Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Spring of France:

Nidra Poller, the intrepid and très eloquent reporter for "Pajamas Media" compares France then and now. Very exuberant writing which is the staple of Nidra's talent.

What was:

August 1991: First Gulf War. Socialist president François Mitterand leads France into the broad coalition organized with UN blessings to force Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. At the eleventh hour, when the coalition has delivered its ultimatum—immediate, unconditional, total retreat—Mitterand sends emissaries to titillate Saddam with promises of indulgence: if he will just make a statement of intention, a whisper of a promise to eventually, under certain circumstances, on condition of certain concessions, begin to think about pulling out of Kuwait, the military action will be called off. Meanwhile, the French media are predicting a military disaster…for the coalition…faced with the formidable Iraqi war machine. And commentators are explaining that Israel should withdraw from “Palestine” before Iraq is asked to abandon semi-legitimate claims to Kuwait. Yasser Arafat, who has pledged allegiance to Saddam, is received in Paris with open arms by then-Foreign Minister Roland Dumas.

September 30, 2000: Palestinian jihad-intifada against Israel is triggered by the Mohamed al Dura blood libel, produced in conjunction with state-owned France 2 TV. Yasser Arafat, Madeleine Albright, and Ehud Barak meet in Paris, convoked by wannabe peacemaker Jacques Chirac, who berates the Israeli prime minister for child-killing. France is inflamed with anti-Semitic violence. Government and media take sides with the Palestinian “résistants” fighting the “illegal Israeli occupation.”

9/11 2001: After a brief moment of emotion, French media turn on the United States with a vengeance, and public opinion follows the piper; the U.S. is placed next to Israel in the shooting gallery. France’s nominal participation in military operations in Afghanistan is kept out of the public eye, while anti-war sentiment is nourished and flattered. Government and media are on the warpath…against UN sanctions on Iraq. Enormous pressure to terminate the search for WMDs and welcome an all-is-forgiven Iraq into the international community. The oil-for-food scam is chugging away behind the scenes, and many of the grubby hands are French.
March 2003: Dominique de Villepin carries the battle against the United States to the heart of the UN. France threatens to use its veto to stigmatize the inevitable American intervention in Iraq. Massive weekly anti-war demonstrations—with big pro-Saddam, pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist contingents—whip up public opinion to a fury of white hot pacifism, culminating in violent attacks against Jews and Iraqi opponents of the dictator.

July 12, 2006: Hizbullah launches an unprovoked cross-border attack against Israel from its bases in Lebanon. Eight soldiers are killed, two are kidnapped (and still held to this day), dozens of missiles are fired into Israel. Two days later, Jacques Chirac solemnly declares that “someone” intends to destroy Lebanon. The Hizbullah war is packaged for domestic consumption as a Lebanese humanitarian crisis; French media play to the hilt the theme of civilian victims and miserable refugees; the French government repeatedly calls for an immediate humanitarian cease fire. MFA Douste-Blazy makes an official visit to Iran, praises this “great civilization…a stabilizing force in the region.”

And now, to the New Jerusalem:

"Let's go children of the fatherland,
The day of glory has arrived!" *

Sarkozy’s recent speech implicitly announces a rupture with 40 years of “politique arabe” and the world view on which it was based. His foreign policy is formulated in the context of a clearly defined threat: the “confrontation” –or clash—between Islam and the West.

About Iran:

And he places a nuclear Iran first and foremost among the dangers that must be faced. Some commentators have quoted him as saying that military action against Iran would be catastrophic. In fact, he says that unless we find a way to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons we will be faced with the catastrophic choice between an Iranian bomb and bombing Iran. But he has already stated, with no ambiguity, that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. The choice is clear.

About Iraq:

Sarkozy outlines the political solution, essentially reconciliation between all parties upon which the Iraqis will take affairs into their own hands, and concludes: “…this also implies the definition of a clear horizon concerning the withdrawal of foreign troops.”

Take note —a “clear horizon” is not a timetable. Sarkozy is not voting with the Democrats! He is of course subscribing to the widely-held view that the military operation in Iraq is a disaster that never should have occurred but, instead of turning his back on the Americans and gloating over their “defeat,” he offers to pick up a share of responsibility for the long term results.

About Israel:

Repeatedly referring to the imminent danger of a clash between Islam and the West, President Sarkozy confirms his “…reputation as a friend of Israel; and it is true. I will never compromise Israel’s security.” But, he continues, Mahmud Abbas and many other Arab leaders who have visited Paris since his election trust in his respect and friendship for their populations. One might expect him to go on from there with the usual demand for Israeli concessions to soothe Palestinian humiliation, suffering, and frustration, and remove the thorn from the side of the Middle East… He doesn’t.

About Turkey:

Reiterating his personal opposition to Turkey’s admission into the EU, ...Sarkozy responds that Turkey would more appropriately find its place in a Mediterranean Union that could also include Libya, “now that the affair of the medical personnel is settled.” As envisaged by Sarkozy, this Union, built on the foundations of the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue, would actively confront major problems such as global warming, pandemics, and exhaustion of fossil fuels. But, in a departure from the goals and purposes of the ongoing project, the Union would work vigorously to counter the retrograde and often violent refusal of modernity.

The United States:

Sarkozy scolds the United States, which is “unable able to resist the temptation of unilateral recourse to force” and unwilling to show capacity for leadership in environmental protection. This is followed by raps on the knuckles of Russia, for unbecoming brutality with its neighbors (using the gas spigot as a weapon) and China for gluttonous consumption of raw materials. This irritating, typically French snippetiness is, nevertheless, an improvement over the Chirac & Villepin strategy of cuddling up to Russia and China to entice their swing votes in the UN Security Council.

The UN:

Sarkozy proposes expansion of the UN Security Council to include Germany, Japan, India, Brazil, and an African representative, with a parallel, gradual expansion of the G8 to a G 13. He is confident in the prospects for reform of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) under the direction of France’s candidate Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Africa needs help to develop its potential, but it is not “the sick man of the world…does not need our charity.”...

The French president sees hope for a political solution in Darfur with the intervention of a hybrid UN-African Union force. He will personally preside at a meeting of the Security Council in New York on September 25th.

The discourse concluded with a tribute to Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and a flourishing declaration of the president’s ambitions for France.

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* This is the first time sought and read the lyrics of the French anthem "La Marseillaise". I was frankly a bit shocked with the violence in some of the verses. It is a very nationalistic poem, full of macho bravado and even speaking of "impure blood". Read the English translation, here.

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