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Wednesday, March 19, 2003

WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO FRANCE OR SHOULD HAPPEN? Queries from readers.

I. The Background

Prof Buggy has received several queries about France and what to do about it --- or, alternatively, what the Bush administration will do, which may or may not amount to the same thing. They've come from Michael Jabbra, John, Amber Ingels, and some others who prefer anonymity --- their right.

1. Briefly, note first that President Bush already telephoned Moscow and Beijing after he issued his ultimatum on Monday night to Saddam Hussein --- but pointedly not to Paris, whose government the administration clearly regards, as does Blair's Cabinet in London, to be the major obstructing country on the Security Council . . . the spoiler with a veto that didn't or wouldn't compromise with its two allies, Britain and the US, on a second resolution as a follow-up to 1441. Not even, get this, simply a resolution that did no more than reaffirm 1441. Period; end point. And as Bush's snub to Paris indicates, there are already repercussions.

They worked closely throughout late September and October last year on the drafting of 1441, along with other key foreign secretaries, the British above all; and Powell and Bush and the administration, like Blair's Cabinet, were convinced that 1441 was categorically clear: Iraq was found in material breach regarding 16 earlier Security Council resolutions, stretching back almost 12 years then, and had to comply totally, unconditionally, and immediately with the demand it disarm and demonstrate to the new inspection team. Powell and Bush had reason to be satisfied with 1441, passed by a vote of 15-0 on November. Flash forward to January 20th this year. On that day, a new Foreign Ministers conclave assembled at the UN Security Council in advance of Blix's first official report, and guess what? France and Russia and Germany were flip-flopping; 1441 didn't require immediate, total, and unconditional disarmament, but something far different: a potentially open-ended, drawn-out inspection process that, you'll recall, had proved futile in disarming Iraq between 1991 and the end of 1998 (almost 8 years), until UNSCOM, the first inspection effort, withdrew, faced with Iraqi intransigence.

Powell, it was reported, was flabbergasted. Nothing had prepared him for this flip-flop, and he returned to Washington "furious", blaming the French. Relations soured quickly. Chirac convened two showy meetings with the German and Russian heads to demonstrate the new diplomatic coalition --- a clear sign of counter-alignment, classic balancing save for the military side. On March 6th, recall from an earlier commentary here, Villepin asked for a tete-a-tete with Powell, the first time they had met directly since Janaury 20th; in it, he told Powell that he hoped their wasn't any lingering personal animosity on Powell's part. Powell's response? Not fit for repeating should their be any grandmothers visiting the Buggy Prof's site (and in case their are any bra-burning feminist fanatics who are visitors, I will add . . . or any half-witted grandfathers who, wonder of wonders, had never heard soldiers swear before).

More to the point, this Monday Powell --- in the course of a lengthy press conference --- was specifically asked whether there might not be different readings of 1441. His response: he had talked at length to all the Foreign Ministers and each and every one understood that the resolution meant war would ensue if Saddam didn't live up to the new, carefully detailed obligations that 1441 spelled out.

The only ambiguity that the media reported after November 8th concerned the need for a second resolution as a follow-up if Iraq were found to still be in "material breach" (remember, fancy circumlocution diplomats use for a casus belli --- a cause of war). Some said yes, most said no. The latter seems accurate, but observe: it was France and Russia who had insisted on a second resolution as a condition of the Security Council deciding to go to war, not Britain and the US. And yet it was President Chirac who sandbagged both Blair and Bush two weeks ago with a categorical statement --- bolstered by a meeting in early March with Putin and Schroeder of Germany --- that France would veto any resolution that contained an ultimatum. Apparently, in the French view, even reaffirming 1441 amounted to an ultimatum.

