The riots in France have shocked not only France but also the rest of the world. They shouldn’t have. The fact is that the potential for such violence has existed in that country throughout many eras. And modern times have been no exception. As surprising as that may be to contemporary observers to find that sophisticated and charming France has been rife with the potential for violence for many years, it is not new to that country’s own security services.
With each changing French administration, a new foreign and domestic strategic and even tactical requirement is placed on the country’s security and intelligence services. In other words, the political leaning drives the information gathering activity rather than the information gathered influencing political decisions. This clearly has been the unfortunate case with the current government of Emmanuel Macron.
Macron’s view was that major societal matters such as climate change and similar socio-economic issues were of prime importance. Macron enjoys thinking of himself as a socially conscious intellectual. Consequently, he had placed a priority on finding answers to these seemingly intractable issues relative to global affairs and applying the possible answers to France. The factors causing serious unrest in his country such as low wages, high taxation, unemployment, etc. were certainly not disregarded, but were not treated as priorities. This had created a situation whereby exploitation of this shortcoming by anti-government elements simply awaited the right moment. The major fuel tax increase justified to reduce pollution was just the spark needed to set off the explosion.
The yellow-vested mobs attacking the most fashionable centers of Paris spread to local neighborhoods and eventually other cities such as Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lyon, Nantes, Dijon and Lyon. Seemingly out of nowhere came “casseurs,” the name given to urban guerrillas. Ultra-right, left and anarchist groups joined in taking advantage of the chaos. Macron was reminded by his domestic security chiefs that they had warned of the mounting and dangerous dissidence. For quite some time Macron remained shockingly immobile.
Until Paris began to burn – and the international press took note – unreported outbreaks already had been occurring countrywide. Macron’s government had done nothing. This was despite numerous briefings from his domestic intelligence service, in its many forms, that there were serious problems at hand. Coincidentally, the external intelligence services had been given the priority of tracking other nations’ activities dealing with social issues and their political impact. To the last minute, Macron had remained occupied with establishing and maintaining a leadership position in what he perceived as a key to his acceptance as a major player on the world scene.
In other words, Macron’s ambition for himself had been to become an influential factor in key globalist affairs of which his national commitment to focusing on climate change and carbon pollution was a dominant theme. He basically ignored the more immediate problems as seen by many, including some of his own supporters. Like other governments before his, he chose to ignore or distrust the information evolving from his own intelligence services. The result has been the outbreak that has occurred in Paris and around the country compounded by teams of people with various interests and demands emanating from many French political, economic and socio/cultural sectors.
As much as President Macron would hate the characterization of his presidency as weak, nonetheless it has been just that, in spite of his personal desires otherwise. Unfortunately, the result of such presidential “weakness” in France historically has given birth to the evolution of “strong” administrations that actually continue the tradition of willful ignorance of evolving socio/political factors. The intelligence services, themselves, tend to perpetuate this political syndrome by their own desires. As Douglas Porch, famed historian of French intelligence has reminded us, “In practice the struggle for influence can mean that few are willing to put forward intelligence uncongenial to a leader’s views, especially a leader uncomfortable with debate among his advisors.”
How the current crisis will play out is impossible to predict with certainty. One thing is sure: The major powers of the world, for their own interests, will seek to take advantage of France’s breakdown of civil security to whatever extent they can and wish. This includes issues ranging from national and regional security to political philosophy itself. At this time of flux in European unity and economic competitiveness, the entire structure of post-war amity and cooperation could be affected.