Tuesday, August 19, 2008

If Only Delacroix Were Still Alive ...

Le Monde has dispatched Bernard-Henri Lévy to Georgia. Perhaps the idea is that the sight of his bare bosom, like Liberty's, will rally the masses and turn back the Russians.

BHL is dispirited, however, by the absence of Georgian troops from the "front." On the side of the angels, as always, the intrepid crusader would be happier if plucky Georgian Minutemen, muskets in hand, were facing down Russian tanks and helicopter gunships. (Even the generals have been faster to learn the lessons of asymmetrical warfare than certain intellectuals.) Lévy has no doubts about the validity of the Munich analogy. Saakashvili admirers will be pleased to read the reporter's breathless portrait of the embattled president laying out his vision of a vast Iranian empire linking the former Armenian Socialist Republic, Moscow, and Teheran in a northern epicycle on the Axis of Evil.

What? Hitler, the Gulag, and Islamofascism all rolled into one, and nothing but Georgia to stand in the way of world domination?

Given the situation as BHL sees it, how can the West refuse to die for Tbilisi? Where is the promised support? he demands to know. Why did Sarkozy put it to his friend "Micha" that he must sign the cease-fire agreement? How could he have failed to rush headlong into the breach? One can almost hear the reporter without borders (or shame) speaking Prince Hal's Saint Crispin's day speech: "We happy few," BHL and a couple of companions, are there as witnesses to freedom's suicide. When nothing else remains, those who dare to dream of what might have been can still savor Lévy's precious témoignage. In the first person--is there any other?

O, tempora! O, mores! French journalism, rest in peace.

Sarko to Afghanistan

The president will be off to Afghanistan to reassure French troops that "France is at their side" in the wake of an ambush that killed 10 French soldiers outside of Kabul. The deaths are certain to provoke renewed criticism of France's military deployment.

Henri Weber's Europe

Henri Weber's op-ed in today's Le Monde is subtler than most Socialist position papers in the latest leadership struggle. Il s'avance masqué. The Fabiusien lieutenant does not attack the social-democratic wing of the party directly. He names no names, criticizes no courants. He merely notes the failure of what he calls "the social-democratic compromise of the 1990s"--a failure that he sees as European rather than specifically French and links to structural changes in the global economy. Rather airily, he invokes the need for "European" rather than "national" solutions to this dilemma, though with an absence of specificity that leaves one wondering exactly what he has in mind. Subtle, too, is his inuendo that social democrats have failed to respond to the "security" concerns of "les classes populaires" in particular and failed to manage the flow of immigrants. These themes, coupled with his acknowledgment of trans-European "renewal" on the Right, hint at a sort of left-wing Sarkozysm as a response to the crisis of the Left: charisma and "communication" rather than technocracy and managerialism. As political counsel goes, it's not altogether bad, but it's a politics that must be borne on the back of a champion, and Fabius, unless he reinvents himself, can't in my view carry the load.

Kouchner Finds Time

Bernard Kouchner is no longer too busy to meet the Dalai Lama. He will do so on Saturday, along with Carla Bruni. Evidently the situation in Georgia no longer requires his full attention, since the Russians have begun to settle in. France's position regarding South Ossetia is now as crystal-clear as its position regarding Tibet: both will be exploited for their publicity potential, but nothing will be done to alter the regional rapport des forces. Ainsi va le monde. (For previous comment, see here.)

Tanking Up

Two things are abundant on the Left: candidates for the PS leadership and think tanks. One of the latter, the Fondation Jean-Jaurès, has begun a refondation by replacing half of its advisory committee. Its Web site features a flashy teaser announcing that great things will begin happening on Sept. 3. Once you get past that, you find some interesting items, such as this study by Jérôme Fourquet of the rise of Olivier Besancenot. The social-democratic Left is obviously well aware of the challenge it faces. The only thing lacking is an idea of how to respond to it.