Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Evidence is mounting that last May France inadvertently elected a neocon as president of the republic! (Well, not quite but we should be worried.)
Most recently, Nicolas Sarkozy’s new foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, announced in an interview that with regard to Iran and their nuclear ambitions, We have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war."
His mention that "We must negotiate right to the end…" doesn’t strike me as particularly reassuring.
Such rhetoric isn’t too different from Bush’s in 2002, when he was claiming that we’d have to invade Iraq as a last resort:
"If we allow [Saddam to go nuclear], a terrible line would be crossed. […] He would be in a position to threaten America.
"Understanding the threats of our time, knowing the designs and deceptions of the Iraqi regime, we have every reason to assume the worst, and we have an urgent duty to prevent the worst from occurring. […] I hope this will not require military action, but it may."
(Later this rhetoric would shift to the glories of democratization, but this was the original pitch.)
Drawing lines in the sand is entirely necessary in foreign-policy making; however, both Bush and Kouchner drew only those lines that they fully expected their adversaries to cross. Bush already had all that great intelligence about Saddam’s WMD (that we’re still searching for); Kouchner should expect Iran to pursue a nuclear device as countermeasure to the very saber-rattling he’s been indulging in.
Kouchner’s mention that "We must negotiate right to the end…" is almost a Freudian slip—clearly, he presumes that there will be an end to the negotiations.
Kouchner’s hawkishness should not come as any surprise. The founder of Doctors Without Borders, Kouchner is known as a man of the Left; however, in his short tenure, he’s been more than willing to team up with the Bush administration in Iraq and has even gestured toward the possibility of France’s rejoining NATO’s military command.
(This later gesture is particularly surprising as not only is NATO one of the favorite bête noirs of the Euro-Left, but a reversal on this matter would seem an affront to French pride. In 1966 Charles de Gaulle removed France from NATO command because he felt that no French soldier should ever be under the authority of a foreign officer—particularly one of les Anglo-Saxons.)
Kouchner’s coziness with Bush should not come as any surprise. Kouchner supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Paul Berman—another pro-war Lefty—praised Kouchner to the sky in his recent book Power and the Idealists as an heroic dissonant and scolds the rest of his fellow Leftists for not marching in step with the latest advance in secular humanism that was the Iraq war.
(As an aside, the fact that Richard Holbrooke—the secretary of state in waiting for a Clinton or Obama presidency—wrote the forward to Power and the Idealistsis more than enough evidence that even in the Dems take office, more interventionism will be in store. Those who support the Democrats out of isolationist or realist sympathies should beware.)
When Nicolas Sarkozy was elected in May, his choice of Kouchner appeared to be a sign of his willingness to reach out to the French Left and form a truly national government. It’s beginning to look more like Sarko wanted to reach out to the neocons—or the interventionist neoliberals who are their Doppelgänger on most issues.
I was quite excited by Sarko’s election, and I’m still willing to give him a chance. But so far, many of his foreign-policy moves strike me as ominous.