Tuesday, August 28, 2007

More Foreign Policy (Response to Françoise)


Françoise posted the following comment to my previous post on Sarkozy's foreign policy speech yesterday:

Je découvre votre blog avec grand plaisir. Il est extrêmement intéressant d'avoir l'opinion d'amis "non-français" sur notre pays.

Je retiens votre petite remarque (sarcastique ?) : "Was the word "failure" mentioned in Kennebunkport?"

Je ne sais pas ce qui s'est dit (dans "l'intimité") à Kennebunkport, mais tout ce discours de politique étrangère m'apparaît plein de contradictions, dans le texte lui-même et par rapport à l'attitude du président français pendant son séjour aux États-Unis.

Quelle est votre analyse à ce sujet ?

Thanks for your comment, Françoise. Your question provokes a somewhat lengthy response, so I'm putting it here in the main thread. First, I agree that Sarkozy's speech is full of contradictions. Indeed, it's quite interesting to read the innumerable reactions it has provoked, since each of the many commentators seems to focus on a different aspect of the speech as the most important point, suggesting that the address is something of a Rorschach test, which tells us more about the reader's preoccupations than about the president's. The New York Times, for example, emphasized the threat of force against Iran. European commentators were far less interested in this aspect of the speech, and while several mentioned Sarkozy's "strong" statement on Iran, none saw a threat to use European force. Indeed, what Sarkozy said was that negotiation was the only way to escape from "a catastrophic alternative: the Iranian bomb or the bombardment of Iran." Was he thinking of an American bombardment of Iran? Of an Israeli bombardment of Iran? Or of a French/European bombardment of Iran? He didn't say. What he did say was only that an Iranian bomb was "unacceptable" to him, leaving the rest highly ambiguous. (For François Heisbourg's rather more appreciative take on the Iran statement, see here.)

Now, ambiguity is sometimes useful in diplomacy, but it can also be very dangerous, particularly when the ambiguity involves the use of force. Le Figaro characterizes Sarkozy's policy in a headline as "voluntarist" and draws a parallel with what is sees as his "voluntarism" in the domestic arena. I'm not quite sure what is intended by this adjective, unless it is to suggest that Sarko means to be an active presence in the foreign policy arena, seeking to anticipate and perhaps precipitate events rather than responding to them. So, for example, rather than wait for an opportunity to display lessened hostility to the United States, he chose to vacation in New Hampshire to make a point of the reorientation. But if this is voluntarism, he may be overdoing it. He could have indicated his willingness to help the United States out of its current impasse without fawning over a discredited president, to the point of rubbing his shoulder affectionately--I believe that the body language of the Kennebunkport encounter mattered more than the diplomatic language of the two leaders. Yet having thus aligned himself with Bush, he proceeded in his speech yesterday to describe the Bush policy as un échec, a failure, which is quite accurate, only to proceed to an ambiguous statement about Iran, leaving observers to wonder whether he is now aligning himself with Bush's increasingly bellicose pronouncements on the Iranian question or persisting in the previous Franco-European course of mounting sanctions coupled with negotiations. The ambiguity strikes me as deliberate, and insofar as it encourages the va-t-en-guerre faction in the United States, regrettable.

Much more interesting is the proposal for a Mediterranean Union, which came in for considerable attention in his speech. Sarkozy seems to have it in mind to foster a bloc of moderate Muslim states in North Africa as a counter to the "failed states" of Syria, Iraq, and Iran. He would like to join Turkey to this bloc as a substitute for Turkish membership in the European Union. And he sees Europe--but more importantly, France, with its longstanding cultural ties to the Maghreb--as the principal interlocutor with this new bloc, a stable regional counter-power to the turbulent Crescent. It's an interesting proposal, and one which I think will receive much development shortly under the leadership of Jean-David Levitte, who, far more than Kouchner, will I think be the key man in the emerging French foreign policy. Kouchner is the showman; Levitte is the strategist. Kouchner will figure in the splashier initiatives. Levitte will articulate the grand dessein. Kouchner's recent faux pas after his Baghdad visit demonstrates that he is still a neophyte in foreign policy, but it scarcely matters, since Sarkozy is in effect his own foreign minister.

That's all I have time for just now.

5 comments:

L'Amerloque said...

Hello !


