Commentary Magazine


Topic: Bernard Kouchner

EU Prepares to Repeat Its Cyprus Mistake in the Middle East

If insanity means doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then many leading European officials are certifiably insane.

A new WikiLeaks cable reveals that in January 2010, then-French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner proposed that the West promise “to recognize a Palestinian state within a defined timeline, regardless of the outcome of negotiations.” Nor is he alone. This month, 26 former senior European officials, including several former presidents and prime ministers, advocated recognizing a Palestinian state as an alternative to negotiations. And in July 2009, then-EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana proposed that the UN Security Council set a deadline for negotiations, and then, if no agreement were reached, dictate its own final-status arrangement and recognize a Palestinian state in those parameters.

But the EU has tried unilateral recognition before, in Cyprus. And it proved disastrous.

In April 2004, Cyprus voted on a UN-brokered deal to reunite its Greek and Turkish halves. The deal overwhelmingly favored the Greeks: it required Turks to cede 22 percent of their territory after evicting all Turkish residents; let half the 200,000 Greek refugees return to their former homes in Turkish Cyprus; and gave Greeks a two-thirds majority on the united island’s presidential council. Yet 75 percent of Greeks rejected the deal, while 65 percent of Turks approved it.

Why? Because Greek Cyprus was promised immediate EU membership regardless of how it voted, while Turkish Cyprus was offered admission only if both Turks and Greeks approved the deal. Since the Greeks would pay no penalty for voting no, they had every incentive to hold out for an even better deal. Specifically, they wanted all their refugees returned to Turkish Cyprus, so they could outnumber and outvote Turks even in the federation’s Turkish half.

But the decision to admit Greek Cyprus regardless didn’t just scuttle the peace deal. Next, it destroyed the credibility of EU promises because Greek Cyprus, now a member, vetoed promised moves to ease the Turkish half’s economic isolation in reward for its vote. Then it scuttled accession negotiations with Turkey because Nicosia quickly vetoed further progress due to its ongoing dispute with Ankara over Turkish Cyprus — a rejection some have blamed for Turkey’s subsequent turn eastward. Finally, it effectively killed EU-NATO cooperation because NATO member Turkey won’t recognize EU member Cyprus until the Cyprus dispute is resolved, and therefore vetoes cooperative initiatives.

The EU’s Palestine plan would clearly have the same result. By promising recognition without negotiations, it would certainly scuttle any chance of peace: if Palestinians can get most of what they want without an agreement and still keep agitating for the rest, they would have no incentive to make any concessions, even on such deal breakers as the “right of return.”

But since Israelis and Palestinians, unlike Greek and Turkish Cypriots, aren’t already separated into two de facto states, it might also spark a war — thereby fomenting precisely the kind of bloodshed that Europeans claim to want to prevent. In short, the consequences could be even worse than they were in Cyprus.

Unfortunately, the EU seems incapable of learning from past mistakes. And Israelis and Palestinians will pay the price.

If insanity means doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then many leading European officials are certifiably insane.

A new WikiLeaks cable reveals that in January 2010, then-French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner proposed that the West promise “to recognize a Palestinian state within a defined timeline, regardless of the outcome of negotiations.” Nor is he alone. This month, 26 former senior European officials, including several former presidents and prime ministers, advocated recognizing a Palestinian state as an alternative to negotiations. And in July 2009, then-EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana proposed that the UN Security Council set a deadline for negotiations, and then, if no agreement were reached, dictate its own final-status arrangement and recognize a Palestinian state in those parameters.

But the EU has tried unilateral recognition before, in Cyprus. And it proved disastrous.

In April 2004, Cyprus voted on a UN-brokered deal to reunite its Greek and Turkish halves. The deal overwhelmingly favored the Greeks: it required Turks to cede 22 percent of their territory after evicting all Turkish residents; let half the 200,000 Greek refugees return to their former homes in Turkish Cyprus; and gave Greeks a two-thirds majority on the united island’s presidential council. Yet 75 percent of Greeks rejected the deal, while 65 percent of Turks approved it.

Why? Because Greek Cyprus was promised immediate EU membership regardless of how it voted, while Turkish Cyprus was offered admission only if both Turks and Greeks approved the deal. Since the Greeks would pay no penalty for voting no, they had every incentive to hold out for an even better deal. Specifically, they wanted all their refugees returned to Turkish Cyprus, so they could outnumber and outvote Turks even in the federation’s Turkish half.

But the decision to admit Greek Cyprus regardless didn’t just scuttle the peace deal. Next, it destroyed the credibility of EU promises because Greek Cyprus, now a member, vetoed promised moves to ease the Turkish half’s economic isolation in reward for its vote. Then it scuttled accession negotiations with Turkey because Nicosia quickly vetoed further progress due to its ongoing dispute with Ankara over Turkish Cyprus — a rejection some have blamed for Turkey’s subsequent turn eastward. Finally, it effectively killed EU-NATO cooperation because NATO member Turkey won’t recognize EU member Cyprus until the Cyprus dispute is resolved, and therefore vetoes cooperative initiatives.

The EU’s Palestine plan would clearly have the same result. By promising recognition without negotiations, it would certainly scuttle any chance of peace: if Palestinians can get most of what they want without an agreement and still keep agitating for the rest, they would have no incentive to make any concessions, even on such deal breakers as the “right of return.”

But since Israelis and Palestinians, unlike Greek and Turkish Cypriots, aren’t already separated into two de facto states, it might also spark a war — thereby fomenting precisely the kind of bloodshed that Europeans claim to want to prevent. In short, the consequences could be even worse than they were in Cyprus.

Unfortunately, the EU seems incapable of learning from past mistakes. And Israelis and Palestinians will pay the price.

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Procrastination on Iran

At a weekend retreat in Finland, the foreign ministers of the EU met alongside the Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. Among the topics discussed was Iran. And among the conclusions emerging from the gathering, there is the admission by the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, that there is little chance that new sanctions will be passed by the UN Security Council before June. Citing objections from China and Russia, Kouchner said: “We are … talking and talking, trying to get an agreement by negotiation and at the same time working on sanctions. I believe that yes, before June it will be possible, but I’m not so sure.”

