France volunteers itself as a front line in the clash of civilizations

Summary: France has become a front, perhaps even ground zero, in the clash of civilizations. For a brilliant analysis see “France Under the Influence” by Diana Johnstone, Counterpunch, 20 January 2015. A few excerpts follow, with comments expanding on them. I recommend reading her article in full.

Basis for a successful Grand Strategy
Basis for a successful Grand Strategy.



  1. Context for the conflict
  2. History strikes back
  3. A banquet of consequences
  4. We fight for Human Rights!
  5. About the author
  6. For More Information


Excerpts and commentary on “France Under the Influence

by Diana Johnstone, Counterpunch, 20 January 2015

(1) Context for the conflict

The Charlie Hebdo terrorist assassinations struck France at a moment when it has an unpopular government and a weak President, when factories are closing and jobs are being lost, when French economic policy is determined by Germany via the European Union and its foreign policy is determined by the United States via NATO. … the country feels buffeted by winds of conflict it cannot resist.

European governments face domestic unrest from the ugly combination of rising inequality and slow growth — against the backdrop of the souring of the great post-WWII unification project. People’s fear about a challenge from Islam provides them with both an opportunity to distract the public and a difficult issue to manage. Islam provides a tangible outlet for fears about existential threats to their culture as it gets hammered on one side by social changes from modernity, and on the other by immigrants bringing foreign ways.  America too faces similar social tensions.

(2) History strikes back

{T}he so-called “Islamic State”, as well as “al Qaeda in Yemen” and associated fanatic Islamic groups are working hard to recruit fighters out of the Muslim communities in France and other European countries. Some 1,400 jihadists have traveled to Syria from France to join the Holy War. They are lured by the heroic prospect of helping to “build the Caliphate”, a sort of Israel for Muslims, a holy land restored.

Israel was the West’s great nation-building project of the 2oth century, an opportunity to philanthropically ship away a disliked minority by providing legitimacy and support to the Zionist terrorists and insurgents in Palestine. The kibbutz were the dream. The result: a theocratic imperialist State slowly absorbing Jerusalem and the West Bank, inflicting slow genocide on Gaza.

Now comes the blowback. Successful models get copied. The Islamic State has adapted the formula, amping it up for the 21st century (perhaps as Hitler amped up a mad version of Nietzsche’s thought).

Secret allies, but not friends
Secret allies, but not friends

French leaders are not only closely attached personally to the Jewish community, they also fear the opprobrium of seeing their country slandered as “anti-Semitic”. … {President Hollande} dares not object to obscure interference in France by that great oil supplier and arms purchaser, Saudi Arabia, or by that great investor, Qatar, both of them supporters of Islamic extremism.

The West has successfully balanced alliances with the neighboring theocratic States of Israel and Saudi Arabia (and the Gulf States). The tensions become ever more obvious, especially as people begin to notice the Saudi’s role in spreading jihadist thought (funding schools like this). These irrationally contradictory policies would make Marx smile.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu came to tell Hollande that he must treat Muslims kindly and protect their mosques. But Turkey also supports the Islamic extremists in Syria that are recruiting Frenchmen to become terrorists, and is scarcely a model of freedom and tolerance. The presence of Petro Poroshenko, who got to be President of Ukraine only because of the disorder created by neo-Nazi snipers in Kiev, was a signal that France must stick to U.S.-imposed anti-Russian sanctions that are contributing to France’s economic meltdown.

Realpolitik mandates alliances primarily on the basis of national interest. But the cheap popular morality that dominates western election requires a thick veneer of paint to disguise this. Our friends are good (good methods and goals, like us); our foes are bad (evil intent and methods).

Outside pressures are now pushing France into a war in the Middle East that it can neither afford nor win. … But French leaders need to take a hard look at their own totally incoherent foreign policy, and there is no sign as yet of that happening.

Just like events a century ago, this would be an example of the symmetries that excites historians.

Logical contradiction
Embrace the truth!