 

2. FRENCH ECONOMIC AND DIPLOMATIC STAKES IN SADDAMITE IRAQ'S SURVIVAL

1. Nothing really new in French duplicity over Iraq, something Powell should have been aware of.

France had already in effect become Iraq's chief patron. In 1995, 1996, 1997, it abstained on new Security Council resolutions demanding further concrete steps of disarmament; then in 1998 asserted that Saddam had effectively disarmed; then in 1999 initially opposed setting up a new inspection team to replace UNSCOM, followed by its campaign with the Russians to ensure, once it was clear a new inspection team would be approved, that it would be headed by Hans Blix. The Clinton administration and others had pushed instead for Rolf Ekeus, the hard-headed Swedish expert who had performed with skill as UNSCOM's first head, but then caved in under French and Russian intransigence. Blix, you'll recall, had headed the UN International Atomic Energy Agency in the early 1990s, and believing Baghdad's assurances, plus the inspectors' inability to find nuclear weapons or programs, was ready to give the Saddamite regime a clean bill of health! Later, defectors from Iraq --- including Saddam's chief bomb-maker, Dr. Khidhir Hamza (a US Ph.D.) --- made it clear that the regime not only had a bomb-program but was dedicating as many resources to it as in the past.

In this connection, remember what Blix's former mentor in the Swedish Social Democratic Party --- Pers Almart (an ex-Deput Prime Minister) --- had said about Blix: he's a weak, naive, easily swayed individual who is inclined to take at face value what others tell him: in short, a dupe. Almart, who also knows Ekeus, found Blix particularly inadequate compared to the latter. published here over the weekend) a weak, naďve, easily swayed individual . . . a dupe.

 

2. France's diplomatic maneuverings in the Security Council were duplicated on the ground in Iraq. It withdrew from the southern No-Fly Zone, and while it didn't formally do the same from the northern No-Fly Zone in Iraq, its pilots have not flown any missions for years. All the tough work has been left to the US and British. Simultaneously, as Kenneth Pollack notes in The Threatening Storm --- the best on Saddam's dangerous diplomacy and threat to the US and West, written by the former CIA analyst who was Clinton's chief advisor on Iraq in the National Security Council --- France began to trade more and more with Iraq and became its chief exporter, not to mention all the lucrative oil contracts that were signed after the 1996 oil-for-food program was introduced. Recently, recall, TotalFinaElf, the fifth largest oil producer in the world, signed exclusive contracts with Saddam's regime that were worth at a minimum $40 billion and could reach over time 20 times that figure, given the size of the oil resources in the areas where that company was given exclusive rights of production. One recent estimate predicted that if the sanctions were lifted, TotalFinaElf's exports alone would "rapidly climb" from $3.5 billion in 2001 to over $25 billion per year. See DowJones Newswires (January 23, 2003)

Nor is that all. It is French telephone equipment that Iraq mainly uses (Alcatel SA is the company that suppies the telecommunications networks). Peugeot and Renault are big exporters to Iraq as well, and so is the Schneider Electric. In 2001, thanks to all these contacts and sales that go back to the early 1970s, French companies are the biggest exporters to Iraq since the sanctions were eased in 1996. All this gives Chirac and the French elites plenty of reason to fear what will happen if Saddam's regime is destroyed . . . especially since Iraqi opposition groups have rebuffed French efforts to sound the out whether the industrial and petroleum commitments would be honored in a post-Saddam era: they have indicated they would carefully review all such contracts, and one important opposition group went as far as to indicate that they wanted to deal with companies from all around the world, not just from one dominant country. " ‘Postwar Kuwait, where U.S. companies got most contracts, doesn't bode well for the presence of French companies in Iraq," said Pierre Girard-Hautbout, an adviser at OFDIC, a French business go-between active in Iraq. His comments referred to the aftermath of the Gulf War." (The quote and the details are from the same DowJones article.)

 

3. More worrying yet, it is French nuclear technology that began Saddam's nuclear program in the late 1970s. Specifically, rebuffed by the Soviets when Saddam's government approached them for such technology, Moscow rightly guessing the true aim of Saddam's interest here --- bombs, period --- Baghdad then turned to France, and it was no one less than Jacques Chirac, then the Premier, who agreed to supply a nuclear reactor . . . ostensibly for energy purposes. Why a country that had the second largest oil and gas reserves in the world wanted nuclear energy was a question, apparently, that didn't bother the French government, its eyes set on becoming the chief industrial patron in the Gulf region. In 1980, it got worse. French companies shipped 170 pounds of weapons-grade uranium --- repeat: weapons-grade quality --- to the Iraqi reactor: enough to build at least 3 nuclear bombs. (Source: Winston S. Churchill, the grandson of the great British Prime Minister and a former Conservative MP, now a journalist as he was in Baghdad at the time of the deal. He was interviewed at length yesterday, March 19, on Fox News). It was this news that alarmed the Israelis, who then reacted with determination, fortunately for US and UK and other coalition forces in the first Gulf War. The Israelis pre-emptively struck the French-built Iraqi reactor at Osiraq in June 1981, setting its program a decade or so.

