On the eve of the first round of balloting in what promises to be a momentous presidential election in France, we offer a handful of articles from the past fifteen years on European politics and political passions. And be sure to visit COMMENTARY for an advance look at Michel Gurfinkiel’s “Can France Be Saved?“—an important article from next month’s issue.
How to Wreck NATO
Joshua Muravchik—April 1999
Is Europe a Threat?
Irwin M. Stelzer—October 2001
Betrayed by Europe: An Expatriate’s Lament
Nidra Poller—March 2004
The Islamization of Europe?
David Pryce-Jones—December 2004
Michel Gurfinkiel—July/August 2005
On Sunday, France will hold its first round of balloting for a new president. This is the last in a series of three posts on the leading candidates by the French editor and journalist Michel Gurfinkiel. His longer and more in-depth look at the condition of present-day France will be coming out in the May issue of COMMENTARY, and is now available on our website.
François Bayrou—a devout Catholic, a horsebreeder, and the holder of advanced degrees in history—is a centrist. Politically, he belongs to a Christian-Democratic sub-current that was very powerful in the 1950’s before being crushed by the polarized Right-Left system forced upon the country by Charles de Gaulle’s Fifth Republic. While many Christian Democrats joined the Gaullist Right, and others the socialists, a small group managed to survive under several successive names and acronyms. The UDF (Union for French Democracy), originally a conservative coalition supporting Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, is now Bayrou’s base. Having served as minister of education from 1993 to 1997, he represented the UDF in the 2002 presidential election and surprisingly gathered almost 7 percent of the vote: not bad for the “non-candidate” of a “non-party.”
Bayrou was convinced he stood a real chance for the presidency—provided he could distance the UDF and himself entirely from the traditional Right. This he proceeded to do, at some cost in supporters—but he didn’t care. Once a declared presidential candidate, he stubbornly railed against the disproportionate (in his opinion) media coverage of Sarkozy and Royal, finally winning his point and (according to some reports) garnering more coverage on radio and TV than any other candidate.
How good is the CIA these days? In a world with jihadists seeking nuclear weapons, and two hot wars under way, we all have a vital need to know if the intelligence agency is accomplishing its mission.
A clear picture is hard to come by, but the CIA has not been shy about releasing some indicators, and they are encouraging. The CIA has been making progress in an arena in which Congress has mandated dramatic improvements: environmental protection.
According to a series of unclassified CIA reports, the spy agency has managed to enhance significantly the fuel efficiency of the vehicles used by its operatives. It has been avidly working to decrease the amount of gasoline the agency’s LDV’s consume. An LDV is the CIA acronym for “light-duty vehicle,” or in non-spyspeak, a car.
Enhancing fuel efficiency has been a longstanding goal of the American intelligence community, dating back to the Clinton era, when “greening the government” was given high priority, with vice president Al Gore serving as point man. In 1996, just as Osama bin Laden was gearing up to attack American embassies in Africa, the CIA began experimenting with a variety of different fuels for its vehicles, focusing in particular on CNG, or “compressed natural gas.” But this program had debilitating problems from the outset and led ultimately to a disappointing agency failure.
A couple of months ago I blogged about a news report that North Korea had bought some giant rabbits from a German breeder as seed stock, apparently in the hope of alleviating its dire food shortage.
Although the starvation of Koreans is anything but funny, here in a capsule was the entire story of Communist economics. Despite its professed humanitarian motives, the Marxist model was entirely mechanistic, blind to the role of human invention and incentive in creating wealth. Planners could simply draw blueprints of abundance and—abracadabra—their word would become flesh.
Stalin, for example, decided that it would be more efficient if some of the rivers of the Soviet Union reversed direction, so he tasked his engineers to turn them around. Mao calculated that China could industrialize overnight if each citizen made his own steel, so millions of backyard furnaces were created. And this year the minions of Kim Jong Il figured out that national starvation could be solved by means of larger rabbits, each of which could feed many more humans than ordinary examples of that species.