/*/…/… Much more interesting is the proposal for a Mediterranean Union, which came in for considerable attention in his speech. Sarkozy seems to have it in mind to foster a bloc of moderate Muslim states …/… /*/


? M Sarkoky's Union Méditerranéenne project is a slight rehash of the "Barcelona Process":


// …/… Coopération méditerranéenne : ce qui existe déjà. Le « Processus de Barcelone » que Nicolas Sarkozy trouve peu efficace, pourrait pallier ses insuffisances actuelles grâce à l’Union de la Méditerranée. Le Processus de Barcelone trouve son nom les 27 et 28 novembre 1995, quand les ministres des affaires étrangères des 15 pays de l’Union européenne (ils n’étaient pas encore 27 comme aujourd’hui) et ceux de 12 pays méditerranéens (les pays du Maghreb et du Machrek ainsi que l'Autorité palestinienne, Israël, la Turquie, Malte et Chypre) se réunissent à Barcelone et lancent le « Partenariat euro méditerranéen » avec trois objectifs : la création d’un espace de paix et de stabilité, l’établissement d’une zone de prospérité partagée et de libre échange, enfin, un rapprochement entre les peuples. De l’avis général, ces objectifs n’ont largement pas été atteints. Le « Processus » est en panne. …/… //
http://www.toutsurlalgerie.com/contenu.php?id=25


Yet he says that his project shouldn't be a "substitute" for it …


// …/… Union Méditerranéenne
"Aussi bien à Alger qu’à Tunis, le Président Sarkozy a exposé son projet d’Union Méditerranéenne, qui était l’objet principal de son déplacement au Maghreb. Il a expliqué que cette Union devrait aboutir à un espace commun entre les pays de Nord et de Sud de la Méditerranée, qui doivent avoir comme but : la solidarité, la coopération, la sécurité, l’écologie et le co-développement, l’intégration régionale, et, enfin, une politique concertée en matière d’immigration. Il a précisé que l’Union Méditerranéenne ne devrait pas se substituer aux organisations régionales existantes : UMA, Processus de Barcelone, Politique européenne de voisinage, G5+5. Si la réaction de la Tunisie a ce projet a été chaleureuse, celle de l’Algérie a été plus prudente, en attendant plus de détails sur ce projet. La seule innovation qui a concerné ce projet, est la décision du Président Sarkozy de réunir une Conférence intergouvernementale des Chefs d’Etat et de gouvernement des pays riverains de la Méditerranée, pour le premier semestre 2008, en vue de finaliser ce projet pendant la présidence française de l’Union européenne qui débutera le 1er juillet 2008. Le mystère n’a pas été dévoilé concernant les éventuels participants à cette conférence, notamment les cas de la Libye, de la Turquie et d’Israël. La seule indication est que le Président Sarkozy souhaiterait la participation la plus large possible". …/… //
http://www.armees.com/Sarkozy-au-Maghreb-un-bilan-mitige-selon-l-Institut-Marocain-des-Relations,23509.html


M Sarkozy quite specifically includes "Israel" in his plans …

// .../... L’Europe ne doit pas, ne peut pas oublier qu’elle est une puissance méditerranéenne. Derrière la question de la Turquie, c’est en fait toute la problématique de nos rapports avec la Méditerranée qui se profile. Question vitale pour toute l’Europe du Sud mais également pour l’identité européenne qui doit tant à la civilisation méditerranéenne. C’est la raison pour laquelle je milite pour des partenariats privilégiés avec les pays de la région, au premier rang desquels j’inscris Israël. Cette solution me semble bien préférable à celle de l’adhésion à l’Union européenne. .../... //
http://sarko2007.free.fr/articles.php?lng=fr&pg=1109


In N. Africa …


// …/… Avec son projet, Nicolas Sarkozy souhaite rassembler les pays du pourtour méditerranéen comme l’Algérie ou la Turquie qui, selon le chef de l’Etat, n’ont pas vocation à intégrer l’Union européenne mais ayant des liens privilégiés avec l’Europe.
Sont concernés par cette Union méditerranéenne : la France, l’Espagne, le Portugal, l’Italie, la Grèce, Chypre, Malte, Israël, l’Egypte, la Libye, la Tunisie, l’Algérie, le Maroc, le Liban et la Turquie, soit les pays couverts par l’actuel partenariat Euromed. …/… //
http://www.armenews.com/article.php3?id_article=33292

and

// …/… « Il ne faut exclure personne », a-t-il dit à Alger. Quelle place aura Israël dans l’ensemble à bâtir ? La Libye, qui est exclue de facto de la nouvelle politique de bon voisinage européenne, acceptera-t-elle l’offre française ? …/… //
http://www.algeria-watch.org/fr/article/pol/france/alger_favorable.htm



/*/ …/… It's an interesting proposal, and one which I think will receive much development shortly under the leadership of Jean-David Levitte, who, far more than Kouchner, will I think be the key man in the emerging French foreign policy. Kouchner is the showman; Levitte is the strategist. Kouchner will figure in the splashier initiatives. Levitte will articulate the grand dessein. Kouchner's recent faux pas after his Baghdad visit demonstrates that he is still a neophyte in foreign policy, but it scarcely matters, since Sarkozy is in effect his own foreign minister. …/… /*/


En ville it has been understood for some time that M Levitte is the executant, and Pierre Lellouche the strategist. Bernard Kouchner is – perhaps – the showman, but he is more importantly … the fusible.


All this has given rise to quite a few comments at les diners en ville, but the rentrée isn't really in full swing yet … (grin) …


Best,
L'Amerloque

Anonymous said...

