All The More Reason

Le Néo Con
May 1, 2007, 6:09 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s rather odd that throughout this campaign the British media has concentrated its focus so squarely on the domestic programmes of the French presidential candidates to the almost total exclusion of the one policy area that would directly affect the British interest: namely, foreign affairs.

In recent years, French foreign policy has been both unconstructive and unprincipled. Whilst Tony Blair found- triumphantly in Kosovo, and with mixed results in Iraq – that only positive engagement with the United States could bring any hope of influence, France has maintained the non-iste, rejectionist, attitude that has been so characteristic of the country in general under Jacques Chirac.

But this was not a principled rejection of unilateralism. The France of de Villepin that stood firm against American unilateralism in 2003 was the France that unilaterally sent troops into the Cote d’Ivoire, without one UN resolution, let alone two, in 2004 (and let’s not even get started on nuclear testing or support for Togolese despots). Her government’s irrational and wholly unreasonable intransigence was more a rejection of the country’s newfound irrelevance. At the table of international diplomacy, France became something of an irascible great uncle: a once mighty figure who, in the absence of any real clout, made his presence felt by stubbornly refusing to pass the gravy.

Foreign policy has thus far played only a negative role in what has been a highly introspective campaign. For Royal in particular, the question of international affairs has been more stumbling block than stepping stone, and sometimes unfairly so. When her opponents spend a disproportionate amount of time wondering aloud how a woman who does not know how many nuclear submarines the French fleet has at its disposal could ever be trusted as commander in chief, one catches the distinctive whiff of chauvinism in the air. Royal, though, has done herself few favours. She has appeared more or less ignorant of many issues of crucial importance, such as the Iranian nuclear programme, and has taking a breathtakingly glib approach to other matters that one would expect a socialist and internationalist to hold dear (most notably, praising the Chinese justice system for its relative ‘efficiency’ compared to the French model).

Nicolas Sarkozy, on the other hand, has made a good deal of noise about foreign policy, and some of the noises will sound rather good to Eustonite ears. Andre Glucksmann, for one, is a fan:

Nicolas Sarkozy is the only candidate today to place himself in this large-hearted French tradition. He deplores the sacrifice of the Bulgarian nurses condemned to death in Libya, he denounces massacres in Darfur and the murder of journalists, and then states a principle of governance far removed from that of Jacques Chirac: ‘I don’t believe in what people call ‘realpolitik’, which rejects values and still doesn’t win any deals. I don’t accept what’s going on in Chechnya, since 250,000 dead or persecuted Chechens are more than a detail of world history. Because General de Gaulle wanted freedom for everyone, the right to liberty is theirs, too. To be silent is to be an accomplice, and I don’t want to be any dictator’s accomplice

The history of short, zealous Frenchmen taking on Russia is not an altogether happy one, but if Sarkozy is true to his vow to stand up to the creeping authoritarianism of Vladimir Putin, that will be all to the good. His rhetoric will doubtless resonate with some on the Le Pen right who see any exercise of French power as a display of virility, but it should also chime with those on the internationalist left who wish, or ought to wish, that it be a display of virtue.

Michael P


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