forgets that Margaret Sanger could speak about eugenics at KKK meetings and that Norman Thomas was one of the founders of America First. The tangled roots of the present are in no way polically correct.

but there is a degree of implicit fear and hostility toward Arab Frenchmen very similar, but much less ackowledged, to what African-Americans experience.

I doubt it. As far as I can tell from reading articles by people familiar with the situation, France is more racist than the US and immigrants have less opportunity, due mostly to the importance of social standing and connections. America doesn't have classes in the way that France does.

Posted by: chuck at October 23, 2006 10:09 AM

Craig: high murder rates, justifiable homicides, housing segregation and riots which make Paris '05 look peachy.

Most of these problems in the U.S. have been declining as long as I've been old enough to pay attention. All the slums in the city where I live (metro population 2 million) have been eliminated in the last five years.

Curious what you mean by "justifiable homicide."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 23, 2006 11:02 AM

According to recent reports

On Sunday, a gang of youths forced passengers out of a bus south of Paris, set it on fire, and then stoned firefighters who came to the rescue. Police detained two teenagers, aged 13 and 18, for questioning in the attack in the town of Grigny.

It followed nearly a half-dozen incidents in recent weeks in which suburban youths have attacked police officers, in some cases in planned ambushes.

"Today, we are less in a logic of burned vehicles than in violent ambushes of the forces of order," said Laurent Ysern, regional leader of the UNSA-Police union.

The violence in France and the violence in Lebanon are inspired by the same goals - attacking the forces of order and establishing ownership over a certain territory.

Every place has a bunch of groups who have grudges of one sort or another, but these ever-present resentments usually don't provoke this kind of violence.

Violent attacks against authority come when the forces of order are obviously weak. This kind of violence is usually inspired, not by despair, but by the hope that they can win. The only way to stop it is to show them that they'll lose.

About 77% of Frenchmen polled want the police to be tougher on the rioters:

Clearly the French favor a tough line on security issues. According to an Ifop poll for Le Figaro published last month, 77 percent said the judicial system was not harsh enough on young offenders and 74 percent said the police should be given more powers to fight crime in the suburbs.

Posted by: mary at October 23, 2006 02:45 PM

When my wife and I lived in Mexico for nearly 5 years in the late 80's and early 90's we had good friends who wouldn't come to visit us because of irrational fear of "banditos and drug smugglers."

Our granddaughter went to Israel for a visit right out of high school in a small Colorado town. She spent about 4 years there, living in a kibbutz, attending university, and also visited Egypt, Jordan and a number of European countries. I can't remember, though, if she ever risked her life in Paris.

Posted by: Taylor at October 23, 2006 04:25 PM

I'd go to Paris, Mexico, Israel or Lebanon in a minute if I was smart enough to make travel a part of my job.

But the idea that you can fight this kind of violent oppression by improving the lives of the aggressors just bugs me. I worked in New York City during the 80's during the awful pre-Giuliani years, when the city still thought that racism and oppression were the cause of all crime. They tried to fight crime with social programs and jobs and it didn't work. New York proved that you fight violent aggression by enforcing the laws and by having a visible and effective police/military presence.

The idea that violent aggression can be fought with liberal programs, tea and sympathy was wrong. It never worked and it never will work. It's as wrong as Marxism or the idea that the earth is flat. I just can't figure out why people won't abandon theories that have already been proven wrong.

Posted by: mary at October 23, 2006 06:21 PM

"The idea that violent aggression can be fought with liberal programs, tea and sympathy was wrong. It never worked and it never will work. It's as wrong as Marxism or the idea that the earth is flat. I just can't figure out why people won't abandon theories that have already been proven wrong."
The US has more violent crime than any other industrialized country. America is also the industrialized country with the weakest welfare state.

I do not know if there is causation or correlation between these two factors (in fact I know these things are very complicated and can't be boiled down to a single thign). But it's a fact to bear in mind, if America is "tough on crime" than it hasn't stopped America being the most crime-ridden industrialized country in the world.

