Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Prescience

I said the other day that the FARC had "instrumentalized" Sarko by allowing the release of the Betancourt video and letter. Now the Élysée says that Sarko is aware of the danger of instrumentalization and wants to reflect on the best course of action.

A Legible Lisbon Treaty

The National Assembly has done citizens the service of deciphering the Lisbon Treaty, which was cast largely in the form of amendments to earlier treaties that were themselves amendments to still earlier treaties, etc., and reconstituting the whole text in legible form. It can be read here in http or downloaded as a pdf (link at top left--warning: the text is 281 pages, 1.23 megabytes).

The NIE and Sarko

The release of a new US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) stating that Iran ended its nuclear weapons program in 2003 raises questions about Sarkozy's support for the Bush administration position on Iran. After meeting with Bush in August, Sarko returned to Europe and said that the alternative was between an Iranian bomb and the bombardment of Iran. His foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, intimated that the next step, if diplomatic pressure failed, was war. And there were rumors that Sarkozy was privately telling other European governments that Bush had decided to take military action against Iranian nuclear facilities unless there was real progress on the diplomatic front.

So what did Sarko know? Did Bush tell him about the then-secret NIE? Did he share other classified information with his newfound European friend? Although there is much speculation in Washington about the timing of the NIE release and whether or not there was new information that prompted it, it is quite clear that the US intelligence community had raised doubts about Iran's nuclear intentions before the Bush-Sarkozy meeting in Maine. If Sarkozy knew of this intelligence, why did he stick his neck out so far to support Bush? If he didn't know, will the possibility that Bush deceived him alter his attitude toward the current US administration? Thus far, the French reaction has been to continue to insist on the need for diplomatic pressure. But an alert opposition (if there is one) might want to ask for an account of information the US may or may not have shared with France.

Fitoussi Calls for Lower Rates

Jean-Paul Fitoussi, the head of the Observatoire Français des Conjonctures Économiques, has called on the European Central Bank to lower its rates at its next meeting. Fitoussi makes it clear that he believes there is no threat of core inflation (as distinct from inflation related to the increase in the price of oil) and that the threat to growth of high interest rates must be given priority. The OFCE thus throws its weight behind Sarkozy's position that ECB rates must come down.

Paul Krugman is less certain about what the Fed's next move ought to be--but of course the Fed has already lowered its Fed funds rate.

Social Democracy Declared Obsolete

Ségolène Royal, having reflected on the reasons for her defeat in a book which appears today, said yesterday that she "refuses to choose" between the ideas of François Bayrou and Olivier Besancenot. She added that the term "social democracy" seems "obsolete" to her and that it has the "connotation of a veer to the right ... as if a left more to the right would be more effective than a left on the left."

Six months of "serene" reflection--the word "serene" appears frequently in articles about her--do not seem to have clarified her thinking. Had she been elected in May, we now know that France would have had François Bayrou for prime minister. May we assume that if she is elected in 2012, she will appoint Olivier Besancenot as Minister of the Economy, Budget, and Labor?

Lost Faith


Jean-Louis Bourlanges no longer believes in Europe. He has his reasons: "The number of members, the heterogeneity of economies and societies, the revival of identity politics, and the absence of a specific, strong outside threat make major progress extremely difficult." He is impressed by the speed with which Sarkozy overcame Europe's post-referendum crisis and negotiated the Lisbon treaty but believes that this will simply allow Europe to limp along in its current state as a broker among national interests rather than an independent force. He counts himself among those who believe that "peace made Europe" rather than the other way around. Make no mistake: this is a bracing confession of disillusionment by one of France's leading Europeans. For additional comment, see versac.