In terms of the problem with radical Islam, of course the vociferous attack on Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular in France has done immense damage. The churches in France are mostly empty these days, more of a focus for tourists admiring their art and architecture than a place of worship. Obviously, this has weakened the French when it comes to dealing with militant Islam as it is difficult to oppose a religion when you have no religion of your own. France was, before the Revolution, certainly not perfect but was extremely confident of its Catholic identity. The French were one of if not the primary driving forces behind the Crusades, the French sent missionaries to lands as distant as Canada to Vietnam and it was Catholic France, under Charles Martel, that turned back the Muslim invasion at the Battle of Tours. Although the situation eventually normalized, France was never quite so ‘Catholic’ a country after the Revolution as it had been before though, ironically perhaps, it did see a flurry of pro-Catholic interventions under Emperor Napoleon III in places such as Mexico, Italy, the Middle East, Indochina and Korea. However, the damage done to the dominant faith of France by the Revolution seems so evident as to be inarguable.
Despite what some think, nationalism was not a purely post-revolutionary invention, though it certainly did become more pronounced in many places after the French Revolution, largely because of the impact the French Revolutionary Wars had on other, neighboring countries such as Italy and Germany. However, long before the French Revolution there was the German First Reich, officially the, “Holy Roman Empire of the German *Nation*” which included all people of the German nationality. France, likewise, clearly had a kind of nationalism before the Revolution. During the Hundred Years War, the French fought long and hard to oppose being overtaken and ruled by the English in spite of the fact that the English looked like they did, worshipped as they did and even had kings who were in many ways more French than English. Yet, they still understood that they were French, the English were not and wished for France to remain French and not become English. Throughout the Middle Ages, everyone knew that a Frenchman was a Frenchman. He was not the same as a German or an Englishman or an Italian or a Spaniard. Pre-Revolutionary Europeans understood the concept of nationalism, it was only that in those days, faith was more important than nationality. That did not mean that nationality did not exist or was inconsequential but that there was more to it than that.
Absolute equality is a social and biological absurdity. It was pushed as a means of attacking the monarchy and the aristocracy but the line could not be drawn there. Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that equality does not and cannot exist. No two creatures on God’s green earth are equal, not human beings, not animals or insects nor belief systems nor ideas. When it comes to human beings, different peoples have advanced at different rates, in different ways, some have been better than others in the past, some are better than others now and likewise some are better at some things than other people but fall behind in a different area. The only thing that has remained constant is that humanity has never been “equal”. Yet, this is one of the things that the Revolution pushed and which has taken root in French society (as well as many others of course) because of the glorification of the Revolution.
It is the poison of the French Revolution that prevents France from dealing with its current crisis and no solution will be a viable one in the long-term until the legacy of the Revolution is dealt with. The traditional Kingdom of France would never have had such difficulties. The Kingdom of France was not narrow or bigoted in its views, it had queen-consorts who were Spanish, Italian and Austrian and it, while remaining a Catholic kingdom, often made common cause with non-Catholic powers such as a fairly long-standing alliance with the preeminent Islamic power of the past in the Turkish Ottoman Empire. However, the Kingdom of France also had a very healthy and very specific and positive understanding of itself based on faith, history and blood. Today, anyone from anywhere can come to France, take a citizenship oath after being tested on how well they have learned the values of the Revolution, and become “French”. This would have been so laughably absurd to the people of the old Kingdom of France that I doubt they would be able to even take it seriously as a possibility.
The Kingdom of France had a specific ancestry, it had its own founding steeped in a sacred tradition that was unique from other peoples. Today we see the result of trying to hold together a country based on nothing more than vague, ideological slogans. If one attempts to hold to these slogans, there is no way one can counter the current crisis. If all men are equal and all men are brothers, then there is no valid reason why someone from Tunisia, Tanzania or Thailand cannot be considered “French” though none seem able to explain why the reverse is never held to be true (I would argue that Tunisians, Tanzanians and Thais have more common sense on such issues than French people who have been brainwashed by the devotees of the Revolution). And the most infuriating thing about this is that the French themselves quickly realized their mistake and tried to undo the damage only to be thwarted at every turn, sometimes, I am sad to say, by the royalists themselves who hated their royalist rivals more than they hated the revolutionary republic.
Thus followed the Fourth French Republic which quickly failed to pass muster and so today France is on its Fifth Republic. Obviously, it should be considered no accident that France could have a single monarchy for a thousand years but has gone through five different versions of the republic in less than two centuries. The revolutionary republic clearly does not work, every incarnation of it has ultimately failed and yet, because of the persistence of this zealous devotion to the image of “The Revolution” the French keep being dragged back to it to try and try again. Most of the leaders who have stepped forward to save France in times of disaster knew or at least suspected such from Napoleon to Marshal MacMahon to Marshal Petain to General DeGaulle, one was a royalist, two had at least some royalist sympathies and the other promoted himself to monarchial status on his own.
But, of course, Charles Martel, this great figure of French history, this savior of France, was everything that the current French Republic, informed by the values of the Revolution, considers deplorable. He did not believe in equality, he did not believe in tolerance, he did not believe that the Arab invaders of his country were to be treated like brothers, that they were indistinguishable from his own people. This, I would argue, is why his France lasted for a thousand years and post-Revolutionary France is stumbling toward oblivion. The Revolution, needless to say, is part of history and as such it cannot be made to have never happened. France can never be exactly as it was before but the legacy of the Revolution is something France must come to grips with if it is to survive as a nation. It cannot be undone but the mistakes that resulted from it, such as the tearing down of the monarchy, the pushing of secularism and the legalistic definition of what it means to be “French” certainly can be but it will require facing the facts about what the Revolution has done to France and breaking the spell that it currently holds over the public.