France’s “Day of Rage”

Front National posters pasted onto the trees that line the Avenue Bosquet in the 7° Arrondissement of Paris, France, January 2014 (Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon).

Front National posters pasted onto the trees that line the Avenue Bosquet near the author’s home in the 7° Arrondissement of Paris, France, January 2014 (Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon).

Following international headlines as of late, it would appear that the top story coming out of France concerns President François Hollande’s personal (read: intimate) life. Interestingly, none of the major American and British news agencies or papers mentioned France’s Jour de Colère (Day of Rage) demonstration that took place on January 26 in Paris. Numbering 17,000 according to the French police, and upwards of 120,000 according to other reports, the demonstration called primarily for the resignation of President Hollande. And the unrest had nothing to do with his personal life. Anger over unemployment, taxation, and a perceived infringement on civil liberties were just a few of the complaints levied by the demonstrators. The French media reported on the demonstrations, but the only substantial English-language news to be found was by VICE and consisted of a report by two eyewitnesses who left before the protests became violent.

The apparent media blackout surrounding this protest makes it hard to determine what the impact of the protest was and who the protesters were. According to the protest organizers, the demonstration does not endorse any particular political party or figure, but upon closer examination their poster design suggests alignment with the far-right Front National (FN) party. A YouTube report of the protest revealed that among the demonstrators were neo-Nazis, members of the FN, members of the right wing student group Union pour la Démocratie Française (Union for French Democracy) dressed in all black, and a large contingent of Catholic-royalists. Some protesters called for a putsch or military coup, claiming the French army was the only institution that has not been “corrupted.” Corrupted by what? It is not clear, but anti-Semitism, anti-gay, anti-European Union, and anti-Finance sentiments were strongly expressed.

The demonstrators, reminiscent of Tea Party activists, claim a deep love for their country as well as being defenders of “French identity.” It is unclear what that identity constitutes, but demonstrators made clear what it did not include. In addition to wanting to expel France’s Jews and immigrants – the government is already taking care of the Roma – demonstrators appeared to reject France’s democratic institutions. Cries of phony elections and a dictator president were just some of the sentiments expressed.

Aside from statements by Manuel Valls, the Jewish Minister of the Interior who is often the target of anti-Semitic hate speech, noteworthy is the lack of condemnation from the French government. Valls condemned the violence and hate speech before the national assembly in a two-minute statement. He noted that a far-right rally of these proportions has not occurred in recent memory and the level of hatred expressed towards Jews was concerning. Valls condemned those who felt his deployment of law enforcement was excessive. He also passionately called for a unified rejection of the hate, anti-Semitism, and defamation of the French Republic the demonstrators represented. This message of unity is one seldom heard from French politicians. If the members of the National Assembly had any courage, they would do well to echo Valls’ condemnation of the protests. Instead, far-right deputies interrupted Valls thirty seconds into his speech and order had to be restored.

France is a vital country in the EU and the Eurozone; its depressed economy remains the 5th largest in the world. A protest of tens of thousands of citizens on the far right in Paris does not mean that France will go the way of Greece. Nevertheless, the trend towards nationalism and xenophobia coupled with economic downturn is not new – it led to the rise of Fascism in Europe and should not be taken lightly by anyone. If you can hear the people sing, you may want to listen, especially in a country that has a propensity for violent revolutions.

No Pakistanis Allowed

A police sign in Islamabad, Pakistan. (ayerscolleen via Flickr)

A police sign in Islamabad, Pakistan. (ayerscolleen via Flickr)

In Islamabad, Pakistan, people clamored for a reservation to sample the new and exclusive French restaurant in the heart of the city. The city is a hotbed for different cultures and people, where wealthy Pakistanis mingle with foreign diplomats and ex-pats, blurring lines and creating an international environment. ‘La Maison,’ a new hit with ex-pats, was being talked about around town. Excited at the prospect of sampling authentic French cuisine, the restaurant had reservations booked up to several days in advance. There was only one condition that had to be satisfied in order to gain entrance to the fashionable restaurant – proof that you weren’t Pakistani.

