Does France have the strategic reserves?Nov 30, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 12 • By NEIL ROGACHEVSKY
After the astonishing German break through the French lines in May 1940, Winston Churchill flew to Paris to meet his French counterpart, Prime Minister Paul Reynaud, and army chief Maurice Gamelin. Reynaud had called Churchill in near-hysterics, but even Churchill wasn’t prepared for the utter despondency he would find amongst the French command. “Où est la masse de manoeuvre?” Churchill asked in his charmingly awful French. “Aucune!” replied Gamelin. There were no strategic reserves. The realization that France would fall, Churchill later recalled, was one of the most shocking moments of a life full of them.
I couldn’t help but think of Reynaud and Gamelin while listening to first reactions of the French political class to the assault on Paris. On the line while the situation was still out-of-control, the deputy mayor of Paris Patrick Klugman spoke to CNN in a weeping, disoriented tone—more a grieving family member than an official charged with the safety of a capital city. President François Hollande offered some strong first remarks, promising a “war which will be pitiless” against terrorists. He had spoken well after the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket attacks in January, but, then as now, his body language told a different story. Very few watching the weary-looking Hollande could persuade themselves that he would rise to master events rather than merely react to them. Of course it is not 1940, and France might be able to call upon politicians steelier than its prewar chiefs. But it’s an open question whether the country is up to the task it faces.
In the week following the attack, the French government has certainly stepped up the fight against Islamism both abroad and at home. Already active in Syria, French warplanes have been conducting their most extensive bombing missions against ISIS, the French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, is on its way to the Gulf, and Hollande has proposed extending the domestic state of emergency for three months, giving French security services extra latitude to pursue leads and question suspects. The interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, has called for a dissolution of radical mosques and the expulsion of those who “preach hatred in France.”
These moves expand upon steps taken after the January attacks, when the government acknowledged—rather forthrightly—that its security apparatus was understaffed, underfunded, and overwhelmed. As also seems to be the case with the current attacks, the terrorists at Charlie Hebdo, Chérif and Saïd Kouachi, had been on the radar of French security services. Surveillance had been lifted, however, because there were simply too many other persons of interest requiring it. Prime Minister Manuel Valls, one of the more energetic and competent French politicians, boosted the budget for intelligence-gathering operations and hired thousands of new counterterrorism officials. A few plots and attempted attacks—most spectacularly on the high-speed train in August—have been disrupted or foiled. Whatever else one might say about the French response, the government has not coasted along in denial.
The problem is that the character of the terrorism threat in France differs from that facing other Western nations. France does not keep official statistics on its citizens’ religion, but its Muslim population is estimated to be around 10 percent, excluding the current influx of refugees. Largely North African and Middle Eastern in origin, the community is much more homogenous than the comparably large but diverse Muslim population of Great Britain. To be sure, most French Muslims simply want to get on with their lives—though a recent survey found that around a quarter of all French youth express some sympathy for ISIS. This number is probably inflated, but in practice it means that terrorists have significant networking advantages within France (and, as we see, within Belgium).
In America, a terror cell has very few places to hide. In France, there are more than a handful of areas, clustered especially around Paris, Marseille, and a few other big cities, where state law-and-order runs extremely thin. Every French banlieue is depressing in its own way, and certainly not all of them are dangerous and gang-ridden. But the ones that are provide a fairly hospitable environment for terrorists to go about their business unnoticed. French security can, of course, follow Internet “chatter” and phone calls, but one of the frightening lessons of recent days is that attackers have learned to keep much of their organizing offline, except for the postmortem gloating.
