You know things are bad when even Jaques Chirac admits the French have a serious problem on their hands.
On Thursday, President Jacques Chirac acknowledged that France had "undeniable problems" in poor city areas and must respond effectively.
In a sidebar the BBC article calls our attention to the provisions of the Curfew Law (which I believe was written long before the present disturbances erupted). These include:
Police can carry out raids on suspected weapons stockpiles.
So far the rioting has been noteworthy for the relative absence (at least the reported relative absence) of the use of weapons, and for very few fatalities. But one (with a paranoid mind like mine) might conclude that the violence has been calibrated. In a prescient article in City Journal in the autumn of 2002, Theodore Dalrymple described the arming of the banlieues:
No one should underestimate the danger that this failure [that is, the failure of French society effectively to assimilate their immigrants of Arab/ African origin] poses, not only for France but also for the world. The inhabitants of the cités are exceptionally well armed. When the professional robbers among them raid a bank or an armored car delivering cash, they do so with bazookas and rocket launchers, and dress in paramilitary uniforms. From time to time, the police discover whole arsenals of Kalashnikovs in the cités. There is a vigorous informal trade between France and post-communist Eastern Europe: workshops in underground garages in the cités change the serial numbers of stolen luxury cars prior to export to the East, in exchange for sophisticated weaponry.
Whether or not the present outbreak is squelched by the application of the Curfew Law, what approach France can, or will, take toward its deeper problems is an open question