Thursday, December 13, 2007

Rama Yade Falls into Line

Rama Yade, who at the beginning of the week referred to Kadhafi's presence in Paris as the "kiss of death," said today that "the president of the Republic has consistently and successfully sought assurances in the realm" of human rights from the Libyan guide. One has to think back to the Moscow Trials to recall anything like such a speedy and complete repudiation of private convictions for the sake of the party line. Yade's reversal is all the more surprising in light of Kadhafi's denial, in an interview with David Pujadas on France2, that the subject of human rights had ever been broached in his discussions with the French president. To be sure, we have the assurance of Claude Guéant that the subject did indeed come up twice, once in a business session and again over dinner. The impression made on Kadhafi seems to have been limited, however.

I should perhaps make it clear that I think Sarkozy was right to receive Kadhafi in France. Kadhafi's evolution is to be encouraged, and it is usually a mistake to humiliate an adversary. But I also thought it was right for Yade and Kouchner to voice a protest against the decision, and I thought it was a mark of maturity that the French government was capable of tolerating such open dissension within its ranks. The war between morality and raison d'État is perpetual, inevitable, and may as well be conducted in the open. It's a step backward, I believe, that the whip has been cracked over Rama Yade and unfortunate that she thought her job sufficiently worth clinging to that she renounced her principles to keep it.

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Anonymous said...

From Ron Tiersky:

Art -- In general I agree with the way you pose the problem of Gaddafi's visit. But, as you say, the conflict between moral values and Realpolitik in foreign policy is perpetual. (I'd add, particularly in the case of big states whose foreign policies count
Let's imagine some of the consequences if Rama Yade had resigned: She would look good in the eyes of the human rights above all observers, and more or less all the French people would respect her courage. At the same time, however, her resignation (or, even more, B. Kouchner's) would amount to a disavowal (from inside the government by someone who is precisely an example of an audacious personnel policy) of Sarkozy's intentions on human rights and his integrity just as the hard cases are beginning to arise. As a government minister, Rama Yade has responsibilities for assuming the contradictions of policymaking. To resign at the first example of moral ambiguity would, in my judgment, have been a mistake. This way, she's still in office, and she still has Sarkozy's support -- that is, he didn't demand a resignation. Since it does seem that Sarkozy faced Gaddafi with questions about human rights, it would seem that the game with the Guide is at the beginning stages. In short, it seems to me that Sarkozy deserves to be cut some slack. He's shaken things up on both sides of several key issues (e.g. with Putin, with Iran's nuclear program). We can be sure that Rama Yade remains angry about being put in this situation and doubtless angry with herself --but this is part of the acquisition of the experience of being in government. In short, we need to cut Rama Yade some slack as well.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the corrective. I find your argument persuasive. I still regret that Yade wasn't allowed, or failed to find, a more dignified way of expressing the lesson she learned from this experience. Just as one shouldn't humiliate enemies, one shouldn't humiliate friends either, and I think Yade was humiliated. Kouchner hasn't been forced to bow this low, nor, I suspect, would he be willing to.

Anonymous said...

For all the unfortunate symbolism of receiving Qaddafi with such pomp on Human Rights day, Sarkozy does seem to have raised these issues with the colonel and gotten him to publicly condemn terrorism in general and Al Qaeda in particular. According to Le Point (a source I'd rather not cite, but I couldn't find these remarks in Le Monde or the Obs), Sarkozy "l'a invité à condamner sans ambiguïté les attentats d'Alger ainsi qu'al Qaïda, ce que le colonel Khadafi a été amené à faire," and on Wednesday Qaddafi called the recent terrorist attacks in Algeria "actes du diable" and said that "les gens qui appartiennent à al Qaïda sont des criminels dans ce cas-là". Of course, Qaddafi has his own reasons for opposing al Qaeda, which would like to overthrow his regime, too, and replace it by an Islamic one.