Nor is there certainty about the alternative – which, according to the news report, would be unilateral sanctions by the EU and the U.S.

Clearly, there are obstacles on the road to unilateral sanctions – philosophically, many EU countries oppose unilateralism and wish to proceed only after the UN has given the green light. Then, there is the skepticism about sanctions that are not binding on some of Iran’s main trading partners because such measures would fail to bite.

In short, sanctions, even limited ones, are a long way away, and it does not offer any succor to know that EU ministers are “talking about it.”

The fact of the matter is, the last time sanctions were approved was in March 2008, when UN Security Council Resolution 1803 was approved. That was two years ago. Then there was a U.S. presidential election. Then there was a U.S. policy review. Then there were Iranian presidential elections that nobody wished to interfere with. Then there was a summer holiday that nobody wished to spoil. Then there was a U.S. effort to engage the Iranian regime that nobody wished to undermine. Then there was a failed nuclear deal that everyone thought was a win-win situation. Then there was an end-of-the-year deadline that came and went without any Plan B ready to roll out on Jan. 1. Then there was the talking to convince China and Russia (to say nothing of Turkey, which meanwhile became a member of the Security Council), and now there is more talking for Plan C in case Plan B fails. What will the next reason for delay be?

The bottom line is that these are excuses, pretexts, and little else.

There is abundant evidence of Iranian mischief. There is nothing new by now about Iran’s policy of stalling talks. Russian and Chinese interests remain unchanged. The available options for sanctions have been dissected, debated, weighed, assessed, and are known.

It therefore comes down to the following: do the U.S. and the EU wish to stop Iran’s nuclear quest? If so, are they prepared to pay the political price required to make, at least, an honest and worthy effort? Are they willing to face up to the reality that there is simply no international backing for the kind of policies needed to stop Iran now and to avoid conflict in the Persian Gulf later?

If the answer to these questions is yes, there is no need to wait for June. Otherwise, we know what a June deadline means – it means more stalling, more temporizing, more talking, and more procrastinating.

At a weekend retreat in Finland, the foreign ministers of the EU met alongside the Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. Among the topics discussed was Iran. And among the conclusions emerging from the gathering, there is the admission by the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, that there is little chance that new sanctions will be passed by the UN Security Council before June. Citing objections from China and Russia, Kouchner said: “We are … talking and talking, trying to get an agreement by negotiation and at the same time working on sanctions. I believe that yes, before June it will be possible, but I’m not so sure.”

Nor is there certainty about the alternative – which, according to the news report, would be unilateral sanctions by the EU and the U.S.

Clearly, there are obstacles on the road to unilateral sanctions – philosophically, many EU countries oppose unilateralism and wish to proceed only after the UN has given the green light. Then, there is the skepticism about sanctions that are not binding on some of Iran’s main trading partners because such measures would fail to bite.

In short, sanctions, even limited ones, are a long way away, and it does not offer any succor to know that EU ministers are “talking about it.”

The fact of the matter is, the last time sanctions were approved was in March 2008, when UN Security Council Resolution 1803 was approved. That was two years ago. Then there was a U.S. presidential election. Then there was a U.S. policy review. Then there were Iranian presidential elections that nobody wished to interfere with. Then there was a summer holiday that nobody wished to spoil. Then there was a U.S. effort to engage the Iranian regime that nobody wished to undermine. Then there was a failed nuclear deal that everyone thought was a win-win situation. Then there was an end-of-the-year deadline that came and went without any Plan B ready to roll out on Jan. 1. Then there was the talking to convince China and Russia (to say nothing of Turkey, which meanwhile became a member of the Security Council), and now there is more talking for Plan C in case Plan B fails. What will the next reason for delay be?

The bottom line is that these are excuses, pretexts, and little else.

There is abundant evidence of Iranian mischief. There is nothing new by now about Iran’s policy of stalling talks. Russian and Chinese interests remain unchanged. The available options for sanctions have been dissected, debated, weighed, assessed, and are known.

It therefore comes down to the following: do the U.S. and the EU wish to stop Iran’s nuclear quest? If so, are they prepared to pay the political price required to make, at least, an honest and worthy effort? Are they willing to face up to the reality that there is simply no international backing for the kind of policies needed to stop Iran now and to avoid conflict in the Persian Gulf later?

If the answer to these questions is yes, there is no need to wait for June. Otherwise, we know what a June deadline means – it means more stalling, more temporizing, more talking, and more procrastinating.

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Don’t Confuse Him with the Facts

Bernard Kouchner is “hurt” and “shocked” by Israelis’ “vanished” desire for peace. Israelis of all political stripes would undoubtedly be equally shocked at the French foreign minister’s ignorance — and at his willingness to hurl false accusations without even a minimal effort to check his facts.

“What really hurts me, and this shocks us, is that before there used to be a great peace movement in Israel,” Kouchner told France Inter radio yesterday. “There was a left that made itself heard and a real desire for peace. It seems to me, and I hope that I am completely wrong, that this desire has completely vanished, as though people no longer believe in it.”

Kouchner is, of course, half right: even most Israeli leftists have stopped believing peace is possible in the foreseeable future, which is precisely why the peace movement and the political Left have largely collapsed. But that is a far cry from saying that Israelis have stopped wanting peace. The desire remains as strong as ever; it’s just that most Israelis currently see no way of fulfilling it.

Nor is it really hard to see why Israelis have stopped believing. First, every territorial concession since the 1993 Oslo Accord has produced only more terror. Palestinians killed more Israelis in the first two and a half years after Oslo than in the entire preceding decade, and in 2000-04 (the height of the second intifada), Israel’s terror-related casualties exceeded those of the entire preceding 53 years. The withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 led to the Second Lebanon War, and the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 produced daily rocket barrages on southern Israel. To most Israelis, bombs and rockets exploding in their cities don’t look much like peace.