 

4. The wider French goal in the Middle East, as it has been in North Africa, is more ambitious still: to become the key country mediating between the Arab world and Iran, on the one side, and the industrial countries on the other. It is a program fashioned by General de Gaulle when he was in power in the 1960s, and it was that program, among other things, that sent him flying off the handle --- as French presidents are apparently wont to do --- when the Israelis, faced with Nasser's Egypt ordering off the Sinai UN peacekeepers and blockading the Israeli access to the Red Sea in June 1967, launched the 6 Day War that destroyed Nasser's and Syria's military power and drove Jordan out of Jerusalem and the West Bank. (Note that Syria and Jordan attacked Israel, not vice versa, in that war.) De Gaulle had warned Israel not to go to war --- this, mind you, though it was Egypt that had forced the peace-keepers to leave, carried out the blockade, and reaffirmed that Egypt and the Arab world were permanently at war with Israel. Furious --- like Chirac last month at Brussels when he found 10 "small" East European countries applying to the EU all reaffirmed their support for the US --- de Gaulle erupted in a public statement that went further in bad taste and condescension even than Headmaster Chirac's rebukes to the East Europeans. Chirac called them "mal eleve" (badly brought up), little countries that didn't know how to "shut up" when they should. De Gaulle said that the "Jews" had acted aggressively, not that it surprised him because --- as he drew on long-standing French and European anti-Semitic racist stereotypes --- they were "an elite people, sure of themselves and domineering." Even some of de Gaulle's supporters were astounded. It was after all just 22 years after WWII and the Holocaust, and decades before the French made an effort to come to terms with their role in Nazi collaboration and shipping off almost a 100,000 Jews to the gas chambers. (The best book on this is Raymond Aron, De Gaulle, Israel, and the Jews (Praeger, 1969). Aron was the most pro-American of French intellectuals, and a Jew himself, he was shocked by the re-opening of anti-Semitism in French politics by someone he admired.)

This ambitious goal, which has been steadfastly adhered to by every French government since --- not least in Chirac's era since 1995 --- is part of the even wider aim of stymieing and undercutting American influence in Europe and the world, with the Middle East always figuring in French geopolitical thinking as the key region outside Europe itself.

 

3. RECENT FRENCH DIPLOMACY AT THE UN AGAIN: THE US THE MAIN THREAT

All of which is what our analysis has insisted on all along: France isn't a firm solid ally, rather a country that is neither necessarily friendly nor hostile, but rather a country half-inside NATO --- specifically, it's purposefully outside the integrated military structure --- that has aimed for decades to reduce US influence in Europe and abroad except at times when its leaders feel a common greater threat with the US.

Since the end of the cold war, that ambition has moved even closer to the forefront of Paris' priorities. And the recent diplomatic counter-coalition that it tacked together with Putin and Schroeder --- which met two times, first in Paris in February and then again in Paris this month --- is what Josef Joffe, the talented German Harvard Ph.D. in IR who edits Die Zeit called a "classic balance-of-power" tactic, aimed more at restraining and stymieing the US than dealing with Saddam Hussein. See http://www.montanaforum.com/redne/17/build/safety/q-isolation.php?nnn=5 Yes, accurate enough as far as it goes, this statement by Joffe . . . except that, if you dig deeper, you find that as in the past extra-clever schemes of France, the present one is already backfiring, erupting in French faces. Increasingly, some Frenchmen have openly worried that Paris went to far in its diplomatic antics, antagonizing the US and the American public beyond a point of easy repair --- or maybe any repair at all. In a recent call-in show, older listeners "for whom the United States still evokes the heroic image of GIs charging ashore on D-Day" expressed their fears. They also worried "about the economic and political repercussions" that would follow. "It's not a majority," said the host of the RTL program, "but there are more listeners who think the French government may have gone too far." http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-war-french20mar20,1,4010653.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Da%5Fsection

 

Consider the string of maneuvers at the UN again, especially the blatant hypocrisy involved --- evident to anyone who can remember as far back as 1999.