Philippe Lafforgue opened ‘La Maison’ in October 2013 with the idea of serving food for ex-pats working in the capitol city of Islamabad. Claiming that his foreigner-only policy was not discriminatory but rather culturally sensitive, Lafforgue argued that he did not want to be arrested for serving a Muslim customer an alcoholic beverage or a pork dish. Additionally, he claimed his dishes were not prepared in a halal manner with many menu items requiring the use of alcohol and that changing the ingredients of the recipes would compromise the authenticity of his French food. Like many Islamic nations, Pakistan has dietary laws imposed on its Muslim citizens, mainly, the ban of pork and alcohol. Although Lafforgue has a right to refuse serving Muslims alcohol, a policy found in many hotels throughout Islamic nations in the Middle East and Asia, he has gone farther than others by denying entrance into his restaurant despite hiring a Pakistani chef, bartender, kitchen and service staff.

In Pakistan, The restaurant has been met with criticism from both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Journalist Cyril Alemida, who initially brought the restaurant’s discriminatory policy to light when he was rejected due to his possession of a Pakistani passport asked, “How does a foreigner run this money-spinning business out of the heart of the Pakistani capital, and not let Pakistanis in… And how does he get to ask me to produce my passport? He’s not an airport. He’s not an international authority. He’s not an embassy. How can he do this? Reserving the right to admission doesn’t mean an entire category of people [can be] written off.”

Many locals are crying foul and have reported the establishment to the police. “It’s absolutely ridiculous,” says Pakistani-American Bushra Mateen. “My family left their home, the country of their ancestors, and the home of all of their history, to start a new life free from oppression. We left, so that no one could reject us for our skin color or religion. And now this guy comes along and tells me I can’t eat in my own country. I am not a dog, I am not an Indian, I am supposed to be in my home.” Ms. Mateen refers to the “No Dogs and Indians” rule that was prominent in the region during the rule of the British Raj, which for Pakistanis, is reminiscent of the British Apartheid and the subsequent partition that forced many families to leave their homes.

Eventually, talk of the restaurant’s policy reached the ears of Yasir Afridi, an assistant to the superintendent of the Islamabad Police. Afridi attempted to make a reservation and found that, true to the talk of the town, he would be unable to dine at ‘La Maison.’ Following his rejection, he led a raid on ‘La Maison’ and discovered over 300 bottles of un-registered liquor. Although Lafforgue claims that as a foreigner he is allowed to serve liquor to other foreigners, he is not under any diplomatic mission and is not operating a diplomat’s exclusive club, and therefore did not have the necessary licenses for his liquor cache. As of now, the restaurant has been shut down. However, Lafforgue has not given up yet, claiming that he will find a way to operate once again.

Alexander Hamilton on Interventions in Revolutions


In the halls of Congress and the courts of public opinion, the battle of ideas and opinions raged between two camps: on one side, the interventionists, standing up for the ideal of liberty for all Mankind, and on the other, the noninterventionists, counseling prudence and moderation in all military affairs and undertakings. For across the ocean, seas of blood spilled across the plains of an ancient land embroiled in chaos.

In that ancient land, an oppressed people had risen up, casting off the chains of the oppressive dynasty which held them in subjugation. But their revolution had ended neither speedily nor happily. The forces of tradition and order had bounced back mightily, their iron fist seeking to stamp out the insurgency threatening their dominion. A long and bloody war had destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives, and threatened the stability of the region, while inspiring legions of foreigners to join to fight in the battle between Right and Wrong.

The Americans watched, horrified. The interventionist faction noted that the common cause of liberty bound together the Americans and the revolutionaries in the crusade to bring democracy to all Mankind. They advocated that the government of the United States provide any sort of support possible: troops, supplies, weapons, finance. Meanwhile, the noninterventionists, tempered by the experience of a recent war and a politically divided nation, counseled that the United States should avoid expending blood and treasure in a region where it held no vital interests.

The year was 1793.

Revolutionary France fought the first of its wars against the monarchs of Europe, and accounts of the death tolls were received by diverse opinions in the young United States. Some, including Jefferson and Madison, recommended entering the war on the side of France; others counseled against it. Ultimately, America abstained from entering the war and remained faithful to President Washington’s Neutrality Proclamation. But throughout the war, intense debate raged among the Americans.

Presently, the United States finds itself in a situation with some parallels to that of 1793. We shall turn, then, to one of the most notorious and revered of the Founding Fathers, the most outspoken defender of the Neutrality Proclamation- Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton.

In his essay Americanus No. 1, Hamilton outlined two questions for the nation to consider:

“I. Whether the cause of France be truly the cause of liberty, pursued with justice and humanity, and in a manner likely to crown it with honorable success.

