Sun Feb 20th, 2011 at 02:14:37 PM EST
One thing that struck me with the Wikileaks cables, is the overall good quality of the analysis -- regardless what you think of their orientation -- showing in general a high level of professionalism among the US diplomatic corps.
There was a time when the French diplomats too were reputed for the quality of their work and the networks they were setting all over the globe. However in recent years, career diplomats are increasingly being replaced with yes-men or people who have no higher qualification than being close to the French president and his ruling party.
Case in point: Remember the colossal blunder of previous French ambassador in Tunisia, Pierre Ménat?
At the height of the "jasmine revolution", on Friday January 13, Ambassador Ménat famously sent a diplomatic cable to Paris, stating that Ben Ali had "retaken the situation in hand".
A mere couple of hours later Ben Ali and his clan were fleeing to Saudi Arabia...
Sarkozy was unsurprisingly angry after Ménat who was recalled a few days later.
After such a gaffe, you'd think President Sarkozy would be careful in replacing him with an experienced diplomat who would spare no efforts to continue good relations with Tunisia and generally behave, well, diplomatic.
You'd be wrong.
Tunisians protest outside French embassy - want ambassador out - Monsters and Critics
Tunis/Paris - Several hundred Tunisians protested outside the French embassy in capital Tunis on Saturday demanding that the new ambassador be replaced.
Ambassador Boris Boillon, 41, a confidant of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, only arrived in Tunis a few days back. But the protesters demanded that he be recalled for his allegedly insulting behaviour towards a journalist.
At a meeting with media representatives, Boillon was initially very courteous and also spoke at times in Arabic. But he was reportedly abrupt with a journalist who asked him about France's attitude in the face of the Tunisian revolution. A video of this encounter rapidly spread on the internet.
Here's an extract of Ambassador Boilon's encounter with the Tunisian press (in French):
If you are familiar with the way Nicolas Sarkozy interacts with French journalists, you won't be surprised by Mr Boillon -- "a confidant of French President Nicolas Sarkozy" -- emulating his mentor's both aggressive and dismissive style with the members of the press.
This agressive style however, didn't go down too well in Tunisia: hundreds of protesters were gathered in front of the French embassy, shouting "dégage!" (scat!) and demanding the Sarko-boy's immediate "return to sender". A placard was even showing Sarkozy's famous "Casse toi pauvre con" (piss off, you jerk) from 2008 -- yes the Tunisians watch French TV.
Pretty good for a first day on the job, huh?
Boillon, who was previously posted in Iraq and speaks Arabic fluently, promptly apologized on national Tunisian TV (French translation here):
In any case, the new ambassador has his work cut out for him and a few fences to mend.
After last summer's cabinet reshuffle, Sarkozy's message was that he was now surrounded with "professionals" and focusing on his duties, with the next presidential elections a year away. Instead, we have seen an accumulation of gaffes -- this episode was just the latest in a long series.
The whole thing will be presented as an unfortunate (and isolated) incident; but it is the logical consequence of exporting Sarko-style of communication to the South of the Mediterranean.
What Sarko and his boys failed to notice however, was that "the South" has changed.
Update [2011-2-21 17:19:34 by Bernard]: Feb. 21, 2011:
And the hits keep on coming...
Another embarrassing video for the newly appointed French ambassador in Tunis. Last November on French TV, our Sarko-boy was indulging in a passionate plea for ... Muammar Gaddafi (who calls him "My son") (!), a man who "has made some mistakes".
And also a small sampling of what the Tunisian people think of Mr Boillon (with pictures!). How long before he's sent back to Paris?
The French diplomacy has become a slow motion train wreck...