Specifically, four years ago this month, the left-wing French government headed by Lionel Jospin and with Jacques Chirac the President went to war with the US and the rest of NATO over Kosovo without any Security Council approval . . . as for that matter did the very same Schroeder-Fischer German government in power today. It never seemed to matter to them in the least once China and Russia threatened to veto the US resolution seeking Security Council approval. Clinton, like Bush and Blair this week, simply withdrew the resolution. Worse, if you want to continue the comparison, Bush and Blair can at least point to 17 other UN resolutions authorizing their use of force . . . not just 1441 adopted last November, but as far back as 1990 when the Security Council adopted its first resolution, 687, that called on Iraq to disarm, and --- get this! --- in 45 days. Twelve and a half years later, the French this last weekend talked about another 30 days trial for the current UN inspection team to verify disarmament, at which rate we could no doubt expect Baghdad to be fully deprived of its weapons of mass destruction about when the next Y2 Millenium scare comes around. Always assuming any of us are around to witness it.

The moral?

Apparently, in Paris's and Berlin's calculations, the UN Security Council is essential when they don't feel their own security jeopardized, but their chief allies' governments do --- and in blistering existential terms. In 1999, nobody thought that Yugoslavia threatened German or French citizens in their countries. Blair and Bush obviously fear attacks with WMD, not least from Saddamite Iraq, four years later --- not that Paris seems to really care, whatever it claims about ultimately disarming Iraq (no doubt including French nuclear equipment) through an inspection team that never even found biological warfare materials and R&D after almost five years of systematic inspections early in the 1990s until Saddam's son-in-law defected and informed them of it. As Henry Kissinger noted 10 days ago, this is not what you expect solid allies to do. If Paris and Berlin didn't share Washington's and London's and Madrid's and Rome's and Copenhagen's view of what's at stake in Saddam's WMD programs --- oh, not to forget 10 other East European members this year of NATO who support the US-UK position and were lectured to by Headmaster Chirac as "mal eleve" and not knowing when to stay quiet --- they had the alternative of remaining silent themselves or abstaining on votes in the Security Council.

The French aim, of course, was to embarrass and trammel the US and the UK, maybe even contributing to Tony Blair's downfall if possible (it wasn't) by withholding any Security Council approval on a second resolution.

 

4. WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO FRANCE?

An answer divides into three or four sets of replies, including US relations with NATO, Germany, and the EU.

First US-French relations.

The Bush administration has already written off the need for French cooperation, now or in the future, save in limited areas obviously where common interests overlap as in intelligence sharing in the war against terrorism. Otherwise, as Bush's telephone calls on Tuesday to Beijing and Moscow showed, the US government still values future relations and cooperation with China and Russia, even as he pointedly didn't telephone Paris or Berlin. The deep freeze in US-French relations, moreover, will likely continue for years.

What specifically will likely occur?

Easy enough to say in the near future.

[1] The biggest punishment will be to freeze out France from tapping Iraq's oil resources and industrial needs after Saddam's regime is destroyed. The US will no doubt count on the commitments to do this by the government that replaces it, something French business is fully aware of and properly alarmed at. No doubt now Chirac and Villepin too. The offer to come to the US aid if Saddam uses chemical or biological weapons --- hardly commented on by Washington except to reject it --- is particularly comical as a gesture of good-will: if, to put this as plainly as possible, the French government is worried that Saddam has such weapons, why didn't it live up to its commitments when it voted for 1441 that found the Iraq regime in material breach and punish it with war if that regime didn't comply with the resolution's demand to disarm fully, totally, and immediately? The resolution did not call for any containment of Iraq and endless inspections, most of which would be futile, while various evasive games were being played out by Saddam. The economic harm to French interests will be severe.