This has been compounded by the complete lack of movement in Palestinian positions since 1993, even as Israeli leaders offered ever-increasing concessions. Israeli leaders routinely tell their people that peace will require “painful concessions.” Palestinian leaders are still telling their people that peace will enable 4.7 million descendants of Palestinian refugees to resettle in pre-1967 Israel, thus destroying the Jewish state demographically. And Israelis find it hard to believe in a peace whose price, according to their supposed “peace partner,” is Israel’s eradication.

None of this is news; a simple Web search would produce thousands of articles by Israelis explaining why they have despaired. Or if Kouchner doesn’t like the Web, he could have picked up a phone: most Israelis would probably have been happy to enlighten him.

But Kouchner couldn’t be bothered with the facts; he preferred to simply accuse Israelis of not wanting peace. Perhaps it’s his background as a human-rights activist showing: hurling accusations at Israel without checking the facts is practically de rigueur among human-rights organizations these days.

Nevertheless, one would expect better of a foreign minister. After all, he has actual responsibility for setting policy. And policy works better when it’s based on fact rather than fantasy.

Bernard Kouchner is “hurt” and “shocked” by Israelis’ “vanished” desire for peace. Israelis of all political stripes would undoubtedly be equally shocked at the French foreign minister’s ignorance — and at his willingness to hurl false accusations without even a minimal effort to check his facts.

“What really hurts me, and this shocks us, is that before there used to be a great peace movement in Israel,” Kouchner told France Inter radio yesterday. “There was a left that made itself heard and a real desire for peace. It seems to me, and I hope that I am completely wrong, that this desire has completely vanished, as though people no longer believe in it.”

Kouchner is, of course, half right: even most Israeli leftists have stopped believing peace is possible in the foreseeable future, which is precisely why the peace movement and the political Left have largely collapsed. But that is a far cry from saying that Israelis have stopped wanting peace. The desire remains as strong as ever; it’s just that most Israelis currently see no way of fulfilling it.

Nor is it really hard to see why Israelis have stopped believing. First, every territorial concession since the 1993 Oslo Accord has produced only more terror. Palestinians killed more Israelis in the first two and a half years after Oslo than in the entire preceding decade, and in 2000-04 (the height of the second intifada), Israel’s terror-related casualties exceeded those of the entire preceding 53 years. The withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 led to the Second Lebanon War, and the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 produced daily rocket barrages on southern Israel. To most Israelis, bombs and rockets exploding in their cities don’t look much like peace.

This has been compounded by the complete lack of movement in Palestinian positions since 1993, even as Israeli leaders offered ever-increasing concessions. Israeli leaders routinely tell their people that peace will require “painful concessions.” Palestinian leaders are still telling their people that peace will enable 4.7 million descendants of Palestinian refugees to resettle in pre-1967 Israel, thus destroying the Jewish state demographically. And Israelis find it hard to believe in a peace whose price, according to their supposed “peace partner,” is Israel’s eradication.

None of this is news; a simple Web search would produce thousands of articles by Israelis explaining why they have despaired. Or if Kouchner doesn’t like the Web, he could have picked up a phone: most Israelis would probably have been happy to enlighten him.

But Kouchner couldn’t be bothered with the facts; he preferred to simply accuse Israelis of not wanting peace. Perhaps it’s his background as a human-rights activist showing: hurling accusations at Israel without checking the facts is practically de rigueur among human-rights organizations these days.

Nevertheless, one would expect better of a foreign minister. After all, he has actual responsibility for setting policy. And policy works better when it’s based on fact rather than fantasy.

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Shame Diplomacy

At Slate, Anne Applebaum argues for intervention in Burma. But on her way to making a serious case for action, she takes a frivolous and disingenuous detour through Iraq.

Unfortunately, the phrase “coalition of the willing” is tainted forever–once again proving that the damage done by the Iraq war goes far beyond the Iraqi borders–but a coalition of the willing is exactly what we need. The French–whose foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, was himself a co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières–are already talking about finding alternative ways of delivering aid. Others in Europe and Asia might join in, along with some aid organizations. The Chinese should be embarrassed into contributing, asked again and again to help. This is their satrapy, after all, not ours.

Who’s tainted the phrase coalition of the willing? The members of said coalition, who banded together to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban and Iraq of Saddam Hussein? Or those who snickered at that effort and now demand that we leave the people of those two countries to the mercies of terrorists? It’s the fetishists of multilateralism who have made intervention in places like Burma so unlikely. After years of demanding that America shrink her geopolitical influence, retract from the world, and leave “sovereign” states to their own devices, their best plan for international crisis management is to embarrass China into being a kindly neighbor? China! The nation underwriting the massacre in Darfur!

“Think of it as the true test of the Western humanitarian impulse,” Applebaum writes. A much truer test would call upon one to overcome petty and satisfying postures in order to save lives.

At Slate, Anne Applebaum argues for intervention in Burma. But on her way to making a serious case for action, she takes a frivolous and disingenuous detour through Iraq.

Unfortunately, the phrase “coalition of the willing” is tainted forever–once again proving that the damage done by the Iraq war goes far beyond the Iraqi borders–but a coalition of the willing is exactly what we need. The French–whose foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, was himself a co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières–are already talking about finding alternative ways of delivering aid. Others in Europe and Asia might join in, along with some aid organizations. The Chinese should be embarrassed into contributing, asked again and again to help. This is their satrapy, after all, not ours.

Who’s tainted the phrase coalition of the willing? The members of said coalition, who banded together to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban and Iraq of Saddam Hussein? Or those who snickered at that effort and now demand that we leave the people of those two countries to the mercies of terrorists? It’s the fetishists of multilateralism who have made intervention in places like Burma so unlikely. After years of demanding that America shrink her geopolitical influence, retract from the world, and leave “sovereign” states to their own devices, their best plan for international crisis management is to embarrass China into being a kindly neighbor? China! The nation underwriting the massacre in Darfur!

“Think of it as the true test of the Western humanitarian impulse,” Applebaum writes. A much truer test would call upon one to overcome petty and satisfying postures in order to save lives.