11:28 AM, May 10, 2015 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Seventy-five years ago today, on May 10, 1940, Nazi Germany invaded Holland and Belgium. Conservative prime minister Neville Chamberlain was rebuffed by Labour in his request to join him in a National Government, and at 6 pm, King George VI asked Winston Churchill to form a government. Churchill immediately did so. Here's the last paragraph of Churchill's account in the final chapter of his The Gathering Storm:
7:21 AM, May 7, 2015 • By MICHAEL MAKOVSKY
Friday marks the seventieth anniversary of Victory in Europe, or V-E, Day, when the Allies accepted Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender after six long years of war. No one should have savored that day in 1945 more than Winston Churchill, the wartime British prime minister.
10:32 AM, Feb 7, 2015 • By CITA STELZER
Sir Martin’s passing was a sad day for who call ourselves Churchillians. His 8-volume biography of Sir Winston Churchill and the Companion volumes are the Everest of all biographies, and an indispensable source for anyone interested in the great man’s life and achievements. That this quiet, self-effacing man found the time and energy to add to that work some 60 other books concentrating on WW2, the Holocaust and histories of the Jewish people is a source of amazement to those of us privileged to know him
9:20 AM, Feb 5, 2015 • By MICHAEL MAKOVSKY
The passing of Sir Martin Gilbert at the age of 78 marked a sad milestone. He achieved popular acclaim as the official biographer of Winston Churchill, the man whose in-depth eight-volume biography served as the gold standard reference work about the greatest statesman of the twentieth century. He also was a prolific writer of Jewish history, an observer of world events, and an author of many atlases.
Feb 2, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 20 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The death of Sir Winston Churchill, 50 years ago last week, reminds The Scrapbook that, while a half-century is a very long time, Churchill’s lifetime is closer to us than we suspect. Indeed, in the words William Faulkner gave to Gavin Stevens in Requiem for a Nun, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”
Dec 15, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 14 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Many Brits are known to enjoy a pint a day. Winston Churchill certainly did—though his daily ration was a pint of champagne, not ale. So it was fitting that the wartime prime minister was toasted last week in Washington with clinking glasses of bubbly. House speaker John Boehner invited a small group—of which The Scrapbook was happily part—to celebrate two birthdays: that of the great man himself, and that of the bust in the Capitol that honors him. One was the 140th, the other just the first.
Jul 21, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 42 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Scrapbook correspondent Richard M. Langworth, the author and longtime president of the Churchill Centre in Washington, D.C., weighs in on the new statue of Gandhi to be erected in London . . .
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Every time you realize how badly the media mangles something you know about, you wonder how well they are interpreting what you don’t know.
A century-old precursor to the Obamacare debateApr 21, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 30 • By GERTRUDE HIMMELFARB
The debate over Obamacare may remind a student of British history of the debate in Britain over the National Insurance Act of 1911, which was in effect until the initiation of the welfare state after World War II. The protagonists in that debate (like ours, not formally a debate, but implicitly that) were Winston Churchill and Sidney and Beatrice Webb. Churchill, a rising star in the Liberal party and a member of Herbert Asquith’s cabinet, heartily promoted the act.
Jan 20, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 18 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
These observations of his on the Middle East have easily withstood the test of time:
Congress’s tribute to the wartime leader.Nov 11, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 09 • By FRED BARNES
Congress has rebuked President Obama. It may have come in a subtle or backhanded way and thus was ignored by the media. It may not have been intentional. But it was a rebuke nonetheless.
May 13, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 33 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
There was one moment in President Obama’s world-weary press conference last Tuesday when he seemed genuinely interested and engaged. At the very end, when Obama had already begun to depart the podium, a reporter shouted a question about the previously obscure but now famously gay NBA center, Jason Collins.
An unexpected ending for Manchester’s Churchill.
Mar 11, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 25 • By STEVEN F. HAYWARD
This magisterial three--volume biography of Winston Church-ill, begun by William Manchester nearly 30 years ago, has at last reached completion, though the path to its finale took a circuitous trip through the wilderness, reminiscent of Churchill himself. The Last Lion is doubtless the most popular Churchill biography, its lyrical adulation for the subject comparable to Carl Sandburg’s six-volume Lincoln biography.