The former call for the latter, said Guy Fawkes and then tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. The adage rings true, provided the times are desperate enough and the measures are not self-defeatingly dangerous.
Granted, a military, or otherwise violent, coup is never desirable in a civilised country. But when is it justifiable?
Never, says David Aaronovitch, he whose intellectual outlook is mostly formed by popular TV shows (see the PS to my yesterday’s piece). This unqualified view lacks nuance, which puts it in the category of ideologies, rather than ideas.
I can think of at least two military coups within the past century that qualified as a justified response to an impending catastrophe: one in Spain, 1936, the other in Chile, 1973.
Neither Franco nor Pinochet would have had his application for sainthood favourably reviewed. However, they stepped in when their countries were in the throes of bloody, communist-inspired anarchy threatening national survival.
Azaña’s minority government was well on the way to committing Spain irrevocably to the Popular Front, which in those heady days more or less meant Stalin (NKVD officers openly referred to it as “our operation Popular Front”). But for Franco, Spain would today be like Romania, if not worse.
Allende’s government already was communist in everything but name, with Allende himself in the pocket of Castro and hence the Soviets. A fanatical Marxist, Allende in his younger days made his bones fighting in European streets as a member of the Popular Front’s paramilitary Kriegerbund, although I’m sure Aaronovitch would see him as a fellow liberal.
Going back in history, one could say that Napoleon’s coup was also justified, although there the situation was perhaps less straightforward, considering an estimated 1,000,000 Frenchmen who perished in the subsequent wars. (As a matter of record, Napoleon didn’t actually start any of them, although on a few occasions he struck the first preemptive blow.)
What drew Aaronovitch to this subject was the letter written by several top French generals, co-written by hundreds of other officers and endorsed by Marine Le Pen, who is neck and neck with Macron in the presidential polls.
The generals seemed to think that France is so far gone that they must take over to prevent social disintegration. They were particularly unhappy about the on-going Islamisation of the country, with all the ghastly consequences this process entails.
Quite apart from an increasing number of grisly murders committed to the accompaniment of the battle cry ‘Allahu akbar!’, the outskirts (banlieues) of France’s major cities, especially Paris, have become no-go areas for Frenchmen, including the police. Lawlessness reigns there, or else sharia, which in any European context is the same thing.
Children there are educated to become either welfare recipients or terrorists or, more typically, both. The question of their adaptation to French ways no longer even arises.
Consecutive French governments have been practising the ostrich strategy of ignoring vast tracts of their country being turned into a European answer to the Gaza Strip. They tend to throw money at the problem, hoping it’ll go away. It hasn’t, and it never will in the absence of decisive action.
I’m not sure the situation has got to a point where it’s ripe for the decisive action proposed by the epistolary generals, but neither can it be blithely dismissed as trivial. Yet this is exactly how Aaronovitch treats it, adding nice touches of his customary ignorance.
He rebukes the “frenzied tone of the generals’ letter, in which the five million overwhelmingly peaceful Muslim inhabitants of France were described as ‘hordes’…”
True, not many French Muslims cut off people’s heads, drive cars through crowds or shoot up magazine offices. Yet this is a specious argument. Most Germans weren’t Nazis either, nor most Soviets communists, which didn’t prevent their countries from being an existential threat to civilisation.
Both countries serve as a useful reminder that thousands (in Russia’s case, hundreds) of evil rabble-rousers can at the drop of a hat turn “predominantly peaceful” millions into rampaging beasts. In this case the situation is even worse because Islam is fundamentally incompatible with the European ethos.
That doesn’t mean all Muslims are so incompatible. Many of them are good Frenchmen or, in our country, Britons. But the likelihood of their becoming fully paid-up Europeans is inversely proportionate to their commitment to Islam. The only good Muslim is a bad Muslim.
The chap who stabbed to death a woman inside a police station in Rambouillet (an affluent suburb of Paris) is a typical illustration of France’s lackadaisical attitude to the problem. He is a Tunisian who entered the country illegally in 2009 and yet was granted residency 10 years later.
He had no criminal record, and no evidence of any radicalisation has come to light. Yet he demonstrated tangibly that he was indeed radicalised, as are thousands of other young Muslims living in the banlieues. There are enough of them about to merit the designation of ‘hordes’, even though the pejorative connotation of this word seems to displease Aaronovitch.
In 2005, President Sarkozy called rioters, many of them Muslim, something worse: racaille (‘scum). French lefties were up in arms, and, as a gesture of solidarity, our own dear Guardian, Aaronovitch’s spiritual home, described Sarko’s language as “inflammatory”.
Yet such words are accurate when applied to crowds of enraged, deracinated aliens holding France hostage. Words, however, aren’t going to solve the problem, and I’m not aware of any establishment figures in France who have so far proposed any constructive measures. The generals have, whatever we may think of their ideas.
Aaronovitch displays his erudition by likening the epistolary generals to the OAS, an organisation of veterans who plunged the country into civil war after the government reneged on its promise to keep Algeria French. He also displays his ignorance by comparing that situation with the collapse of the British Empire.
“Britain, by contrast, retreated from its empire with relatively little fuss at home,” he writes. So she did. But there was a fundamental difference between, say, Nigeria and Algeria.
Nigeria was a colony of the British Empire. Algeria, on the other hand, was a part of France, like any other département. As such, it was similar to Wales or the Isle of Man, not any British colony.
Every nation gets the government it deserves, wrote Joseph de Maistre. The same can be said about political commentators, although I still think Britain deserves better than what she gets.