Tue Apr 3rd, 2007 at 09:15:29 PM EST
Reading the tea leaves for the presidential election
30 March 2007
some excerpts :
Any significant measure he (Bayrou) might propose would bear traces of rightness and leftness; any politician who might stand by his side would necessarily come from the right or the left; and the majority that, he promises, will magically materialize to govern with him after the June legislative election would have to come from the right and the left. Precedents for the nonpartisan government that he's marketing include the ungovernable Fourth Republic in postwar France and the fragile coalition headed by Romano Prodi in today's Italy.
It will require extraordinary leadership to transform this society of little princes with their courts and privileges into a modern society of merit and professionalism. Arabs, Muslims, and blacks, whether recent immigrants or fourth-generation French, do suffer from discrimination. But other factors are involved: a significant portion of that population is ill-equipped to study and work in an advanced technological society, and France does suffer from the ills and perils of Eurabia, including a domestic al-Qaeda network.
Bayrou would outsource France's foreign and defense policy to the EU--totally unfeasible, considering the present state of the Union, but nothing can undermine his confidence that European diplomacy can soothe a troubled world with the cure-alls of dialogue and compromise.
And they (the French MSM) didn't even mention the richly informative day-long conference on defense that one of Sarkozy's close advisors, Pierre Lellouche, organized for the UMP. Highly qualified speakers identified the clear and present danger from without and within, the interaction between global jihad and banlieue uprisings, the imminence of an Iranian nuclear threat, the rise of al Qaeda, the painful inadequacies of European defense--subjects that the French media apparently preferred to downplay.
But Iran's abduction of 15 British sailors off the coast of Iraq, and the March 27 riots at the Gare du Nord in Paris, have forced the hidden issues into the center of the presidential debate. We are facing an acid test for French democracy, a case study for Europe in crisis, and a decisive moment for the Atlantic alliance. What kind of an ally will the United States find when it wakes up on May 7?
My response : (plenty of typos in the original)
Interesting article... so to say
It's normal that an American writer would write about the current French election from a "foreign angle". But after making a terribly accurate description of Ségolène Royal, he sadly falls into the typical broad-brushing of the other main candidates and ends up in the classical la-la land of the Bush administration...
That's why I dare contradict him on several points.
The ascension of Bayrou is only partly the result of the shortcomings of Madame Royal. It has more to do with the search for new solutions among big parts of the French voters. It is not true either that he is "hiding his program" (available everywhere) or that he wants back to the old 4th Republic. A more parliamentary system with proportional voting (as he proposes it) is mainstream in today's Europe and has been so for many years. It doesn't mean that those systems are "unstable", not even the Italian one, which has been the most criticized. The two major exceptions to the current mainstream European state systems are France with a presidential system with majority ruling (a system which is the closest to the US one) and the UK having a parliamentary system with majority ruling too, instead of proportionality. Parliamentary proportional systems are the dominating systems in Europe. So accusing Bayrou on that point is sheer demagoguery. Or is Sweden "unstable" ? Besides Bayrou want to increase the President's accountability, not a bad idea these days...
The same applies about the "outsourced French defense". What Bayrou is rooting for is a more efficient and reactive European defense based on the UK/French military axis, since only those two EU countries have a real modern projection capability and high-tech to the US level (except in few areas). Of course the sheer numbers aren't of the US level, but the qualitative potential is there. Round 2014, Europe will have a fleet of 4 major modern carriers (with 3 minors one) several modern helicopter carriers, have already a modernized nuclear submarine fleet (already today France could nuke North Korea without leaving the harbour), cruise-missiles in class with the Tomahawk and soon stealth predator drones... this to take only some examples... What Bayrou wants is to ORGANIZE those ressources through joint ventures and integration to become less US dependent (which the US tax-payers should be glad for even if they only cover the NATO budget by 25%), but that doesn't mean giving the "button" to Brussels. Of course neocons don't like the idea, but that's normal. If you are a hegemon it's not good news.
