Monday, May 14, 2012

Neo-Atlanticism? Gaullo-Mitterrandism?

Le Monde chooses to describe the choice of foreign minister facing François Hollande as a choice between "neo-Atlanticism," championed by Moscovici, and "Gaullo-Mitterrandism," represented by Fabius. This alternative hardly does justice to the array of challenges that French foreign policy faces today. It harks back to a bipolar world in which the primary choice was whether to side with the West or stake out an "independent" position. The virtuosity with which one oscillated between these positions defined one's mastery of diplomatic statecraft.

Today's world is, first of all, multipolar and, second of all, far more in flux. The BRICs have become key players in the global economy. Africa is growing apace, even if its influence has yet to match its economic potential. Eastern Europe has managed its transition to capitalism better in most cases than its transition to democracy. Competition over raw materials including energy will loom large in the years to come. And America's focus has shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

For all these reasons, Le Monde's opposition seems to me too narrowly conceived. That said, I see little reason why Fabius should get the nod. He supported the No in 2005, he is no friend of Hollande's, and he served him badly in the campaign with his poor performance in debate against Sarkozy. He is a man of the past. Moscovici, on the other hand, may be too much of a smoothie: long on glibness, short on substance.

Perhaps there are other options, but Hollande does have a debt to Moscovici, who ran his successful campaign, at least nominally. Behind the scenes he may have demonstrated a competence not visible to outsiders. So he may be the choice after all, but not, I think, because he represents a "neo-Atlanticist" option. At this point I think Hollande's main goal should be to demonstrate his boldness, forcefulness, and independence--not only of the US but of the forces within his own party. So perhaps he has a more imaginative nomination in mind, someone from outside the ranks of the elephants. We'll soon know.

Hollande's Foreign Policy Challenges

Stéphane Trano paints a rather dire picture of the international minefield into which François Hollande is about to step. Cannon to the right of him, cannon to the left ... David Cameron is said to be out to punish him for his promise to withdraw early from Afghanistan. The Obama administration is said to be smarting still from Sarkozy's decision to sell arms to Russia. The Turks are still angry about Sarkozy's pandering to the Armenians. Even Rahm Emmanuel is annoyed, because Israel has been disinvited from the NATO summit ...

Rahm Emmanuel? Seriously? Surely François Hollande has more important things to worry about than Rahm's fit of pique. Trano darkens the picture unduly. The Turks, for all their public bluster, know that Sarkozy was just being a politician and that Hollande is not Sarkozy. Obama of course recognizes that Sarko l'Américain was no more or less reliable an ally than France generally is: always with the US on the major issues yet often going its own way when it feels it can or must. And Cameron is in a very fragile position himself and hardly in a position to inflict any real pain on the new French president.

Viewed more calmly, Hollande's international début comes at a rather quiet moment on the international scene--the euro crisis excepted, of course. That is the only major issue on his plate and the one that must be addressed forthwith. And then there is Iran and the nuclear question, which Trano omits. Michel Rocard is off on a mysterious "personal mission" to Teheran. We will see what he brings back, but it's difficult to believe that his trip is entirely "personal." Does he carry a message from Hollande? And if so, what is it?

Hollande's Economic Convictions

Mediapart purports to explain François Hollande's economic convictions by examining the record of his engagements as party leader, but the article ends in a rather crude indictment:
Dans cette dérive libérale, la responsabilité de Lionel Jospin est donc considérable – même s’il ne voudra jamais la regarder en face et refuse toujours, dix ans plus tard, de tirer un bilan lucide de la terrible débâcle de 2002. Comme l’est la responsabilité de Laurent Fabius et de Dominique Strauss-Kahn, qui ont lourdement contribué à couper le PS de son électorat populaire. Mais François Hollande a aussi sa part de responsabilité, même si elle est moindre. Très fortement solidaire de cette époque, il n'a d'ailleurs jamais aimé que l'on porte un regard critique sur les années Jospin.
 The article does note, however, that Hollande's whole approach to economic policy is more that of a manager than of an economic thinker. His basic education in economics was acquired at the business school HEC. In normal times, the pragmatic orientation of managerialism might be an asset, an immunization against the populist or workerist sirens to which Mediapart would prefer to see the new president succumb. But these are not normal times, and a more thorough grasp of the macroeconomic consequences of the available policy choices would be desirable in a president whose first challenge will be to persuade Frau Merkel that she is a victim of the paradox of thrift.

First Anniversary

It's the first anniversary of DSK's arrest. And tomorrow François Hollande will be inaugurated as president, a possibility I never would have imagined on May 13, 2011.