Thursday, March 10, 2011


President Sarkozy's unilateral declaration of war on Libya is shockingly reckless. It was also astonishing to see on television tonight Alain Juppé's utter surprise, in Brussels, on learning the news, which was announced on the steps of the Élysée by ... Bernard-Henri Lévy. In short, Sarkozy is treating war as he might treat a crime by a recently released prisoner: he's gone off half-cocked, without consultation with his European partners, and announced that, no matter what anyone else thinks, he's going to make things right. The Lisbon Treaty seems to have been forgotten. The united European foreign policy seems to have been scuttled. And make no mistake: France's partners are mightily disturbed. Angela Merkel has issued a blistering statement about Germany having no wish to be dragged into a war on the side of a revolutionary committee whose membership is not even known in Berlin at this time.

It's really quite flabbergasting behavior for a head of state. Even Bush observed more forms before rushing into war. And whether France has the means to redeem the promises it has made to the rebels remains to be seen. Did Sarkozy even talk to his generals, or was BHL his only authority on the capabilities of the French Air Force?

ADDENDUM: A different point of view in the Times:

In a rare piece of encouraging news for the opposition, France on Thursday became the first country to recognize the opposition leadership and said it would soon exchange ambassadors with the movement in Benghazi. The move put France ahead of the United States and other European powers seeking ways to support the opposition.
France’s stance was viewed as a savvy gesture to show commitment to the uprisings and wave of protests in the Middle East and North Africa after President Nicolas Sarkozy admitted Paris was slow to recognize the strength of the movements in Egypt and Tunisia. It might also position France favorably in future oil deals if the opposition movement somehow manages to expel Colonel Qaddafi and take control of the country.
On the other hand, European partners continue to be unhappy.


PtitSeb said...

I agree on the recklessness of the decision, but there was no declaration of war on Libya...

Anonymous said...

Read it on your blog, checked it out here:
Il a dit qu’il était tout à fait hostile à une intervention sous pavillon de l’Otan (qu'autrement dit, il ne souhaite pas une participation des Etats-Unis).
Il a affirmé qu’en tout état de cause et si nécessaire la France effectuerait ces frappes elle-même.
And all I can think is 'why the face?' as Phil in Modern Family would say. I'm glad you're more articulate than I am when a head of state announces he's ready to go to war, like he'd announce he's ready to lose the tie for an interview, "so daring, yet so cool" - not.
Is he out of his mind? or drank too much espresso?

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Not formally, perhaps, but a pledge not merely to enforce a no-fly zone but to bomb the redoubts of the regime is in international law a declaration of war. Let's call a spade a spade.

Anonymous said...

Schneiderman agrees:

Kirk said...

Hmm, I didn't watch the news last night, and this morning, during breakfast, the news was obviously about Japan.

So I looked online, and there was nothing about a declaration of war. There was talk of air strikes, but that doesn't seem very different from what Clinton did to Libya in the past, to Somalia, to Bosnia, and others have done to other countries in similar situations.

FWIW, I do think that "BHL" is a self-serving media whore, and should certainly not be the person consulted for such issue...

meshplate said...

i don't like Sarko anymore than others seem to who post comments here, but in this instance he is right. The west collectively rehabilitated Gaddafi, so we have to take responsibility and recognize that this was the wrong thing to do. Recognizing that means helping a representative democratic legal state become established in Libya. All this hemming and hawing and handwringing about aiding (not invading) is so sickeningly hypocritical. Gaddafi always was a brutal killer and we knew it, but still we were barging each other out of the way for the chance to arm him. Did we wait for a universally agreed UN mandate to sell him arms? And now we have principles and scruples about aiding the people he will torture and slaughter with the weapons we sold him if we do nothing? It makes me feel ill to watch it. Because it might not turn out how we want? Because we don't know who we would be helping?

FrédéricLN said...

Oh, Juppé. How old are these times when he was treated as "l'homme fort du gouvernement", the strong man in this administration?

Well - I remember: one week old.