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Time to Invade Burma?

Today, the United Nations World Food Program suspended the shipment of relief supplies to Burma, also known as Myanmar. The country had been ravaged by Cyclone Nargis on Saturday.

The suspension was prompted by the Burmese junta’s seizure of supplies that the agency had already sent. “All of the food aid and equipment that we managed to get in has been confiscated,” said the UN’s Paul Risley. “For the time being, we have no choice but to end further efforts to bring critical needed food aid into Myanmar at this time.”

Previously, the government blocked almost all disaster assistance offered by the international community, including the United States. According to official statistics, almost 23,000 have died. Shari Villarosa, the top U.S. diplomat in Rangoon, says the toll may have already exceeded 100,000.

The UN says the flights will resume tomorrow, but we do not know whether they will in fact be allowed to land. Yet at this moment we are sure of this: Burmese are dying only because their government, which insists on handling disaster assistance itself, has proven utterly incapable of doing so. Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, has therefore raised the possibility that the United Nations invoke its “responsibility to protect” and deliver aid to Burmese citizens without their government’s permission. Such an action would save lives, but it probably would trigger conflict with the militant regime. So the issue arises: Is the world willing to invade Burma?

Invade? The international community cannot “protect” the Burmese people from a military government without employing military means. The United Nations, of course, is not prepared to use force. So Burmese by the tens of thousands will perish.

Of course, there are good reasons not to start a war against the junta this week. There are, for instance, tens of millions of other people who urgently need to be shielded from the tyrants who threaten their lives, and we cannot forcibly help all of them now. Yet even if the international community had the capability to do so, I doubt it is ready for dozens of simultaneous “interventions.” It’s not ready for even one. How do I know that? The United States undertook an obligation to protect the people of Iraq from the murderous Saddam Hussein. And we can see what the rest of the world now thinks of that.

Today, the United Nations World Food Program suspended the shipment of relief supplies to Burma, also known as Myanmar. The country had been ravaged by Cyclone Nargis on Saturday.

The suspension was prompted by the Burmese junta’s seizure of supplies that the agency had already sent. “All of the food aid and equipment that we managed to get in has been confiscated,” said the UN’s Paul Risley. “For the time being, we have no choice but to end further efforts to bring critical needed food aid into Myanmar at this time.”

Previously, the government blocked almost all disaster assistance offered by the international community, including the United States. According to official statistics, almost 23,000 have died. Shari Villarosa, the top U.S. diplomat in Rangoon, says the toll may have already exceeded 100,000.

The UN says the flights will resume tomorrow, but we do not know whether they will in fact be allowed to land. Yet at this moment we are sure of this: Burmese are dying only because their government, which insists on handling disaster assistance itself, has proven utterly incapable of doing so. Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, has therefore raised the possibility that the United Nations invoke its “responsibility to protect” and deliver aid to Burmese citizens without their government’s permission. Such an action would save lives, but it probably would trigger conflict with the militant regime. So the issue arises: Is the world willing to invade Burma?

Invade? The international community cannot “protect” the Burmese people from a military government without employing military means. The United Nations, of course, is not prepared to use force. So Burmese by the tens of thousands will perish.

Of course, there are good reasons not to start a war against the junta this week. There are, for instance, tens of millions of other people who urgently need to be shielded from the tyrants who threaten their lives, and we cannot forcibly help all of them now. Yet even if the international community had the capability to do so, I doubt it is ready for dozens of simultaneous “interventions.” It’s not ready for even one. How do I know that? The United States undertook an obligation to protect the people of Iraq from the murderous Saddam Hussein. And we can see what the rest of the world now thinks of that.

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What’s ElBaradei Up To?

IAEA Director General Mohammad ElBaradei has again shown whose side he is on. Less than a week after the Permanent Five and Germany issued a statement announcing a new incentives’ package for Iran, ElBaradei called on the U.S. to show more flexibility with Iran. The details of the new offer are not publicly known, but French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner defined them as “very generous.”

This proposal expands on an already-generous offer made two years ago, which Iran turned down. One would hope that, this time, the P5+1 does not follow the same course of action–despite the fact that the 2006 offer was meant to expire, the P5+1 kept it alive in the hope that Iran would change its mind–only to produce a better package two years later. One can only assume that the terms are even more advantageous for Iran: more details on nuclear technology that the West would offer Tehran, more details of the security guarantees that Iran would get in the region, more assurances about the stability of Iran’s regime, more incentives on trade. One can also assume that in Tehran the lesson being learned is that by making no concessions and being stubborn much can be gained.

Now, aside from the fact that Iran has already dismissed the offer, this history of dialogue with Iran teaches us two things: one, that the international community, U.S. included, has shown great flexibility with Iran; and two, that Iran has systematically exploited this flexibility to gain time and advance its nuclear program. Any responsible representative of the international community should not call on the U.S. to be more flexible. It should call on Iran to be more reasonable and remind them that time is running out. That ElBaradei called on the U.S. to make more concessions at a time when the U.S. is already backing yet more concessions to an inflexible and uncompromising Iran indicates that maybe the IAEA–and certainly its director–are not doing their best to stem the tide of nuclear proliferation.

IAEA Director General Mohammad ElBaradei has again shown whose side he is on. Less than a week after the Permanent Five and Germany issued a statement announcing a new incentives’ package for Iran, ElBaradei called on the U.S. to show more flexibility with Iran. The details of the new offer are not publicly known, but French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner defined them as “very generous.”

This proposal expands on an already-generous offer made two years ago, which Iran turned down. One would hope that, this time, the P5+1 does not follow the same course of action–despite the fact that the 2006 offer was meant to expire, the P5+1 kept it alive in the hope that Iran would change its mind–only to produce a better package two years later. One can only assume that the terms are even more advantageous for Iran: more details on nuclear technology that the West would offer Tehran, more details of the security guarantees that Iran would get in the region, more assurances about the stability of Iran’s regime, more incentives on trade. One can also assume that in Tehran the lesson being learned is that by making no concessions and being stubborn much can be gained.