Posted by: Craig at October 24, 2006 04:48 AM

The US has more violent crime than any other industrialized country. America is also the industrialized country with the weakest welfare state.

We have the largest welfare state ever, spending billions of taxpayer dollars and thousands of American lives on the military defense of ungrateful nations around the world.

If we weren't wasting all that money, we might be able to take care of our own. But anyway, I was talking specifically about the huge drop in the crime rate in New York city, but in fact, crime rates are rising in Europe as they're falling in the U.S.

Crime has recently hit record highs in Paris, Madrid, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Toronto, and a host of other major cities. In a 2001 study, the British Home Office (the equivalent of the U.S. Department of Justice) found violent and property crime increased in the late 1990s in every wealthy country except the United States. American property crime rates have been lower than those in Britain, Canada, and France since the early 1990s, and violent crime rates throughout the E.U., Australia, and Canada have recently begun to equal and even surpass those in the United States. Even Sweden, once the epitome of cosmopolitan socialist prosperity, now has a crime victimization rate 20 percent higher than the United States...

..Americans should not take too much satisfaction in our becoming a safer nation. While crime in America has declined rather spectacularly, it still stands well above the level of civic peace our grandparents enjoyed. But America has moved in the right direction while Europe has moved in the wrong one. The combination of engaged, community-oriented police and ample investment in incarceration is turning the United States into the safest large Western country. Europeans may want to emulate American policies--God forbid!--if they hope to win their own wars against crime.

In Britain, where just about every form of self-defense is against the law, there's been a huge increase in crime. When people can't defend themsleves, crime goes up. When nations can't defend themselves, they're attacked. When animals can't defend themselves, they're food. It's just basic natural law.

Posted by: mary at October 24, 2006 06:25 AM

Mary:
1) America has less public spending on welfare and healthcare per capita and per $ of GDP than any other industrialized nation in the world. This is not a condemnation, it is a fact, America is in relation to every comparable nation, a low-tax, low-welfare nation.

2) European welfare states have been around since 1945, and you want to blame rises in crime in the past 5 years on them? Clearly some other factor is at work.

3) Violent crime, rape and homicides remain considerably higher in the US than other industrialized countries. The sources you have criticizing Britain/Europe are the Weekly Standard and "Reason" Magazine. Both of these have explicit neo-conservative or libertarian goals and I don't expect them to be either fair or neutral.

4) I'll just reiterate that I am not saying there is a direct correlation between the welfare state and low crime. But people who hold that view are hardly irrational given the ineffectiveness of America's "tough" policies since WW2.

Posted by: Craig at October 24, 2006 09:03 AM

MJT,

I love the article. Comparing dissimilar things, despite its reputation, frequently helps think more clearly.

Posted by: JBP at October 24, 2006 09:13 AM

I'll just reiterate that I am not saying there is a direct correlation between the welfare state and low crime. But people who hold that view are hardly irrational given the ineffectiveness of America's "tough" policies since WW2.

I agree, there is no direct co-relation between the welfare state and low crime. In fact, I'm in favor of increasing funding for some social programs, especially child care and education, but I support that because it's just generally a good thing.

We could afford more of these programs if we weren't saddled with the old cold-war policy of providing a defense umbrella for wealthy nations who should be defending themselves.

Otherwise, I'm not sure what you mean by America's "tough" policies since WW2? What exact policies are you discussing, and how have they failed?

You might want to read the Weekly Standard report. They weren't talking about 'tough' policies, they were talking about the value of individual police efforts and decentralization.

Posted by: mary at October 24, 2006 09:22 AM

Come on, Craig. It's damn near common knowledge now that crime has been dropping everywhere in the US for years and years. I don't have to read the Weekly Standard or Reason Magazine to know that neighborhoods and cities that used to be dangerous no longer are. New York, Chicago, Los Angeles...I've watched these cities dramatically improve with my own eyes. My own city is hardly recognizable anymore.