[2] So too, will France's grand design for the Arab world. Note here that neither the Algerian, Moroccan, nor Tunisian governments --- all ruling former French colonies --- have uttered a peep of criticism aimed at the US . . . this despite the grandstanding tour of Chirac earlier this month of Algeria, rallying the masses and the elites to his cause. For that matter, no criticism from Egypt either; rather, a sharp rebuke of Saddam for creating the current crisis and war. Nor from Colonel Khadaffi or even, come to that, Syria --- a Mafioso gangster regime with blood on its hands, ruled by a small clique that can understand what the shift in power will mean when there remain 70,000 American and British troops on his Iraqi border after Saddam is gone and they remain as peace-keepers. Saudi Arabia's likely new king, Prince Abdullah – a close friend of Bush – has already indicated that he would reform the country's rigid institutions (and has let it be known on the sly, according to numerous reports, that he will curb the Wahhabi fanatical excesses that have done so much to spread fundamentalist fervor around the Islamic world and abroad.) Jordan is solidly in the US camp too, as are the small Gulf States. As for Iran, contrary to what was predicted by all the alarmists after Bush put it squarely in the axis-of-evil camp, its clerical-fascist controllers have tried to cover their bottoms by working more cooperatively with the Bush administration more recently, not least on Iraq. That won't save these die-hard fanatics. When 91% of Iraqis say openly in a survey carried out by the reformers that they are "severely critical" of the regime, it won't likely survive long a wave of reform initiated in the Middle East by the destruction of Saddam. The only question? Will it change peacefully or by an uprising. The Buggy Prof predicts an uprising, which we will quickly support.

There's more worse news for French designs in the Middle East, this time concerning the Palestinian Authority.

It was an US initiative that led to the isolation of the corrupt, autocratic Yasser Arafat --- another typical Arab despot, worth, it's rumored, billions of dollar, though with one difference: he actively supports terrorism as a means of advancing his interests. He has also repeatedly lied to the outside world about this, including a gullible Clinton administration as it tried to mediate an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord during the era of the Oslo Accord, 1993-2000. Unlike Clinton, however, President Bush wouldn't tolerate the ongoing deception. When Arafat, with typical teacherous idiocy, denied that a ship full of illegal arms that was under the control of the Palestinian Authority and more specifically its tiny navy --- huh? how did that ship end up with arms? don't worry, George, I'll investigate it myself --- the White House began isolating him. That was the winter of 2001-2002.

By June, the Bush administration had swung around to the view that Dennis Ross, our former chief envoy to the Middle East who shepherded the Oslo negotiations, had arrived at after Arafat summarily had rejected the best deal the Palestinians would ever get in December 2000: 95-97% of the West Bank, all of Gaza, a corridor from inside Israeli territory to link the two areas and create a continous Palestinian state, shared rule over Jerusalem, demolition of all the settlements save those next to Jerusalem, and partial compensation for the refugees of 1948-49. (Note: about 700-800,000 Arabs fled the territories of the new state of Israel when 5 Arab states invaded it. In the same period and shortly afterwards, a larger number of Jews had to flee from the Arab states and Iran, lucky to get out with their lives and nothing else. Israel immediately began to assimilate these Jewish refugees. By contrast, it is the Arab states that have caged the Palestinians in zoo-like camps, supported for decades by the UN and the EU and even the US (with lots of the funds skimmed off by the Palestinian Authority and elite), and kept them there for their own cynical uses.) Prime Minister Barak of Israel signed that December accord. Despite members of the PA negotiating team who urged Arafat to accept it, the autocrat not only rejected it, but never explained the terms (said Ross subsequently) to his people. Ross's conclusion: Arafat remains a revolutionary nationalist who believes violence will always pay off in the long run.

The upshot? Not French and German and EU views of the White House initiative last June about the PA have prevailed --- silly Texan cowboy, of course Arafat's indispensable! --- it is American, and the Arafat has had to appoint a Prime Minister whose powers have been greater than he wanted, unable as Arafat was to railroad the once intimidated Palestinian legislature in the West Bank. Worse, a Palestinian survey last summer found that the vast majority of Palestinians, around 75-80%, regarded the PA as shot through with corruption. Once more French policy has ended in a shipwreck.