Now, aside from the fact that Iran has already dismissed the offer, this history of dialogue with Iran teaches us two things: one, that the international community, U.S. included, has shown great flexibility with Iran; and two, that Iran has systematically exploited this flexibility to gain time and advance its nuclear program. Any responsible representative of the international community should not call on the U.S. to be more flexible. It should call on Iran to be more reasonable and remind them that time is running out. That ElBaradei called on the U.S. to make more concessions at a time when the U.S. is already backing yet more concessions to an inflexible and uncompromising Iran indicates that maybe the IAEA–and certainly its director–are not doing their best to stem the tide of nuclear proliferation.

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U.S. “Magic” Is Fini!

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has come to a decision: Regarding America, says M. Kouchner, “I think the magic is over.”

C’est fini? The Herald Tribune reports:

Asked whether the United States could repair the damage it has suffered to its reputation during the Bush presidency and especially since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Kouchner replied, “It will never be as it was before.”

You mean Americans will never enjoy the reputation we had amongst the French before 2003? Say it isn’t so. Oh yeah, and the funny thing about that U.S.-led invasion in 2003 is that Kouchner was, how-do-you-say, for eet:

The sovereignty of states can be respected only if it emanates from the people inside the state. If a state is a dictatorship, then it is absolutely not worthy of the international community’s respect.

So, what is he for now?

Asked whether there is a way to engage Hamas, which is supported by a significant minority of Palestinians, Kouchner appeared to hold out hope of contact, saying: “I’m looking for a diplomatic way to say yes.”

Looking for a way to be diplomatic about saying you want to be diplomatic can take a Frenchman a while. Perhaps this time is best used to consider Kouchner’s place in that rich European tradition of predicting America’s demise. There were all those German thinkers like Hegel and Nietzsche who knew our decadence would do us in. Needless to say the Nazis picked up where they left off and had us pegged for goners. Marx, too, knew of the inevitable American downfall, and the Soviet leaders killed millions of their own while relishing the prospect of America’s end. More recently, the European Union, (which actually seems historical, too) was poised to take the place of the world’s debauched and dying superpower.

Though things didn’t go as they all predicted, I’m sure that this time Bernard Kouchner is right. And I’m sure what he says has nothing to do with what he said a few years ago in defense of his pro-American invasion stance: “In my country it’s not easy at all. If you are a pioneer you are a target and if you are the winner you are more targeted than before.” Nah, can’t be that.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has come to a decision: Regarding America, says M. Kouchner, “I think the magic is over.”

C’est fini? The Herald Tribune reports:

Asked whether the United States could repair the damage it has suffered to its reputation during the Bush presidency and especially since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Kouchner replied, “It will never be as it was before.”

You mean Americans will never enjoy the reputation we had amongst the French before 2003? Say it isn’t so. Oh yeah, and the funny thing about that U.S.-led invasion in 2003 is that Kouchner was, how-do-you-say, for eet:

The sovereignty of states can be respected only if it emanates from the people inside the state. If a state is a dictatorship, then it is absolutely not worthy of the international community’s respect.

So, what is he for now?

Asked whether there is a way to engage Hamas, which is supported by a significant minority of Palestinians, Kouchner appeared to hold out hope of contact, saying: “I’m looking for a diplomatic way to say yes.”

Looking for a way to be diplomatic about saying you want to be diplomatic can take a Frenchman a while. Perhaps this time is best used to consider Kouchner’s place in that rich European tradition of predicting America’s demise. There were all those German thinkers like Hegel and Nietzsche who knew our decadence would do us in. Needless to say the Nazis picked up where they left off and had us pegged for goners. Marx, too, knew of the inevitable American downfall, and the Soviet leaders killed millions of their own while relishing the prospect of America’s end. More recently, the European Union, (which actually seems historical, too) was poised to take the place of the world’s debauched and dying superpower.

Though things didn’t go as they all predicted, I’m sure that this time Bernard Kouchner is right. And I’m sure what he says has nothing to do with what he said a few years ago in defense of his pro-American invasion stance: “In my country it’s not easy at all. If you are a pioneer you are a target and if you are the winner you are more targeted than before.” Nah, can’t be that.

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Talking to Enemies, Losing Friends

My friend Lee Smith has a terrific piece in the Weekly Standard about what the peace process is doing to the democracy movement in Lebanon:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has recused herself from every other issue in the region, including Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. As for Syria and Lebanon, she contracted this out to France, whose new president Nicolas Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner butchered the affair, with some assistance from Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, who has looked to placate Syria since the Hariri murder. Secretary Rice says nice things about Lebanese democracy, but the fact is that nothing matters to her half as much as the peace process. This myopia is what led Rice to make room for Syria in her three-ring circus on the Chesapeake Bay. Since Israeli-Palestinian comity warrants all of the time and prestige of the Secretary of State, and since Damascus’s friends in Hamas can make things very tough for peace processing, they must be rewarded for their blackmail and invited to Annapolis.

Consciously or not, Rice signaled where America’s real priorities lie — not with protecting a fledgling democracy in Beirut from the terrorist state next door, but in trying to reward a society that breeds terrorism within its own state.

Lee predicts that the peace process will imperil the Hariri tribunal and deliver Lebanon back to Syria and Hezbollah. Read the whole thing.

My friend Lee Smith has a terrific piece in the Weekly Standard about what the peace process is doing to the democracy movement in Lebanon:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has recused herself from every other issue in the region, including Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. As for Syria and Lebanon, she contracted this out to France, whose new president Nicolas Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner butchered the affair, with some assistance from Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, who has looked to placate Syria since the Hariri murder. Secretary Rice says nice things about Lebanese democracy, but the fact is that nothing matters to her half as much as the peace process. This myopia is what led Rice to make room for Syria in her three-ring circus on the Chesapeake Bay. Since Israeli-Palestinian comity warrants all of the time and prestige of the Secretary of State, and since Damascus’s friends in Hamas can make things very tough for peace processing, they must be rewarded for their blackmail and invited to Annapolis.

