Sunday, November 21, 2004


I watched the interview with President Chirac broadcast on Newsnight on BBC2 on Wednesday (17 Nov). Even allowing for the usual diplomatic reserve, there and in the press conference with Tony Blair Thursday he seemed to take a very conciliatory tone.

"The situation there is altogether different. The French in Cote d'Ivoire act under the mandate of the UN ..." But the US and UK actions in Iraq are with UN approval, now. There is the usual qualification, echoing his words in Feb 2003, 'at this moment', in these circumstances, he does not envisage sending French troops to Iraq. In truth, it is hard to imagine any circumstance in which he would deploy French troops in Iraq. It would be just too unpopular with public opinion.

The almost universal view is that Iraq is a quagmire, following a war based on a lie (unless there is a nuance to the word mensonge that my dictionaries do not mention).

Then again, there was the matter of the snub to Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi -  see this, via Greg.

Sarkozy is endorsed in a leader in The Times Friday : Chirac does not represent all of France, 'God speed Sarkozy', he believes in free markets...Well, up to a point. And there was an inconsistency, that I missed before, in regard to tolerance for Islam, looking again at this post (or this) as against this one. In France, Sarkozy is regarded not so much as a man of principle, a kind of French Thatcher, more as a perpetual motion self-publicizing machine

Meanwhile, on the Left, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Jaques Lang (both interviewed on France Inter) come up with very similar analyses. A victory for the 'no to the constitution' wing would leave the French Left marginalised and isolated in Europe. With whom would they build an alternative Europe? With the Austrian neo-Nazis or with M. Le Pen's FN? Far better to accept the constitution, negotiated though it has been by Chirac, then, after victory in 2007, build on it with social democrats from Sweden to Germany. Tony Blair, of course, is hardly mentioned in the same breath, though he is preferable to the British Conservatives.

 Sweden in particular is seen as a model to emulate. Clare MacCarthy, in support of  John Lloyd's piece on the 'nanny state' (FT, 13 Nov) writes :
This urge to protect people from themselves also underlies Sweden's most famous exercise in social control - the alcohol monopoly. ... Mollycoddling, Swedish-style, seems to work.


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