[3] Inside NATO, France will be isolated. No great powers of prophecy are need to divine this: if anything, the future has already arrived --- in the form of excluding that country from a follow-up NATO meeting of all the other member-states after France was joined by Germany and Belgium and voted against helping its fellow ally, Turkey. NATO, you see, has no formal procedures. It operates by consensus, and the pattern until that Turkish voted was for countries that didn't want to follow the large majority to abstain from voting against it and opting out of common action. To prevent French obstruction, what NATO's Secretary General Robertson did was convene a meeting of the Defense Planning Committee, part of the integrated military command that France exited back in the Gaullist period. Henceforth count on similar meetings when important issues arise and French obstruction is feared.

[4] Thanks to French initiatives with naive German aid the last few months, the EU has been plunged into outright crisis --- a coherent and effective foreign and defense policy, never very likely, about as probable now as finding bird droppings in a cuckoo clock. At the EU summit on June 20th, Chirac and Blair shouted at one another. Worse, the Germans and the French came up with the usual offhanded offer to the rest of the EU to govern the EU politically with a weak president and Prime Minister (the French political system, watered down, on a regional level: the French adamantly against federalism as the British). Read: the offer to govern the EU by means of a German-French duo. No thanks! was the quick response of others.

That's the "Old Europe," rightly dubbed by Donald Rumsfeld who is refreshingly straightforward in his comments about the world: a tiny EU dominated by the French and Germans, with the Italians until Prime Berlusconi took over Italy in 2001 subservient but no longer, the Spanish ditto, and the British limiting their influence by not entering the euro-zone. The outcome is important. We'll return to it in a moment or two.

[5] Finally, French business is not just worried about the economic fall-out from the destruction of Saddamite Iraq, but also the growing backlash against France in this country. The French economy, like all the EU, is heavily dependent on exports; and the US is one of its biggest export markets, taking in $30 billion a year, with the bilateral trade favoring France. Whether average Americans boycott French goods or not --- and most aren't visible to consumers in stores, rather they're airplane or train or telecommunication or chemical or auto components --- states and municipalities have already started to cancel big contracts, and even if French perfume, wine, and cheese sales fall off noticeably, that will hurt certain parts of the French economy. Does the Buggy Prof recommend a boycott? No, but it's only normal for Americans to express their displeasure with a country that is supposed to be an ally, going out of its way the last few months to trammel, embarrass, or humiliate the Bush administration on an issue that only increased American support for the President over Iraq. Before the last two months of French-led maneuvers at the UN began --- January 20th, recall, was when Powell finally got wind of them --- 60% of Americans opposed going to war with Iraq without explicit UN Security Council approval in the form of a new resolution. By last weekend, over 60% favored such action, and the public was weary with all the drawn-out yak at the UN Security Council, including the weird, demeaning spectacle of the US, Britain, Russia, France, and Germany wooing and bribing the governments of tiny countries that most couldn't find on a map.

Do these guys have reason to look worried? Or is it simply that all of the rest of the world is "mal eleve?"

"Germans Balk at Economic Reform."

At some point, then, Schroeder's coalition will likely splinter or fall from power, and a more flexible government take its place. Washington knows that. Hence the administration has repeatedly stressed that it welcomes German cooperation in Afghanistan and over Kosovo as well as in its recent break with France in NATO after it reconsidered the wisdom of siding with France and vetoing the alliance's effort to supply Turkey with some defensive weaponry in case it was attacked by Iraq. Germany, of course, can scarcely matter militarily other than providing some limited peacekeeping forces. As connoisseurs of the Buggy Prof's commentaries will recall the article a few days earlier in the NY Times that described in its heading German defense spending as a "basket case." Teddy Roosevelt, you'll recall, said a good statesman should carry a big stick and speak softly. Apparently, for the Schroeder government in Germany, the motto is "Speak unctuously and do some basket-weaving, guys!"