II. Whether the degree of service we could render by participating in the conflict be likely to compensate [adequately for] the evils which would probably flow from it to ourselves.”

Hamilton chose not to ponder the first question, noting that the values of liberty, justice, and humanity were so sufficiently subject “to opinion, to imagination, [and] to feeling” that proper policy could not be built upon them. Instead he focused much of his analysis on the second question, one of greater practical – and lesser moral – value.

The United States of 1793 possessed less than a third of its current continental territory, and was far weaker than the hulking superpower it has since become. The decision to exert force to alter the outcome of a great power war overseas was therefore a proportionally more costly exercise then than it is today. Hamilton noted America’s comparative weakness and additional problems of logistics, geography, and diplomacy which the voices of democracy had ignored, and counseled restraint.

Historical comparisons are never quite as similar as they might seem. But between the debate on intervention in France and today’s debate on intervention in Syria, a general principle holds as obviously in the 21st Century as it did in the 18th: there are those in the United States who see America’s foreign policy duty to uphold our values- to be that “Shining City upon a Hill,” and “to make the world safe for democracy,”- as outweighing our duty to maintain our concrete and measurable national interests. Although there is not necessarily anything wrong with a moral approach, and in fact much good in it, our statesmen today nonetheless must, like Hamilton, consider also the amoral and practical consequences of the policies they pursue.

Hamilton’s foreign policy advice continues to be useful to this day, and all crafting policy for the Syrian War should bear it in mind:

“…Let us not corrupt ourselves by false comparisons or glosses- nor shut our eyes to the true nature of transactions which ought to grieve and warn us- nor rashly mingle our destiny in the consequences of the errors and extravagances of another nation.”

The Emerging Threat of Cyber Espionage Against US Economic Interests

Major Issues and Recommendations for a Stronger US Cyber Defense Capability

A comprehensive report recently released by Mandiant, a private information security firm, has confirmed China’s expansive cyber espionage operations against US private industry. This report has aroused debate in the public sphere regarding US cyber vulnerabilities. However, state-sponsored cyber espionage has been well documented as early as 2006 and has resulted in at least hundreds of terabytes of data theft (Mandiant 2013, 20). The main perpetrators have been identified as China, Russia, France, Israel, and most recently, countries in the Middle East such as Iran (Booz Allen Hamilton 2012, 8). Due to the increasing number of monthly cyber attacks on US economic interests, information security professionals in the private and public sectors have criticized the US Government’s inability to effectively address this growing concern. While the threat of catastrophic cyber warfare is often overhyped, the threat of economic espionage through cyber attacks is not, and public criticism of US cyber security vulnerabilities is valid.

Cyber espionage endangers America’s global economic prowess and national security. China, Russia, and other states continuously steal many years worth of R&D from private US companies to expedite their economic development. It is estimated that these efforts to increase political and military power via cyber espionage have resulted in the loss of tens of billions of dollars from US firms (Nakashima 2013). If left unaddressed, this growing threat could result in the theft of sensitive trade secrets that would severely impact national security, especially if the companies and data involved contain sensitive military secrets such as classified aircraft designs.

One of the greatest challenges in addressing cyber espionage is the current lack of effective attribution methods. This critical absence of sufficient detection techniques allows both state and non-state actors to conceal their roles in cyber espionage and therefore avoid public reprimands from the US Government and the international community (Economist 2012). In Russia, for example, the unique nexus between government, organized crime, and business makes Russian cyber attacks very difficult to track, especially since the government purportedly employs underground youth hacking networks to achieve its cyber espionage objectives (Smith 2012, 3). The US Government needs to increase its coordination efforts with private industry to develop more sophisticated cyber attack attribution techniques in order deter state actors from committing further economic espionage.

Efforts at collaboration between US Government entities and the private sector are hampered by a secretive and inconsistent US cyber policy. The Obama Administration has apparently begun drafting internal cyber security policy and has directed certain agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, to allocate more funding for cyber security initiatives (Sanger and Shanker 2013). However, many outside experts have indicated that the US Government and the private sector are not sufficiently collaborating to ameliorate the cyber threat (Wolf 2012, 11). The US Government cannot expect private businesses to defend themselves against the penetration efforts of foreign intelligence services. Therefore, policymakers and private industry leaders need to forge closer relations, develop a more coherent cyber defense policy, and share information regarding current threats and trends to provide for a stronger US cyber defense capability.