Do you live in the US? If you don't, perhaps that's why you're behind the curve on this. I don't expect this to get reported overseas, ever.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 24, 2006 11:07 AM

My wife has decided that she will no longer tell people when I'm out of town.

I'll bet she'd probably feel even better if you didn't insist on chasing after lightning bolts in the middle of a flash flood.

Posted by: Solomon2 at October 24, 2006 03:59 PM

"We could afford more of these programs if we weren't saddled with the old cold-war policy of providing a defense umbrella for wealthy nations who should be defending themselves."
I think that's true. Japan and Europe are fat. They've never had to really defend themselves, and now, only Britain and France make even a symbolic effort to have militaries with any independent capabilities whatsoever.

"Do you live in the US? If you don't, perhaps that's why you're behind the curve on this. I don't expect this to get reported overseas, ever."
I was going on statistics, primarily from nationmaster. Many crime statistics (particularly ones of rape or petty crime) are not usually reliable. Those for murders and car theft are generally better, and I looked at those, and just the violence of US race riots in general, leads me to my conclusions.

Again, I'm not an expert or criminologist, but I've yet to see any statistics (and I'm not using French sources) showing the US in a particularly positive light compared to other industrialized countries (as opposed to the US improving over time, which isn't the same thing).

Posted by: Craig at October 25, 2006 03:50 AM

Come on, Craig. It's damn near common knowledge now that crime has been dropping everywhere in the US for years and years. I don't have to read the Weekly Standard or Reason Magazine to know that neighborhoods and cities that used to be dangerous no longer are

How does this in any way disprove Craig's point? How does the relative fall in crime in America during the 90's mean that crime is now lower in the US than in Europe? Have you looked at statistics?

The get tough policies started in the 80's - and from a baseline that was already tougher than Europe. The fall in crime in the 90's coincided with the biggest and most fairly-distributed economic expansion since the 50's. Meanwhile, violent crime is rising again, right now, in 2005/6, even though all the get tough policies are still in place.

So what point were you making, Mike, exactly?

Posted by: glasnost at October 26, 2006 08:53 PM

"We could afford more of these programs if we weren't saddled with the old cold-war policy of providing a defense umbrella for wealthy nations who should be defending themselves."

I think that's true. Japan and Europe are fat. They've never had to really defend themselves, and now, only Britain and France make even a symbolic effort to have militaries with any independent capabilities whatsoever.

Dunno.

Back when the Europeans had real militaries, it seems like they would periodically be overcome with the urge to use them on each other, averaging 20 years or so between flare-ups.

I prefer the way things have been for the last half-century or so. As irritating as sanctimonious lecturing from Europeans is, at least one of my grandfathers would have liked very much to live in a world where the problem with Germans was that they were pacifists.

Posted by: rosignol at October 27, 2006 03:49 AM

Comparing Beirut and Paris is, I admit, a bit ridiculous.

It's actually completely ridiculous. If Paris is the Beirut of Europe, then Chicago is the Beirut of North America, and so are Detroit, St. Louis, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles, etc. Even if Paris is more violent and American cities are less violent than before, they haven't crossed places.

But I admire you for trying to make it to Baghdad. I bet that you're in for a shocker.

Posted by: Jim Harris at October 28, 2006 03:53 PM

Craig,
In your conclusions did you take into account that our population is A LOT bigger then Frances?
Plus the many illegal immigrants which are not included in the census which are in the tens of millions.

Americans dont want our country to be like Europe.
So who are you trying to convince?

Posted by: Andrew at October 29, 2006 03:43 PM

A friend of mine was threatened and harassed on the London tube for wearing a Jewish star. Her attackers were Muslim. They were not skinheads, Nazis or members of the BNP. It is not safe to be visibly marked as Jewish anywhere in oh-so enlightened Western Europe.

Given the choice between Eastern Europe, Western Europe or Israel. I would go to Israel.

Posted by: Susan at November 2, 2006 04:28 AM

There are a large number of Jews from North African former French colonies in France. They are often caught in the middle and hated by all sides.

Posted by: Susan at November 2, 2006 04:31 AM
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