 

A Good Journalistic Commentary on Franco-German Differences:

The International Herald Tribune, centered in Paris, has a set of relevant observations on this count, based on some interviews with German and French officials. In particular, a German Foreign Office official said that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's had gone to far, that by subordinating

"Germany to a French view of confrontation with the United States on many wider fronts has brought the government to a position it now finds an awkward fit with Germany's long-term interests, and to a place outside the realm of the two men's anticipation when they ran for re-election on a pacifist platform last September. In very less specific terms, this notion of things having gone too far appeared to suffuse remarks on Monday by Fischer that American policy was absolutely non-imperial in nature, that the United States was the irreplaceable element of global and regional security, that there was no alternative to good trans-Atlantic relationships and that he well understood how the new East European membership of the European Union could have a "very different view" of their security than this or that EU founding member.



Even in normal, less electric times, this was a vision France could not sustain. If part of it also suggested that Germany's existential need for smooth relations with Eastern Europe was whipsawed by President Jacques Chirac's warning to the EU's new members that he required them to choose current French and German global policy over that of the Americans, then it also complemented concerns in Paris that Chirac's Brezhnev-style blunder - explained away here as hearty Chiraquian straight-talk - was one among many . . . . "


Turning to France, the IHT article noted that the French media, even some of the left-wing reliable founts of anti-Americanism, have openly speculated that Chirac and Villepin went too far --- that they bungled in a kind of "comic-opera Gaullism", alienating the British and much of Europe, not just America, and wondering how it is that Paris could reject out of hand a British compromise resolution last week at the Security Council sooner even than Baghdad did. In the process, by flirting with China and Russia in the UN, Paris did nothing really to woo away those two countries' governments from seeing their relationship with the US as far more important than with Paris. Worse, in line with our ongoing analysis here, French officials and political scientists who were interviewed noted that Berlin is already striving to try mending ties with the US: Fischer, the German foreign minister, said in the Frankfurter Allgemeine on Monday that he and the German government believed that close ties between the US and Europe are the fulcrum of security and policy reference in the 21st century, as they had been over the previous 58 years. Hardly something to gladden French ambitions.

In the end, the article observes,

For the French, the regrets may not yet be full blown. But what is moldering now is a parallel sense of France's having eaten up all its room for maneuver, and all the potential of its star-turn in the run-up to the war through an excess, in the words of a German official, of the French "prestige imperative.".

 

4. France and the EU: A Deeper Look

Remember, the core of French quests after more power and influence in the world --- which means frequently countering American power and influence, and not necessarily with any subtlety as shown the last two months --- is to leverage its limited base of power capabilities (economic, military, population, diplomatic) by establishing a partnership with Germany as the junior partner, then using the duo to dominate the EU and convert it to a French-led diplomacy and security policy reinforced by French trade and investments and influence in the Middle East. Paris, recall, sees itself as the crucial intermediary in North Africa, the Middle East, and Iran, only Britain a rival that it can outmaneuver because the British aren't as committed to economic and financial integration in the EU as the French. All of this, further, reinforced by a strange parochialism that is built into the French educational system and cloistered training of its administrative and political elite in Grands Ecoles, especially l'Ecole National de l'Administration . . . which has furnished not just the core of the powerful state civil service leadership in the most statist society in the industrial world since WWII, but all its presidents since de Gaulle and most of its key cabinet ministers throughout the 5th Republic since 1958.

These elites go to exclusive schools, associate little outside their social milieu, are by now even second and third generation offspring of the first Enarchs, see themselves superior even to the graduates of the other traditional administrative elite school of engineering, and naturally nurture a sense of their overwhelming brilliance compared to everyone else. The French political system, in turn, reinforces this trend. Large numbers of Ministers are pitchforked directly from the civil service or banks or businesses they run afterwards into the Cabinet; they also face little inquiries from the weak National Assembly into their political work; they are generally free of any legal oversight unless it comes under the purview of le conseil constitutionel, and even then as has been repeatedly shown, they have little to fear. Even corruption and nepotism, built into the system, leave the top-dogs essentially unscratched.

Small wonder that Chirac exploded in Brussels earlier this month when the 10 East European countries voiced a far different line from what he expected . . . any more than that he took offense and cancelled a meeting with Tony Blair scheduled the week after in London when Blair criticized Chirac's hypocrisy for sticking adamantly to the highly protectionist EU agricultural system --- a huge boon to French farmers --- while claiming to champion the development of countries in Africa and Latin America and the Middle East and Asia that find it a huge barrier to their exports. No surprise either that when Villepin telephoned Blair directly and said he was "saddened and shocked" by the attacks on French diplomacy in the House of Commons debate on Monday evening --- followed by a strong vote of support for war --- Blair and the others not only brushed off Villepin's efforts, but redoubled them and indicated that they had no intent of cozying up to Chirac and his out-of-the-picture Premier when the EU Summit Meeting occurs tomorrow in Brussels, something scheduled months ago. Assuming it is in fact held. See Daily Telegraph

 

What follows?