Consciously or not, Rice signaled where America’s real priorities lie — not with protecting a fledgling democracy in Beirut from the terrorist state next door, but in trying to reward a society that breeds terrorism within its own state.

Lee predicts that the peace process will imperil the Hariri tribunal and deliver Lebanon back to Syria and Hezbollah. Read the whole thing.

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Europe’s Choice

Despite European worries about an imminent U.S. attack on Iran—issuing largely from people who fear the U.S. more than nuclearized mullahs—a U.S. strike on Iranian nuclear facilities is, according to CentCom head William Fallon, not in the offing. (Max Boot’s criticism of Fallon can be found here). Nonetheless, the pressure is mounting from the U.S. on Europe to put its money where its mouth is: One cannot be against a military solution and also oppose more sanctions, as the EU generally does. That position, in practice, supports Iran’s nuclear ambitions. And Europe has held that position for some time, culminating in the decision, a month ago, by the EU-27 foreign ministers, not to endorse France’s proposal—pushed by its FM, Bernard Kouchner—to adopt broader EU sanctions against Iran. Opposition largely came from countries such as Austria, Germany, Italy, and Sweden, which all have thriving commercial relations with Iran.

Since then, there’s been a slight change for the better. Pressure from the U.S. (along with a change of mood in some European capitals) has been brought to bear on European companies. Thanks to Berlin’s recent decision to endorse a tougher approach, Deutsche Bank, the Dresdner and Kommerz banks, and Siemens have pulled out of any new business dealings in Iran. So far, so good, but it’s not enough. It would behoove those Europeans most worried about military strikes against Iran to show more courage and willingness to sacrifice a contract or two for the sake of peace. If, as Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi recently said, a military solution is to be opposed because it would further “destabilize the region,” then Prodi, as the prime minister of Iran’s first trading partner, might wish to instruct his foreign minister to endorse France’s view: support broader sanctions—the only alternative to war.

Despite European worries about an imminent U.S. attack on Iran—issuing largely from people who fear the U.S. more than nuclearized mullahs—a U.S. strike on Iranian nuclear facilities is, according to CentCom head William Fallon, not in the offing. (Max Boot’s criticism of Fallon can be found here). Nonetheless, the pressure is mounting from the U.S. on Europe to put its money where its mouth is: One cannot be against a military solution and also oppose more sanctions, as the EU generally does. That position, in practice, supports Iran’s nuclear ambitions. And Europe has held that position for some time, culminating in the decision, a month ago, by the EU-27 foreign ministers, not to endorse France’s proposal—pushed by its FM, Bernard Kouchner—to adopt broader EU sanctions against Iran. Opposition largely came from countries such as Austria, Germany, Italy, and Sweden, which all have thriving commercial relations with Iran.

Since then, there’s been a slight change for the better. Pressure from the U.S. (along with a change of mood in some European capitals) has been brought to bear on European companies. Thanks to Berlin’s recent decision to endorse a tougher approach, Deutsche Bank, the Dresdner and Kommerz banks, and Siemens have pulled out of any new business dealings in Iran. So far, so good, but it’s not enough. It would behoove those Europeans most worried about military strikes against Iran to show more courage and willingness to sacrifice a contract or two for the sake of peace. If, as Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi recently said, a military solution is to be opposed because it would further “destabilize the region,” then Prodi, as the prime minister of Iran’s first trading partner, might wish to instruct his foreign minister to endorse France’s view: support broader sanctions—the only alternative to war.

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All the Fault of the Neocons

Arche de Zoé, a rickety French NGO thrown together to rescue 10,000 Darfur orphans (see the original press release here), has capsized in Chad. As of this writing, six activists of the NGO, four Chadian collaborators, three members of a Spanish flight crew, and one Belgian pilot are detained in a maximum security prison in N’jamena, accused of kidnapping 103 children. The wild ambitions of volunteer fireman Eric Breteau and his companion Emilie Lelouch came down to a sordid humanitarian swindle with international ramifications. Though an ocean of incriminating evidence testifies to their criminal methods, loyal supporters and high-minded analysts throw the would-be do-gooders life jackets marked “good intentions,” while Socialist opponents tongue-lash the Sarkozy government, and far-out geopolitical experts blame it on American neocons.

How’s that? According to Jean-Philippe Remy of Le Monde and Antoine Glaser, director of La Lettre du Continent, a bi-monthly journal on Africa, over-sensitive idealists were pushed to excess by made-in-the-U.S.A. “Save Darfur” propaganda. Remy and Glaser believe that such propaganda misrepresents a conflict between the Sudanese government and armed rebels, a conflict that is overheated by various oil interests in Sudan and Chad. Two hundred thousand victims does not a genocide make. Besides, says Glaser, it’s winding down. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, of Doctors without Borders fame, is accused of infecting the Sarkozy government with Save Darfur hysteria.

Others claim the government knew enough to stop Breteau before he touched the hair of one child’s head. Furthermore, Socialist leader François Hollande sputters that Sarkozy is leaving the unfortunate humanitarians in the clutches of an unspeakable (African) jurisdiction instead of bringing them back to be judged (more clemently) in France. Hollande and his ilk are furious at Nicolas Sarkozy for flying to Chad last Sunday to bring back the journalists and the four airline stewardesses, conditionally liberated as per his request relayed to the court by Chad’s President Idriss Déby.

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Arche de Zoé, a rickety French NGO thrown together to rescue 10,000 Darfur orphans (see the original press release here), has capsized in Chad. As of this writing, six activists of the NGO, four Chadian collaborators, three members of a Spanish flight crew, and one Belgian pilot are detained in a maximum security prison in N’jamena, accused of kidnapping 103 children. The wild ambitions of volunteer fireman Eric Breteau and his companion Emilie Lelouch came down to a sordid humanitarian swindle with international ramifications. Though an ocean of incriminating evidence testifies to their criminal methods, loyal supporters and high-minded analysts throw the would-be do-gooders life jackets marked “good intentions,” while Socialist opponents tongue-lash the Sarkozy government, and far-out geopolitical experts blame it on American neocons.

