Tuesday, August 19, 2008

If Only Delacroix Were Still Alive ...

Le Monde has dispatched Bernard-Henri Lévy to Georgia. Perhaps the idea is that the sight of his bare bosom, like Liberty's, will rally the masses and turn back the Russians.

BHL is dispirited, however, by the absence of Georgian troops from the "front." On the side of the angels, as always, the intrepid crusader would be happier if plucky Georgian Minutemen, muskets in hand, were facing down Russian tanks and helicopter gunships. (Even the generals have been faster to learn the lessons of asymmetrical warfare than certain intellectuals.) Lévy has no doubts about the validity of the Munich analogy. Saakashvili admirers will be pleased to read the reporter's breathless portrait of the embattled president laying out his vision of a vast Iranian empire linking the former Armenian Socialist Republic, Moscow, and Teheran in a northern epicycle on the Axis of Evil.

What? Hitler, the Gulag, and Islamofascism all rolled into one, and nothing but Georgia to stand in the way of world domination?

Given the situation as BHL sees it, how can the West refuse to die for Tbilisi? Where is the promised support? he demands to know. Why did Sarkozy put it to his friend "Micha" that he must sign the cease-fire agreement? How could he have failed to rush headlong into the breach? One can almost hear the reporter without borders (or shame) speaking Prince Hal's Saint Crispin's day speech: "We happy few," BHL and a couple of companions, are there as witnesses to freedom's suicide. When nothing else remains, those who dare to dream of what might have been can still savor Lévy's precious témoignage. In the first person--is there any other?

O, tempora! O, mores! French journalism, rest in peace.

13 comments:

Durando said...

BHL's tireless activity is most tiresome. He would have us fighting everywhere even as the right wing decries a significant, though light loss in Afghanistan, all the while slashing the number of deployable troops. It is as if both sides were deliberately rummaging for incoherent positions. A broken clock still has to have hands to show the correct hour twice daily.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand your ferocious sarcasm.
While BHL paper is certainly biased, it does not pretend to be anything else than a testimony ("choses vues"). I agree that it's a bit irritating the way he always manage to put himself in front of the picture. On the other hand it makes for a lively narrative. Having been several times in Georgia and in Russia, this text makes me feel like I was there.
Let' just not call it a journalistic piece. One must of course be cautious about the story told by the peasant ; BHL relays it without quotes.
On the whole though, I think he does a good job, and I find interesting his interviews with Saakachvili. I do not find BHL is trying to make us believe everything Saakachvili said: it's up to the reader to form his/her judgment.

Anonymous said...

You have to weigh BHLs attitude against Old Europe's unparalleled ability to look away. Chechnya? No thanks. Sitting here in Germany I have yet to see a single detailed article describing the ethnic cleansing that is going on in Ossetia and Abkhazia with Russian support. Does anyone doubt that the Russians were waiting for an opportunity to move against Georgia? (That Georgia may have made a critical mistake by providing the oppurtunity at the wrong time is another issue.) I find your "ferocious sarcasm" inappropriate. The level of analysis here in Old Europe is saddening. You could smell this coming with the cowardly move by Germany and France to head off Georgian NATO membership in an attempt to placate Russia. A lot of good that did. Oh, well, no one is going to go to war over Georgia. We didn't help East Germany, Hungary, or Checkoslovakia during the cold war. Why would we fight for Georgia. The red herring thrown out by opponents of NATO membership for Georgia, however, also is ridiculous. the US only proposed a roadmap to membership for Georgia. Today there would not have been an obligation to defend Georgia. Presumably by the time membership had been achieved, such a move by Russia would not have been thinkable or beneficial. Cf. Tom Friedman's article in today's NYT.

Anonymous said...

Art,

I think that I see a soft spot in your analysis. How can you be sure that the sight of BHL would rally the masses and make the Russian tanks leave?
I would have expected the masses to surrender to have Russian tanks make BHL leave out of sight...

Rest in pieces as well, New Republic. How far away does one has to go to find a BHL-free newspaper?

Unknown said...

BHL est un insupportable donneur de leçons comme
beaucoup de français. c'est un braillard qui emploie des mots grandiloquents,un affairiste qui se voudrait philosophe.. un milliardaire qui n'a aucune idée de ce que les gens vivent.. très critiqué et moqué, il continue ... Citoyenne franco-américaine j'ai vécu aussi en Angleterre et suis frappée, à chaque fois, par l'incroyable nombrilisme, et l'arrogance, de mes compatriotes gaulois qui répètent comme des imbéciles que la France est le pays qui a inventé les droits de l'homme... une litanie parmi tant d'autres qui leur donne le droit imprescriptible de juger la planète

TexExile said...

On reading your post, I thought you seemed rather too hard on BHL. Then I read his piece. You were not. His analysis brought to mind (as so many things do these days) that wonderful line of Orwell's: 'Only an intellectual could believe something so stupid.'

Anonymous said...

A satirical piece on BHL's report...

http://www.rue89.com/2008/08/20/exclusif-choses-vues-dans-la-syldavie-en-guerre-par-bhl

Unknown said...

Thanks for the link, Christine ... the satire is well done. And thanks for the vote of confidence, TexExile ... I didn't think I was quite as off base as the more critical commenters seem to think, but I did wonder if perhaps I'd succumbed to the Lévyian disease of self-importance. Still, if ever there were a conflict to which the Manichaean interpretation to which press and governments gravitate so easily does not apply, it's this one, so I hope that some rhetorical turn, be it sarcasm or high dudgeon, might give pause to the legions of Crusaders ready to espouse yet another holy cause.

Anonymous said...

Surely he flew in and out of Georgia on his own private jet (he owns one and uses it, I'm told).

Alex Price said...

Is there any public figure sillier than BHL? It is astonishing to me that his work continues to be published and read. The allegations of very serious errors in his book Qui a tué Daniel Pearl? are one reason I don’t take him seriously. It seems that he is not a very careful reporter. Given that there are many fine writers who are also scrupulous researchers, why bother with him?

Anonymous said...

"Still, if ever there were a conflict to which the Manichaean interpretation to which press and governments gravitate so easily does not apply, it's this one, so I hope that some rhetorical turn, be it sarcasm or high dudgeon, might give pause to the legions of Crusaders ready to espouse yet another holy cause."

This only works if you keep your blinders on Art. Russia is waging a simmering "warm" war against the Baltic states (denial of services attacks, etc.), its generals have threatened Poland with military attack (sort of explains the sudden shift in public opinion there), and Certainly is going to try out its newfound assertiveness against the Ukraine. It will take what it can get.

The real danger here is that Iran now will feel free to pursue its nuclear ambitions more aggressively and that Russia will help it. This increases the likelihood that Israel with or without the US will attack Iran.

I'd much rather have BHL grandstanding to try to work up some public reaction in Europe in the hopes of getting Russia to back off than have these events snowball to what appears to be a very cold future. But Europe, just as you obviously, prefers to look away.

No one's suggesting a restart of the cold war, but the impact of Russia's actions should not be underestimated. How's the troop withdrawal coming along?

Unknown said...

Anonymous,
I don't advocate looking away. I advocate an end to bluster and provocation and a serious engagement with Russia along the lines proposed by Matt Yglesias here: http://tinyurl.com/5tf8r2

Anonymous said...

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