Quite simply, the core of French ambitions --- the effort to steer the EU toward a more coherent and unified foreign and security policy that sidelines the British and uses the Germans to dominate the smaller countries --- has now been shattered. Italy, Portugal, Holland, Spain, and Britain are supported by even the smaller EU neutrals who fear a Paris-Berlin dominance, the more so because all of them save the neutrals see the continued presence of the US in a powerful NATO as the linchpin not only of their own security, but the indispensable precondition of European security. Now the EU is further from any such unity in foreign and security policies than ever (it was never much of a starter anyway, what with the lack of a pervasive overarching European identity among the existing 15 members and a strong commitment to a federal government). Worse from the French viewpoint, if Chirac does try to veto the efforts of the 10 EU candidates in East Europe starting next year --- Rumania and Bulgaria hoping among the 10 for admission soon after --- then he will very likely create an even greater crisis within the EU. If, oppositely, he doesn't, then the further strong Atlantist orientation of the EU will only be reinforced and isolate France and Germany even more.

And Germany, as the French are fully aware, is not a reliable partner for French ambitions. Comic-opera extravaganza, Gaullist style all right; an apt term that niftily summarizes all the botched French hi-jinx the last few months.

No less worrying, remember, French policy throughout the Middle East is now in jeopardy. Not one former French colony in North Africa has protested the US-UK war against Saddamite Iraq. When it's over, Chirac and his entourage will no doubt learn that a quick whirlwind trip to those former colonies is not going to restore the crashed pieces of that policy any more than Humpty-Dumpty could mend himself and climb back up on top of the wall once he tumbled to earth, poor chap.

 









Replies: 2 comments

I think we are seeing a polarization of socioeconomic principles here. One is capitalism, the other is socialism. I really think it boils down to these ideas:

1) Capitalism MUST have a competitor.

2) Socialism MUST have an enemy.

Is this what we are seeing here? The socialists are looking for an enemy....

Posted by Jerry @ 03/22/2003 12:54 PM PST

Greetings buggy prof.,

As a former student of yours, I am embarrased to admit that I have rarely submitted my opinions, questions or comments to you via email from your listserver, Gordon-Newpost. Largely, you see, because because as your student I could chat frequently with you in your office-hours at the coffee house on campus. Still, know that I still read your commentaries here and log onto the site frequently. By the way "mad props" to you and those that helped develop the buggy prof.web page. It is user friendly and well, just unique. Something else too. Now that Gordon-Newspost has given up the ghost, my inbox is no longer constantly full with emails sent through it.

That said, here are my questions and thoughts:

1. Given France's current objections to the war w/Iraq and their obvious desire to form a "stronger" EU, in which they will have an edge in voting rights, where does this leave the future of NATO? Is the continued existence and strength of NATO even a serious concern of the US, given that the US is willing to take such a strong stance on an issue that some members of NATO are opposed to?

2. You mention that 10 Eastern European countries that are members of NATO are in support of the current war w/Iraq. How much of their support for the war is based on the fact that they themseleves are faced w/a rise in Islamic fundemantalism that threatens the stability of their own security(which is already weak)? What has the US promised them in retur for their support? Is jumping on the US bandwagon really a good idea for them or us?

3. The media has constantly stated what a bold step the King of Jordan had made by pledging his support to the US in their efforts agianst Sadam. Is this really a theat to the stability of Jordan? What if anything has the US offered him in return for his support?

4. Lastly, what is up w/the elimination of all things French from the modern Englis language? I realize that the White House is trying to diplomaticaly "stick" it to the French gov., but this whole "freedom" fries and toast thing seems a bit silly to me.

Regards and best of luck with the new site,

matt

Posted by matt phar @ 03/20/2003 04:03 AM PST