Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 15, 2007

Goodbye Qaddafi

Today, Brother Leader Muammar Qaddafi packs up the tent in the gardens of the Hotel Marigny, the official guest residence next to the Elysee Palace, and ends his five-day stay in the City of Lights. The visit was too much, even for the French. Said Manuel Valls, a veteran socialist: “I have the impression that France has been humiliated.”

Make that humiliated and criticized. Nobody seems to be defending the French government of Nicolas Sarkozy for inviting the Libyan strongman. The erratic autocrat has managed to outrage just about everybody on his first official visit to a Western state since 2003, when he renounced terrorism and nuclear weapons. Controversy has followed almost every one of his outlandish and insulting comments on a wide range of topics, but the larger issue is the West’s engagement of reforming tyrants. Qaddafi is now considered “a socially acceptable dictator.”

But Qaddafi remains a dictator nonetheless, and that has caused heartburn for the center-right French government. President Sarkozy has been on the defensive about his warm welcome for the charismatic, mercurial, and despotic Libyan, who came with 400 followers and his contingent of female bodyguards in desert fatigues. In his best reply to critics, the French leader asked, “If we don’t welcome those who take the road to respectability, then what do we say to those who take the opposite road?”

Sarko, of course, has a point and Qaddafi may theoretically have a “right to redemption,” but it is the nature of France’s engagement that has been wrong. “It’s a question of balance, and in this case, the balance wasn’t right,” said Dominique Moisi, director of the French Institute on International Relations. Even some ministers in the French government have thought their president has gone too far in pandering to the “Supreme Guide of the Revolution.” Unfortunately, the Libyan, with petrodollars to spend, has been able to bend the normally clear-thinking leader of France. “Qaddafi is not perceived as a dictator in the Arab world,” Sarkozy told a French magazine on Wednesday. “He is the longest serving head of state in the region, and in the Arab world, that counts.”

What really counts is that Western leaders speak plainly. It’s all right to deal with autocrats from time-to-time, but we need to make sure that we do not legitimize them and create incentives for regressive behavior. As it happens, in the glow of his pomped-up stay, Qaddafi felt comfortable enough in, among other things, turning back the clock and repeating his denials that his government has never sponsored terrorism. This step in the wrong direction shows that Sarkozy has not found the right way to keep the Libyan on the right road.

Today, Brother Leader Muammar Qaddafi packs up the tent in the gardens of the Hotel Marigny, the official guest residence next to the Elysee Palace, and ends his five-day stay in the City of Lights. The visit was too much, even for the French. Said Manuel Valls, a veteran socialist: “I have the impression that France has been humiliated.”

Make that humiliated and criticized. Nobody seems to be defending the French government of Nicolas Sarkozy for inviting the Libyan strongman. The erratic autocrat has managed to outrage just about everybody on his first official visit to a Western state since 2003, when he renounced terrorism and nuclear weapons. Controversy has followed almost every one of his outlandish and insulting comments on a wide range of topics, but the larger issue is the West’s engagement of reforming tyrants. Qaddafi is now considered “a socially acceptable dictator.”

But Qaddafi remains a dictator nonetheless, and that has caused heartburn for the center-right French government. President Sarkozy has been on the defensive about his warm welcome for the charismatic, mercurial, and despotic Libyan, who came with 400 followers and his contingent of female bodyguards in desert fatigues. In his best reply to critics, the French leader asked, “If we don’t welcome those who take the road to respectability, then what do we say to those who take the opposite road?”

Sarko, of course, has a point and Qaddafi may theoretically have a “right to redemption,” but it is the nature of France’s engagement that has been wrong. “It’s a question of balance, and in this case, the balance wasn’t right,” said Dominique Moisi, director of the French Institute on International Relations. Even some ministers in the French government have thought their president has gone too far in pandering to the “Supreme Guide of the Revolution.” Unfortunately, the Libyan, with petrodollars to spend, has been able to bend the normally clear-thinking leader of France. “Qaddafi is not perceived as a dictator in the Arab world,” Sarkozy told a French magazine on Wednesday. “He is the longest serving head of state in the region, and in the Arab world, that counts.”

What really counts is that Western leaders speak plainly. It’s all right to deal with autocrats from time-to-time, but we need to make sure that we do not legitimize them and create incentives for regressive behavior. As it happens, in the glow of his pomped-up stay, Qaddafi felt comfortable enough in, among other things, turning back the clock and repeating his denials that his government has never sponsored terrorism. This step in the wrong direction shows that Sarkozy has not found the right way to keep the Libyan on the right road.

Read Less

It’s Official: Bill Clinton’s Lost His Touch

The widening gyre that is the Hillary Clinton campaign is spinning into near-chaos, and once again, the Senator’s supposed ace-in-the-hole is lending his name to the cause.

Last night, in an interview with Charlie Rose, Bill Clinton grew red-faced and tense as he grasped to defend his wife. He complained that Senator Barack Obama has garnered media support, as if to suggest good press is the Clinton clan’s exclusive entitlement.

Clinton tried to be elusive about trashing Obama for his lack of experience, but the bitterness was front and center. A Youtube clip of the interview has Clinton saying: “It’s less predictable, isn’t it? I mean when is the last time we elected a President based on one year of service in the Senate before he started running?”

He added that he gets “tickled” watching Obama on the stump. The urge to knock Obama led Clinton into strange territory for someone who’s been charged with campaigning for the New York Senator.

Charlie Rose: Is Joe Biden ready to be President?

Bill Clinton: Absolutely.

Senator Chris Dodd and Governor Bill Richardson also earned his endorsement. In discussing the merits of John Edwards, Marc Ambinder reports Clinton as saying, “He is great, Edwards is really good . . .” and “It’s a miracle she’s got a chance to win [in Iowa].” Bill Clinton seems to have adopted “Anyone but Obama” as his slogan.

According to Ambinder: “Towards the end of the interview, Rose indicated that Clinton’s staff was asking producers in his show’s control room to get them to have Rose end the interview.” With all the Bill Clinton-Barack Obama comparisons floating around, perhaps the former President is getting a fresh look into his own past, and not liking what he sees.

The widening gyre that is the Hillary Clinton campaign is spinning into near-chaos, and once again, the Senator’s supposed ace-in-the-hole is lending his name to the cause.

Last night, in an interview with Charlie Rose, Bill Clinton grew red-faced and tense as he grasped to defend his wife. He complained that Senator Barack Obama has garnered media support, as if to suggest good press is the Clinton clan’s exclusive entitlement.

Clinton tried to be elusive about trashing Obama for his lack of experience, but the bitterness was front and center. A Youtube clip of the interview has Clinton saying: “It’s less predictable, isn’t it? I mean when is the last time we elected a President based on one year of service in the Senate before he started running?”

He added that he gets “tickled” watching Obama on the stump. The urge to knock Obama led Clinton into strange territory for someone who’s been charged with campaigning for the New York Senator.

Charlie Rose: Is Joe Biden ready to be President?

Bill Clinton: Absolutely.

Senator Chris Dodd and Governor Bill Richardson also earned his endorsement. In discussing the merits of John Edwards, Marc Ambinder reports Clinton as saying, “He is great, Edwards is really good . . .” and “It’s a miracle she’s got a chance to win [in Iowa].” Bill Clinton seems to have adopted “Anyone but Obama” as his slogan.

According to Ambinder: “Towards the end of the interview, Rose indicated that Clinton’s staff was asking producers in his show’s control room to get them to have Rose end the interview.” With all the Bill Clinton-Barack Obama comparisons floating around, perhaps the former President is getting a fresh look into his own past, and not liking what he sees.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.