The Spine

Security Risk


The French may be soft on the Arabs in their diplomacy. And they are without a clue about how to deal with the simmering revolt in the banlieues of the big cities. But when it comes to their absolute security, they move quite quickly and decisively--if also with a more than slightly heavy hand. It's not quite what it was during the Algerian War when young Arab men with bad papers or no papers at all were dragooned out of the mètro and put on a plane to North Africa. Or, even more brutally, unceremoniously dumped in the Seine to fend for themselves. That was not the France of la gloire.

I read in Tuesday's International Herald Tribune about the suspension of 72 Muslim security risks at Charles de Gaulle Airport. It's all in a comprehensive story by Katrin Bennhold that I assume was also in The New York Times.

Actually, the anti-terrorism professionals are distressed at how long the process of identification of suspects took and at how much longer it took to have them suspended. Still, one thing we know is that nothing so definitive could happen in the States. One reason is that--or, at least, so I suspect--our security apparatus is just not as professional and alert as are the French police and intelligence services.

Of course, there are many organizations in France--Muslim, Arab, and ordinary civil liberties watchdogs--whose memberships and followers are appalled by the decisive actions of the Chirac regime. Ditto the central labor union federation. This will put them against center-right Nicolas Sarkozy, the highly popular Interior Minister, who aspires to succeed Jacques Chirac in the presidency. But don't think that the Socialists will actually join the protests that will inevitably be mounted by those who thrill to every act of terror against the West.

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