How’s that? According to Jean-Philippe Remy of Le Monde and Antoine Glaser, director of La Lettre du Continent, a bi-monthly journal on Africa, over-sensitive idealists were pushed to excess by made-in-the-U.S.A. “Save Darfur” propaganda. Remy and Glaser believe that such propaganda misrepresents a conflict between the Sudanese government and armed rebels, a conflict that is overheated by various oil interests in Sudan and Chad. Two hundred thousand victims does not a genocide make. Besides, says Glaser, it’s winding down. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, of Doctors without Borders fame, is accused of infecting the Sarkozy government with Save Darfur hysteria.

Others claim the government knew enough to stop Breteau before he touched the hair of one child’s head. Furthermore, Socialist leader François Hollande sputters that Sarkozy is leaving the unfortunate humanitarians in the clutches of an unspeakable (African) jurisdiction instead of bringing them back to be judged (more clemently) in France. Hollande and his ilk are furious at Nicolas Sarkozy for flying to Chad last Sunday to bring back the journalists and the four airline stewardesses, conditionally liberated as per his request relayed to the court by Chad’s President Idriss Déby.

And so it goes, down the line of an inverted ethical system by which the closer you get to the actual misdeed the lighter the responsibility. The journalists slipped out through the free press escape hatch, though their relations with the operation were not always clear. Marie-Agnès Peleran was on “humanitarian leave of absence” from France 3 television, and was a candidate for hosting a refugee child. Jean-Daniel Guillou, of the Synchro X photo agency, openly declared his sympathy for the Zoé six, who are “idealists, not criminals.” Marc Garmirian, of the Capa Agency, filmed the operation, including the planned middle of the night evacuation, without blowing any whistles.

Garmirian’s film is an eloquent testimony to the evil doings of the humanitarian kidnappers. The footage edited while he was imprisoned and screened while he was on his way back to Paris documents the inhumane folie à deux of Breteau and Lelouch that engulfed French do-gooders and exploited, employed, or bribed Chadian accomplices. Over a hundred children, caught in the middle, served as human shields for a humanitarian delusion.

Yes, the Darfur orphans plucked from the jaws of death were in fact healthy Chadian children, most of them between four and five years old. They were disguised with fake bandages, bloodstains, and IV’s (shades of al-Dura) for the stealthy “medical evacuation” that almost took place via a chartered Girjet plane with its (Spanish) crew of seven waiting on a primitive airstrip in the bush near the city of Abéché, where Arche de Zoé, disguised as “Children Rescue,” had set up an outpost. The convoy was stopped at the eleventh hour. The artificial orphans are still stranded in Abéché.

Those who credit Breteau and his accomplices with misguided good intentions think they were swindled by Chadian intermediaries. A more plausible explanation, based on verifiable concrete facts, is that Breteau was caught in his own contradictions. Some 350 families were convinced to contribute 2400 euros (that would make a total of 840,000 euros) for the privilege of hosting—and eventually adopting—the refugee children. Stumped by the impossibility of approaching Darfur refugee camps, he had to keep his word to the French families…and, perhaps, lie to himself.

President Sarkozy has vowed to return to Chad and bring back the remaining French prisoners, “no matter what they’ve done.” But Chadian officials promise to give the kidnappers a taste of their famous prisons. Policemen thrash angry demonstrators to keep them from attacking the prisoners as they are transferred from the jail to the courthouse. A clash of civilizations, as it were.

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Russia’s Question

Yesterday, Moscow took one more step away from the West when it announced that it would not support tougher sanctions against Iran for failing to halt its efforts to enrich uranium. The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to discuss implementing a third set of coercive measures against Tehran. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country wants to give the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, additional time to obtain cooperation from Iran pursuant to a deal arranged last month. On Friday, China announced its desire to see more negotiations with the Iranians, thereby supporting the Kremlin.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, at the conclusion of his meeting with Lavrov in Moscow, said yesterday that, should the Security Council fail to impose new measures, the European Union should create a sanctions regime similar to America’s. That set off Lavrov: “If we decided to act collectively on the basis of consensual decisions in the U.N. Security Council, what good does it do to take unilateral decisions?”

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Yesterday, Moscow took one more step away from the West when it announced that it would not support tougher sanctions against Iran for failing to halt its efforts to enrich uranium. The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to discuss implementing a third set of coercive measures against Tehran. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country wants to give the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, additional time to obtain cooperation from Iran pursuant to a deal arranged last month. On Friday, China announced its desire to see more negotiations with the Iranians, thereby supporting the Kremlin.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, at the conclusion of his meeting with Lavrov in Moscow, said yesterday that, should the Security Council fail to impose new measures, the European Union should create a sanctions regime similar to America’s. That set off Lavrov: “If we decided to act collectively on the basis of consensual decisions in the U.N. Security Council, what good does it do to take unilateral decisions?”

The assumption implicit in Lavrov’s question is that the world’s great powers, acting together, can solve the world’s great problems. It is the basis of Bush administration policy. It is the notion that all of us want to believe. It is, unfortunately, no longer true—if it ever was.

Why? On Monday, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, trying to forestall the talk of war over Iran, asked the West to remember the lessons of Iraq. I do, and here they are in ascending order of importance: the American military can destroy almost any adversary, democracy cannot be imposed by force, and the concept of collective security no longer works. Before President Bush talked about democracy in Iraq, even before he mentioned weapons of mass destruction, American diplomats discussed the failure of the United Nations to enforce its own resolutions against Saddam’s regime.

Russia and China this week have made it clear they will side with Iran until the theocrats announce they have the bomb—all the while saying they are defending the concept of joint action. As Thomas Friedman says, we are entering the post-post-cold-war period. And in that period the West has no choice but to realize that the world’s authoritarian nations are banding together, and Russia and China are undermining the concept of collective security. Whether we like it or not, we are now engaged in a series of global struggles, with neither Beijing nor Moscow on our side.

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“The Worst, Sir, Is War.”

