Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fillon Steps Out

Steven Erlanger reports:

But Mr. Fillon, like Mr. Sarkozy, spoke cautiously about any military intervention in Libya, which Western diplomats said France has opposed inside NATO and at the United Nations. Mr. Fillon said the prospect of a no-flight zone over Libya needed a United Nations Security Council resolution, “which is far from being obtained today,” and would require the involvement of NATO.
“No one today in Europe has the means to carry out this operation alone,” Mr Fillon said. “It would be necessary to involve NATO, and I think that has to be thought about. Should NATO get involved in a civil war to the south of the Mediterranean? It is a question that at least merits some reflection before being launched.”
He questioned whether NATO should get involved in a civil war in a North African country, in part because of the bitter history of European colonialism there. But he said that a no-fly zone is an option under study.
 Now, this is interesting for two reasons. First, is it really the "bitter history of European colonialism" that is Fillon's concern? Or is it that he wants France, which has stepped up its humanitarian aid to Libya's liberated zones, to retain its national brand on any further operations, including military ones--which he is right to approach cautiously?

Second, just the other day, Henri Guaino said that foreign and military policy is and always has been la chasse gardée of the president in the Fifth Republic. But this is the prime minister speaking out forthrightly on the major foreign policy issue of the moment, as if to rebuke Guaino in public. It's worth noting.

Finally, on the dilemmas of intervention, I commend this piece by Judah Grunstein. A less cautious response is outlined here.


Mark said...

What do you mean specifically about France retaining its national brand? Retaining the right do things outside NATO, or the EU? Why not as long as that is to do some real good and not just so it can grab some headlines and swell heads in the Elysee and Quai d'Orsay.

Grunstein I don't agree with. Equating Iraq and Libya is false, at least the Iraq of 03. There was no democratic uprising there. We did stand by and let the Kurds be slaughtered by Saddam in 91, which may be why they didn't push flowers in our rifles when we arrived on 03.

Secondly, it's not simply a matter of unpredictable costs in men and treasure preventing us from intervening. What really makes us hesitate is the fear that by establishing a democracy it's NOT going to benefit us.

That is wrong because If we don't at least assist (not intervene), the outcome will be worse. We will look like hypocrites leaving democrats to be slaughtered by dictators we supported. If the protestors succeed under such circumstances, will they be amenable to the west even if they aren't fundamentalists?

People achieving independence from western wishes is what we fear. Isn't that what the US fought the 1776 revolution to achieve: self-determination? Freedom from foreign (British) rule? Our leaders don't want democracy, not abroad and not at home.

Arthur Goldhammer said...


Mark said...

The Libyans have it exactly right. Good for them! However, we should offer our assistance without picking winners or losers. This should include armaments since we armed Gaddafi. Atonement for past sins is the order of the day, not aggravation of them.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Mark, sorry about the misplaced comment (see previous post). Here is another plea for limited intervention or non-intervention:

Note the picture as well as the text. Incidentally, this is not my position. I favor limited intervention, but I understand the caution of Western leaders given some of the unintended consequences of past interventions. Leave Iraq aside and think of Kosovo, where we made mistake after mistake and injured people we were trying to help. Ignorance is always good reason for caution, and about Libya we are sadly ignorant. Prudence is not weakness, rashness is not boldness or strength.

Mark said...

I agree completely with the writer of the Guardian article. I feel that you somehow feel that I am an interventionist. No, I didn't call for intervention. However, I did say that the west had a moral duty to stop Gaddafi killing his own people since we put the guns in his hands. To do nothing is thus not an option and neither is intervening, since this is all we've ever done creating dictators hooked on cash, arms and technical experts. Assistance then but for a limited time for the purpose of getting rid of Gaddafi: a no fly zone (which is intervention of a limited sort), arms, food, medicine, short term cash, doctors, relief aid of all kinds for the humanitarian crisis are all things we can do, However, it my belief that we really owe this to the Libyans and others. If we don't things really may go worse for them and for us. And we have to hurry up about it. I find H Clinton's waiting to see how things go approach despicable. It like she's wagging her finger saying no fundamentalists after all we have done to thwart the populations of the middle east.

Mark said...

Interesting to note that the German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has resigned for plagiarism. Obviously this is a bad thing, but at least he was forced out. The more minor nature of his fault compared to MAM's leads me to believe that if were there would be all kinds of spin and obfuscation, but he'd never be forced out. There is no such thing as principle for Sarko, only opportunism.

Mark said...

The BBC is reporting that Paris has questioned the need for a no fly zone? Do you know about it? And do you know why?