(3) We fight for Human Rights!

France is ringing with proclamations that we must continue to publish Charlie Hebdo-style cartoons attacking Muslims, or otherwise we shall have surrendered to Islamic demands.

Today we fight for human rights, because our values are the highest. Tomorrow we lecture other nations about multiculturalism, because there are no highest values. Allan Bloom explained the contradiction in Closing of the American Mind. We see the result in France: “The French are honoring the satirists of Charlie Hebdo by … prosecuting satirists.“, David Cole, Washington Post, 17 January 2015.

Grand Strategy

(4) A banquet of consequences

By taking the symbolic lead in the regime change war in Libya, France turned that country into a black hole of Islamic extremists. France collaborated in the murder of Gaddafi, whose “Green Book” philosophy was the laughing stock of the West, but which was an attempt to provide a modernizing and moderate version of Muslim principles to combat the Islamic fanaticism that had always been his main domestic enemy and which profited from his demise.

… France like the USA designates Islamic terrorism as its great enemy, while doing everything possible to favor its growth and extension. … For over half a century the West has systematically opposed the secular nationalist states in the Middle East, starting with Nasser’s Egypt … Arab nationalism was the positive political hope of the region. Once that hope is destroyed, Islamic extremism rushes into the vacuum.

This struggle continues in Syria, with France taking the lead in opposing Bachar al Assad, which means, in effect, supporting the Islamists just as it prepares to go to war against them.

Historians will look with amazement at our war with jihadism, which we wage by overthrowing secular States — that are then ruled by Islamic fundamentalists. Read this account of our successful but mad war against the secular Afghanistan regime, and ponder its results for them and us. We overthrew a secular regime in Iraq, now replaced by Shiite and Sunni fundamentalists (was Saddam worse than the Shiite militia or the IS madmen?). We overthrew a secular regime in Libya, now in chaos — with the fundamentalists slowly gaining control. Yemen, ditto. Now we’re repeating the play in Syria. FAILure to learn on a record-breaking scale.

Rome’s mad Emperors could plead lead-poisoning. What’s our excuse? Wrong turn on the information superhighway?

This will not end well for us if we do not open our eyes and use our minds.

Diana Johnstone
Diana Johnstone

(5) About the author

Diana Johnstone is an American political writer living in Paris. She wrote The Politics of Euromissiles: Europe’s Role in America’s World (1985) and Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions (2003).

Her new book, Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton, will be published in 2015.

To learn more see links to her articles and her Wikipedia entry.

(6) For More Information

(a)  Posts about ISIS, the Islamic State

  1. Before we start a new war with ISIS, let’s remember how we stumbled into the last two, 21 August 2014.
  2. The long-simmering conflict in the Middle East breaks out, surprising US experts, 26 August 2014.
  3. America plays the hegemon while ruled by fear and machismo. FAIL., 2 September 2014.
  4. The solution to jihad: kill and contain our foes. Give war another chance!, 8 September 2014.
  5. One day in America shows our eagerness for war. We’ll get what we want., 10 September 2014.
  6. America and the Islamic State both hope to change the world with rivers of blood, 19 September 2014.
  7. “SAS kill up to 8 jihadis each day, as allies prepare to wipe IS off the map.” Bold words we’ve heard before., 24 November 2014.

(b)  About our war with Islam:

  1. The Fight for Islamic Hearts and Minds, 20 February 2012.
  2. We are the attackers in the Clash of Civilizations. We’re winning., 23 September 2013.
  3. Handicapping the clash of civilizations: bet on America to win, 24 September 2014.
  4. We seek a future of war with Islam, while wearing a cloak of virtue, 9 September 2014.

(c)  Posts about Islam:

  1. Hatred and fear of Islam – of Moslems – is understandable. But are there hidden forces at work?, 3 August 2010.
  2. Should we fear that religion whose believers have killed so many people?, 4 August 2010.
  3. Hard (and disturbing) information about schools in Pakistan – the madāris, 1 May 2011.

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