Yesterday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, while calling for more effective sanctions against Iran, said that the world should be getting ready to use force to prevent that country from developing nuclear weapons. “We must prepare for the worst,” he said. “The worst, sir, is war.”

Unfortunately, peaceful efforts to stop Iran’s theocrats have been getting nowhere. In July of last year, the U.N. Security Council demanded that Tehran stop its efforts to enrich uranium; the Council then imposed two sets of sanctions, in December and March. In response to these actions, Tehran has issued a series of increasingly defiant refusals to comply. It has, however, enlisted an invaluable ally. Last month, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, undercut the Security Council sanctions by cutting a deal with Iran. The arrangement, which seeks Iran’s cooperation, does not require the country to stop enrichment and effectively prevents the Security Council from enacting a needed third set of coercive measures.

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Yesterday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, while calling for more effective sanctions against Iran, said that the world should be getting ready to use force to prevent that country from developing nuclear weapons. “We must prepare for the worst,” he said. “The worst, sir, is war.”

Unfortunately, peaceful efforts to stop Iran’s theocrats have been getting nowhere. In July of last year, the U.N. Security Council demanded that Tehran stop its efforts to enrich uranium; the Council then imposed two sets of sanctions, in December and March. In response to these actions, Tehran has issued a series of increasingly defiant refusals to comply. It has, however, enlisted an invaluable ally. Last month, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, undercut the Security Council sanctions by cutting a deal with Iran. The arrangement, which seeks Iran’s cooperation, does not require the country to stop enrichment and effectively prevents the Security Council from enacting a needed third set of coercive measures.

In the last few days, Tehran has made even more progress. On September 10, Itar-Tass carried a report suggesting that Russia had settled its differences with Iran and had agreed to supply uranium to the Bushehr nuclear plant. On Friday, Beijing issued its latest pronouncement, which essentially endorsed Iran’s delaying tactics.

Time, unfortunately, is growing short. It appears that at some point in the next two years Iranian specialists, unless they are stopped, will gain all the technology and know-how necessary for the building of a nuclear weapon. It would be wonderful if peaceful methods would deter Iran, but that appears extremely unlikely. Russia and China have demonstrated that they will use their Security Council vetoes to prevent the U.N. from imposing meaningful sanctions, and American and EU measures, on their own, will not be sufficient.

Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking on Fox News Sunday, said the Bush administration is committed to “diplomatic and economic means” to stop Iran. We all want peaceful solutions, but as each day passes it becomes increasingly clear that Gates’s words have no substantive content; he has been unable to persuade Russia and China to take a clear stand against Iran.

So Kouchner was right to get the West to focus on an unpleasant reality. We are rapidly approaching the point where we have to make a consequential decision—either accept Iran as a nuclear weapons state or take away its arms by force.

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Sarkozy’s Great Challenge

There seems little doubt that U.S.-France relations will improve with Nicolas Sarkozy’s victory. But whither France itself? (Michel Gurfinkiel asks this question in the May issue of COMMENTARY.) For the past thirty years, the nation has oscillated between slow growth and stagnation. France, notes Jonathan Loynes, chief European economist at Capital Economics, “is now the sick man of Europe.” The official explanation for France’s economic problems—Depression-era levels of long term unemployment, a debt twice that of England, unsustainable pension costs, and a budget deficit well beyond the EU average—has always been the malevolence of the Americans and their predatory capitalism. The French have become, it seems, every bit as talented as the Arab world in projecting their failures onto others.

This election may represent a departure from the idea that France is hindered only by the influence of the perfidious, rapacious Anglo-Americans. And whatever Sarkozy’s future successes or failures, his victory in itself is significant. “This is the end of an era,” remarked Médecins Sans Frontières founder and former cabinet minister Bernard Kouchner, and “the end of French socialism.” “Even Communist China has taken the road of capitalism,” Kouchner also observed. “Is France the only country where we will keep thinking capitalism is perverse, vulgar, and dangerous?” After three consecutive presidential defeats for the Left, the Socialists are in trouble. The strife between those who wish to create a genuinely modern social-democratic party (one that can win elections) and the defenders of the ancien régime may well fragment the Socialists permanently.

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There seems little doubt that U.S.-France relations will improve with Nicolas Sarkozy’s victory. But whither France itself? (Michel Gurfinkiel asks this question in the May issue of COMMENTARY.) For the past thirty years, the nation has oscillated between slow growth and stagnation. France, notes Jonathan Loynes, chief European economist at Capital Economics, “is now the sick man of Europe.” The official explanation for France’s economic problems—Depression-era levels of long term unemployment, a debt twice that of England, unsustainable pension costs, and a budget deficit well beyond the EU average—has always been the malevolence of the Americans and their predatory capitalism. The French have become, it seems, every bit as talented as the Arab world in projecting their failures onto others.

This election may represent a departure from the idea that France is hindered only by the influence of the perfidious, rapacious Anglo-Americans. And whatever Sarkozy’s future successes or failures, his victory in itself is significant. “This is the end of an era,” remarked Médecins Sans Frontières founder and former cabinet minister Bernard Kouchner, and “the end of French socialism.” “Even Communist China has taken the road of capitalism,” Kouchner also observed. “Is France the only country where we will keep thinking capitalism is perverse, vulgar, and dangerous?” After three consecutive presidential defeats for the Left, the Socialists are in trouble. The strife between those who wish to create a genuinely modern social-democratic party (one that can win elections) and the defenders of the ancien régime may well fragment the Socialists permanently.

But the decline of the Socialists as a party is one thing. Taming France’s bureaucracy is another. Already there is talk of a “third round” of elections in the streets. This refers not to Ségolène Royal’s warning of another mini-intifada in the bainlieus, but to the kind of mass walkout by civil servants that has repeatedly stopped proposed reforms in their tracks. These are the same people, of course, who have made their careers warning of the American menace.

As was the case for Rudy Giuliani in 1994, when the entrenched bureaucrats assumed that the city would be ungovernable without them and acted with commensurate arrogance, Sarkozy’s great challenge will come in taming what is, nominally, his own government.

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