But the core of the article is the obsession with "Eurabia". For non-informed American readers the part of European dwellers with "arabic" background is maybe around 6%, most of them secular and in any case far lower than the amount of blacks or latinos in the US. Implying that those guys are a potential threat to the security of Europe (are your Mexicans a threat ?) is complete BS besides the inherent bigotery. But of course it create fears, which fits a certain agenda.
Of course neither France or Europe have abolished the habeas corpus, or routinely abduct the local lebanese cell-phone salesmen, or torture them in Guantanamo or through rendition to some abject dictatorship, to find out that the poor soul had only to say everything that the CIA wanted him to say, including a plot to make Budweiser undrinkable (which wasn't that hard) and to rape Hillary (which would probably be striked out of the protocol because it could make the guy sympathetic in certain conservative eyes).
No, the French (and other European intelligence agencies) that pass on the only really reliable intelligence on Al Quaeda et al to the US through deep police work and infiltration, had found out that there were NO TIES (again!) between the riots and terrorism, that it was only a "Wyatts-type" rioting and nothing else. Which makes the matter nowithstanding serious enough. BTW recent analyses show that in today's US social mobility (the aptitude to move from a very poor level of living to a normal middle-class level or even above) is practically zero. The 60s are over and Reageanomics buried the American Dream for a long time. In Europe it is still not THAT bad (and at least our commie welfare prevent "them" to die for lack of insurance like recently a 14 year old tooth-ache plagued black boy in the richest country in the world), even if a lot of job has still to be done. So please no lessons on that one.
Another reminder is that around 250 potential terrorists have ben arrested in France so far, and about a third of them been convicted though regular trials and are sitting in jail for a while. Of course the French media don't make a big deal about it (I recommend the reading of the report from the anti-terrorist judge Brughière), but I could imagine what would be the turmoil in the US, if the Bush administration had presented such a (tortureless) record. They had probably won the last mid-term elections. Com'on guys, we can't send you all the time new crackpots in class with Moussaoui so you can "judge" him though some kangaroo court and Ann Coulter then insult the 9/11 widows.
The author goes on with another classical assessment, the one of the "Iranian nuclear threat". Well I can tell him that it is as much worth than Condi's and Powell's "mushroom cloud" or other Nigerian yellowcake fantasies. But how convenient since the "liberation" of Iraq as turned into a complete failure. But I can reassure him, François won't take a trip to Damascus (as much Christian he is) since Nancy does it so much better.... aah those "appeasers"....
Even if the French take the Iranian matter seriously and the Charles De Gaulle carrier is currently in the Gulf region, doing exercises with the USS Stennis and French Rafales and Super Etendards give close air support to NATO forces in Afghanistan, there is a big step between being on your guard and making the current hostage situation in Iran (provoked by the way by the partly botched US abduction of Irani diplomats in Iraqi Kurdistan) one of the major issues of the current French election. Vigilance isn't paranoia.
The funniest part is the one about Lellouche. Lellouche is a neocon who in 2003 whined on national TV with Madelin about the French sadly not understanding "that the US in Iraq would be greeted with flowers" and of course babbled all the Rumsfeld-Cheney mantra as if he was the press secreterary of the WH... Why would anybody take him seriously ? And Sarkozy isn't THAT stupid. That the European defense has flaws... what's new? Bayrou tries at least to propose viable solutions without touching to the national prerogatives. At least the French don't have to ask the US for permission to launch their nuclear missiles as the Brits have to do, since they overgave the complete chain of command to the Pentagon (with technical impediments too, in case they changed their minds).
That France needs a renewal, everybody agrees about that. But if I was an engaged US citizen living abroad, I'd be far more concerned with the international mess my country has recently created - in the light of what others can do to bail you out, since you show very little ability of doing that so far. And when writing about France possible contribution to influence the current situation as both a friend and an ally, I'd at least read what some candidates really propose instead of dismissing them through the prisma of my la-la land neocon glasses. So please take them off and we might have a constructive and objective discussion...