Merci beaucoup Arthur, d'avoir pris la peine de répondre longuement à ma question.

Je vous ai lu attentivement et je retiens ces deux remarques ; 

"Now, ambiguity is sometimes useful in diplomacy, but it can also be very dangerous, particularly when the ambiguity involves the use of force".

"The ambiguity strikes me as deliberate, and insofar as it encourages the va-t-en-guerre faction in the United States, regrettable."

C'est exactement cela qui cause un malaise à la lecture de ce discours, me semble-t-il. Malaise déjà présent à la suite du choix qu'a fait M. Sarkosy d'aller aux États-Unis pour ses "vacances". Malaise aussi (et vous le notez bien :  "the body language of the Kennebunkport encounter mattered more than the diplomatic language of the two leaders.") à voir la relation sinon d'amitié, au moins de grande sympathie entre M. Bush et M. Sarkosy.

M. Sarkosy n'a jamais caché son admiration pour les États-Unis, et pour le régime présidentiel "à l'américaine".

La phrase sur la Russie, qui semble venir en écho des critiques américaines, ne me paraît pas de bonne diplomatie.

On pourrait discuter des heures de ce discours. Pour ma part je le trouve assez inquiétant dans ce qu'il semble, malgré les critiques qu'en fait M. Sarkozy, reprendre bien des positions de la politique américaine actuelle. Il est à noter qu'autant Mr. Lellouche que Mr. Kouchner sont aussi très "pro-américains". Mr. Kouchner est-il un fusible, ou celui qui dit tout haut (à la place de Mr. Sarkozy) ce qu'il "ne faudrait pas dire" ?

Je pense que vous avez tout à fait raison quand vous remarquez : "Sarkozy is in effect his own foreign minister".

Peut-être sera-ce là son talon d'Achille : Vouloir "être partout", tout faire tout seul, tout le temps.

Unknown said...

Amerloque,
Thanks for your comment. I don't agree that Lellouche is the strategist. Lellouche has had some bitter things to say about Sarkozy (search on his name in this blog). He expected a committee chairmanship and didn't get it.

Françoise,
Good points, but Sarko's bluntness toward Russia reflects European concerns as much as American. Bush wants to build missile systems; Europe is more worried about its gas supply. Sarkozy is putting Putin on notice. French policy has to be looked at it in other dimensions than the pro/anti-American axis. As for the the attitudes of Kouchner and Lellouche toward the US and the Iraq war, I would distinguish carefully. Kouchner was "oui, mais ...", Lellouche was more neocon than the neocons, ou presque.

Anonymous said...

Arthur,

Je suis d'accord avec vous. Je manque certainement d'objectivité en me focalisant trop sur l'aspect "ralliement aux États-Unis". Sans doute est-ce la craint que nous — la France — suivions cette voie.

L'Amerloque said...

Hello Arthur !


/*/ …/… Thanks for your comment. …/… /*/


Longue vie to the French Politics blog ! (smile)


/*/ …/.. I don't agree that Lellouche is the strategist. Lellouche has had some bitter things to say about Sarkozy (search on his name in this blog). He expected a committee chairmanship and didn't get it. …/… /*/


Yes, apparently he didn't receive any "promotion" (grin). Amerloque is not convinced at all that obtaining a chairmanship was Pierre Lellouche's intention, though, in spite of the press reports. (smile) He is a regular guest quite often on Radio J, where he explains his positions in, er, less bitter terms. (smile) Amerloque has heard that the UMP honchos (what's left of them, at any rate) have preferred that PL devote himself publicly to Paris, where the upcoming municipal elections might turn out to be hard fought indeed.


In Amerloque's view, PL has been one of the movers and shakers behind certain aspects (not all !) of French foreign policy for a number of years now. For example, he became Jacques Chirac's diplomatic advisor in 1989 … when M Chirac was still Mayor of Paris. PL's somewhat "blah" public persona and relatively low level French elective office (he is a deputé from Paris) seem to overshadow (if not hide) a genuine mastery of foreign affairs. Yet his positions have not always been the ones adopted by France: he split with M Chirac over the use of force in Iraq, and in the past he has been in favor of the entry of both Turkey and Israel into the EU.


PL is something of an eminence grise, as well as being a convinced Atlanticist (as is M Sarkozy in certain areas). Amerloque's feeling is that PL revised his views on the EU at the time of the US intervention in Iraq. A Union Méditerrannéene which would take in both Turkey and Israel has since then become in PL's opinion a quite achievable goal – an immediate one for peace - and he has rejoined in his role as a strategist, in a manner of speaking, the individuals who were at the origin of certain French positions in the first place: M Sarkozy (as M Chirac's protégé for many years) and M Levitte, the sherpa/ambassador.


Arthur and Amerloque shall agree to disagree, then, on the roles of Levitte and Lellouche as strategists. L'avenir le dira ! (smile)


Best,
L'Amerloque