Sunday, November 4, 2007

Sarkozy, The New Blair?

In comments to the previous post, Yan said:

What a pity to see Sarko wanting to follow his hero Tony Blair in snuggling up to Bush. ...
Do you think Sarko's approach to the US reflects French sentiment generally?

And Alain Q. remarked:

I think the change is more in form than substance.

I tend to agree with Alain Q. Nothing has yet forced Sarkozy to stake out a position opposed to the US. He appears to believe that there is little to be gained from maintaining a staunch position against past U. S. actions. Chirac had hoped to lead a coalition of the unwilling, but it never materialized. Passive resistance is not really a viable foreign policy option. Thus far, Sarkozy has signaled only that he does not wish to stand on principle. He is willing to reconcile with the U. S., but that tells us nothing about which American policies he will support and which he will oppose. A judgment will have to await a defining event. The statements made thus far on Iran don't really indicate where the two countries are likely to converge or diverge. To say that one is opposed to an Iranian nuclear weapon is cheap talk until it comes to doing something about it, and how Sarkozy perceives the risks involved in possible courses of action is not at all clear to me. We constantly hear about how much he likes America, but so did Chirac, who was fond of telling stories about his Cadillac convertible and summer working as a soda jerk at the Howard Johnson's adjacent to my alma mater (HoJo's is now a MicroCenter computer discount store--times change, as do regimes). Nostalgia for halcyon days in Cambridge did not determine Chirac's policy when push came to shove; nostalgia for jogs in Central Park and speedboating on Winnepasaukee won't determine Sarkozy's policy either.

As for "French sentiment generally," I think the most one can say is that public sentiment on foreign policy matters is extremely volatile. The French know they don't like Bush, but do they know much about Hillary Clinton's foreign policy positions, or Rudy Giuliani's? Most Americans don't either. Have they made up their mind that an Iranian nuclear weapon is intolerable? How do they view the clash between the US and Russia over missile defense in eastern Europe? What attitude do they want France to take toward China and its position on currency? These issues didn't figure prominently in the presidential campaign, so Sarkozy has a fairly free hand to jibe and tack as winds change. He needn't decide where he's headed until events force his hand.


yan said...

Thanks for a full, well reasoned response-which is why I love this blog.
I take your point on Chirac and nostalgia but I don't recall him picnicking with US presidents when he was in office and then rushing for an official visit less than 3 months later!

Unknown said...

It's always difficult to assume the position of people, wether they are French or American, but from what I hear around me, a war on Iran (and remember that's the word Kouchner used)is not something French would approve.

A majority probably makes a difference between Iranians and their governement and thinks the best is to wait the fall of the actual leaders.

As for Hilary Clinton (and Giulani) we bet they can't be worse than G.W.Bush (although I understand, some neo-conservatives help Giulani frame his views on foreign policy).

China : our elite is open to the world (the "mondialisation"). People is probably more on the protectionist side (the no at the europan referendum, the worker's vote for Le Pen were mostly protecionists).

As for Sarko, I am not sure we really care. We did nos appreciate his holidays with the super-rich in US (nothing to do with anti-americanism : what vould Americans say if their President went holidaying in Europe with nobilities?)