Emmanuel Todd: ‘Iran is not dangerous’ (but Sarkozy is)

In yet another fascinating interview, demographer Emmanuel Tood (best known for his prediction – based on demographic trends – of the Soviet Union collapse, and his more recent predictions of the “end of the US empire“) discusses Iran at length, and suggests that demographic trends in the Muslim world, and in particular in Iran, suggest a massive weakening of the influence of religion over their populations, rather than the opposite.

Bringing you one of our famous bilingual two-column diaries from the European Tribune

Dans « L’invention de l’Europe », j’avais montré que la montée de l’alphabétisation des populations ne suffit pas à expliquer, à elle seule, la baisse de la fécondité. Pour observer une chute du nombre des naissances, il fallait qu’à l’alphabétisation s’ajoute une diminution de l’influence religieuse.


In “The invention of Europe”, I had shown that increasing literacy rates in a population was not enough, on its own, to explain dropping fertility rates. To actually see a drop in birth rates, you needed a reduction in religious influence in addition to growing literacy rates.


Si on observe dans de nombreux pays musulmans des taux de fécondité proches de deux enfants par femme, la montée de l’islamisme que nous observons aujourd’hui ne masque-t-elle pas une réalité plus profonde, à savoir un ébranlement de la croyance religieuse ? As we can see in many Muslim countries fertility rates very close to 2 children per woman, this suggest that the rise of Islamism actually hides a deeper reality, i.e. a profound weakening of religious belief.

He notes that such a transition is never simple or peaceful but that, compared to our own experience in Europe, the Muslim world’s own behavior is rather restrained and consequences of the upheaval of such a transition period are rather benign, overall.

Il y a plus de différence démographique entre la France et l’Allemagne qu’entre la France et l’Iran !

 Nous avons fait une étude comparée de l’Iran et de la Turquie. La Turquie, plus proche de l’Europe, reste dans ce domaine moins moderne que l’Iran. L’étude des minorités kurdes en Turquie, en Syrie, en Irak et en Iran montre que, partout, ces communautés ont une surfécondité. Parmi elles, une seule s’est modernisée démographiquement et alignée sur le coeur du pays : il s’agit des Kurdes d’Iran.

Dans ce contexte, les attaques actuelles contre l’Iran apparaissent absurdes et oppressantes. L’Iran n’est pas le danger !

There’s a bigger gap, demographically speaking, between France and Germany than between France and Iran!

We’ve compared Iran and Turkey. Turkey, which is geographically closer to Europe, is less modern demographically than Iran. For instance, the study of the Kurdish minorities in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran shows that, in each country, they have higher fertility rates than the country they reside in – all, except in Iran, where the Kurdish minority has modernised demographically and is aligned on the rest of the country.

In that context, the current attacks on Iran appear absurd and oppressive. Iran is not a threat today.

Le cas du Pakistan est problématique. Ce pays est en retard en termes de fécondité, possède l’arme nucléaire et se trouve au début d’une explosion islamiste. Pourtant, les alliés américains prennent ces données avec beaucoup de légèreté Pakistan is a lot more worrying. The country is late in its demographic evolution, has nuclear weapons, and is in the midst of an Islamic explosion. And yet these facts are treated with carelessness by its American ‘ally’.

This reminds me of the sad joke that the “Eurabia” concept is, considering that fertility rates in Iran, Algeria, Turkey or Morocco are now all lower than in France. But again, that reflects widespread ignorance about demographic trends and what they may mean – where Todd brings truly compelling data.

One might note as well the added hypocrisy of demonizing countries and being surprised that their populations rally around their (opportunistically nationalistic and populist) leaders, not to mention the double standard inherent in a discourse that explicitly puts countries on a target list – while using missionary language (the ‘axis of evil’) and then points to their hostile reactions as proof of their danger…

Todd has little more to say about the USA beyond what he said earlier, but has a few choice words for Sarkozy:

Je n’ai pas changé d’avis. Les États-Unis sont en situation de perte de puissance : ils n’ont pas réussi à prendre le contrôle de l’Irak et n’ont pas empêché la reprise d’autonomie de la Russie. A la limite, la seule conquête des américains c’est Nicolas Sarkozy ! Mais ils sont en train de perdre les Anglais…


I have not changed my mind: the USA is losing power: it could not take control of Iraq, could not prevent Russia from regaining its autonomy. In a way, the USA’s only conquest lately has been [French President] Nicolas Sarkozy! They are even losing the English…


Les commentateurs politiques comparent la manière dont Nicolas Sarkozy exerce le pouvoir et le bonapartisme, une sorte de droite autoritaire spécifique au génie national.

Le moment est venu de s’interroger sur la dimension internationale du bonapartisme. Les deux Bonaparte nous ont valu plusieurs invasions du territoire national, la politique extérieure de Napoléon III a mené à la défaite de Sedan.

La provocation généralisée avec les autres pays européens et la morgue agitée de notre gouvernement, ajoutées à ses prises de position sur l’Iran, commencent à m’inquiéter.

Pundits in France compare Sarkozy’s behavior in power with bonapartism, a kind of right wing authoritarianism infused with a strong belief in France’s genius.

It’s time to worry about its international implications. Both Bonapartes [NB: the better known Napoleon after the French revolution, and self-proclaimed Emperor Napoleon III who ruled France between 1851 and 1870] brought France repeated invasions of its territory and Napoleon III’s policies led to the defeat in Sedan [France’s humilating defeat against Prussia in 1870].

The current attitude of permanent provocation against other European countries and the noisy arrogance of our government, together with its attitude towards Iran, are really worrying me.


Skip to comment form

  1. Tell me, how does France actually feel about the notion of re-inventing french imperialism? or at least expanding hegemony…

    • Twank on September 22, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    Hello Jerome.  (THE) Twank here.

    I found Ducodharma and I think I’m much more sympatico with these folks than the ET clan.

    Don’t get me wrong.  I visit ET every day, the Salon section in particular, to get a full blast of world news but I don’t LOGIN anymore.  Too much temptation to shoot my mouth off and WE KNOW what that has lead to in the past.

    Say HI to Helen for me …. you know how she worries.  And tell metavision to drop by sometime once I get a few things rolling here.  I’ll show her around and then we’ll have a good time.  (Nudge nudge, wink, wink)

  2. similar to Margret Thatcher, who always seemed a by-product of Reagan? Or did the French people, feel ostracized by the US’s bullying in regards to Irag? I am confused as to why they voted in this winger, and to what has given rise to this new found nationalism. 

  3. similar to Margret Thatcher, who always seemed a by-product of Reagan? Or did the French people, feel ostracized by the US’s bullying in regards to Irag? I am confused as to why they voted in this winger, and to what has given rise to this new found nationalism. 

  4. jerome, apart from the content (great stuff, natch, per ususal) i really look forward to more of this two-column, bilingual material:

    a) ooo! pretty colors! nice formatting legerdemain.

    b) to be confronted with how badly my comprehension of french has atrophied, on a repeating basis, may yet successfully goad me into finding / making the time to revive my relationship with it…parce que, maintenant, je parle francais comme une vache espagnole. 

Comments have been disabled.