"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Nice: Reaction and Analysis

Tom Sullivan has a good summary of what happened in Nice, with special attention to a couple of reactions here. President Obama, being a presidential president, issued a statement that was pretty much expected, considering that at the time no one knew any whys or wherefores.


Enter Donald Trump. Without knowing details about the attack, Trump wants to declare war. On whom, he doesn't say. On what basis, he doesn't know. A NATO country has been attacked, sure (by a lone individual as far as we know now). But Trump thinks NATO is obsolete and the U.S. pays too much for it. Others should pay. So with that for background, when Bill O'Reilly asked Trump if he would send in air and ground forces (somewhere) Trump said:

“I would, I would” when asked if he would seek a formal declaration of military action from the US Congress. “This is war,” Trump continued. “If you look at it, this is war. Coming from all different parts. And frankly it’s war, and we’re dealing with people without uniforms. In the old days, we would have uniforms. You would know who you’re fighting.”

But since Trump doesn't know who that is and can't force whoever it is to wear uniforms, what this situation absolutely requires is a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part. And Trump is just the guy to do it. Count on him to try to make somebody else pay for it. In the end, that someone would be us.

That's right -- put them in uniforms (whoever they are) -- and then what? Start digging trenches?

And do note the repeated "War!!1!" mantra. We've been hearing that for fifteen years now, and you know what? It's bullshit. It's good for stirring up the rubes and that's all. We've already seen what good results we get by bombing civilians -- more terrorists.

Digby has a fairly thorough analysis of conditions in France that make it an epicenter, more or less, for terrorist attacks in Europe, and links to this article by Arthur Goldhammer that makes one important point:

Each such event pushes frightened citizens a little closer to surrendering to the impulse to embrace an authoritarian response. And, as it happens, Marine Le Pen has been offering just such a response for years now, insisting that draconian police measures are the only way to deal with the threat. She wants France to “take back control” of its borders, as the British have just voted to do with Brexit. . . .

Not that a Le Pen government would be any less helpless than a government of the center-right or center-left. Her authoritarian instincts would do nothing to lessen the threat—au contraire. But for too many people, I fear, electing Le Pen to speak loudly and carry a big stick will feel like “doing something rather than nothing”—and, in these circumstances, it is all too human to want to do something. We saw this in the United States after 9/11.
(Emphasis added.)

That's what Trump is offering, even though he's even less focused than the Bush administration after 9/11. (In my own opinion, we went after the right people first -- the Taliban. And then attacked Iraq? It didn't make any sense then and doesn't make any sense now -- unless you're Halliburton or a major oil company. And if you wonder where Trump got his "make them pay for it" mantra -- remember, the Iraq war was going to be paid for with Iraq's oil. Trump's not only a jackass, he's not even original.)

Back to Digby's comments. She makes the very good point, vis-a-vis France as an epicenter, that France has a very different history in regard to immigration and minorities than, say, the U.S. (We're a nation of immigrants. I like to make the point that, in reality, every human being who ever lived in America came of immigrant stock: Homo sapiens is not native to the Americas.)

France has a long colonial history in the Middle East, specifically in Syria and its experience in Algeria was particularly brutal. It has the largest Muslim population in Europe and French society has traditionally been somewhat culturally intolerant, insisting that newcomers strictly adapt to French mores rather than embracing diversity. All of this has unfortunately created a combustible mixture in a dangerous time.

So, you have a large group of culturally alienated immigrants, a political party that's promising to "do something" in the most authoritarian -- read "dictatorial" -- way possible, and a sizable chunk of the population who are willing to go along with it. You'd be forgiven for wondering whether you're in France or the US, except that we haven't managed to alienate our Muslim population -- although there are elements here that are trying very hard to do just that, along with every other minority (read "GOP") -- but we certainly do have the politicians who are willing to advocate dictatorial responses.

I think Goldhammer's point is right on the mark: we want someone to do something. The problem is, we're not willing to listen to the people who might do something that works.

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