Sunday, December 2, 2007

On the Violence in Grenoble

Several people inform me that the Libé story on which I based my comments on the violence in Grenoble was incomplete. Martine alleges that IEP Grenoble director Olivier Ihl was "hitting a student with an ironstick" (probably she means a barre de fer, or crowbar of some sort) and cites a video, in which a figure said to be Ihl can be seen hurling a garbage can. Here is another video (the link cited by Martine is incomplete):

And here is Ihl's version of the events.

Martine is correct to say that I cannot say for certain that the people involved in the incident were "anarchists." Nor can I say what provoked Ihl to throw the garbage can and call for the use of dogs. See also here.

Sarko Instrumentalized

The picture of Ingrid Betancourt is heart-wrenching, her letter more so. And now the FARC has called upon Nicolas Sarkozy to pressure Pres. Uribe of Colombia, who rejected Hugo Chavez's intervention, to get negotiations moving again.

I hope he succeeds. And no doubt Sarkozy would love to play the white knight again. But the evolution of this crisis demonstrates the dangers of "white-knight diplomacy." The FARC may live in the jungle, but evidently they know what has gone on in the world since last May. They know that Sarko made promises on behalf of France to get the nurses out of Libya, promises that went beyond what EU negotiators had offered. They know that the Betancourt case has been mediatized in France, where her children appear frequently on the national news. And they evidently surmised that by allowing pictures and a letter about her condition to reach the world's media, they could put Sarkozy in a position where he would have to pressure Uribe, and perhaps enlist his new friend in the White House, to "resolve" the situation.

I don't know enough about Colombian affairs to say what likelihood of success this stratagem may have. But the Sarkozy style of foreign policymaking is vulnerable to this kind of manipulation. Not that Sarkozy wasn't doing what he could beforehand to move the Betancourt situation toward resolution. I'm sure he was, and perhaps he will be able to slice through the Gordian knot. But until now he seems to have preferred to keep his moves on this front quiet; now the FARC has forced his hand and flushed him into the open.