Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to Tunisia has made his foreign policy priorities perfectly clear. He took with him 100 CEOs, the head of the MEDEF, and Rama Yade. Contracts were signed, the CEOs were praised for their "convictions," and Rama Yade canceled a scheduled meeting with the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women on the grounds of a "schedule conflict." This was after she was reprimanded by Sarkozy for refusing to shake the hand of her Tunisian counterpart. Having said that she would not go to Tunisia as mere ornament but would engage the repressive Ben Ali regime on the human rights issues that are her mandate, she acquiesced in the ornamental role after being told by Sarkozy, "Soit t'es d'accord avec moi, soit t'es pas en désaccord." C'est clair. (An apology for the cancellation came later from Yade's office but not from the secretary herself.) As for the president, he magnanimously invoked the horrors of Europe's past to justify his refusal to "teach lessons" to Tunisia. Strangely, he forgot the lesson he tried to teach last week about the failure of too many Europeans to concern themselves with human rights in Afghanistan. Apparently the horrors of Europe's past loom larger in some locales than others. If hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, Sarko seems bent on laying a king's ransom at virtue's door. In return, he expects the CEOs who accompany him on his travels to be rewarded handsomely.

I hope that Rama Yade draws the appropriate conclusion and resigns. Bernard Kouchner too.

ADDENDUM: Compounding the offense, Sarkozy evoked the need to combine French "intelligence" and "training" with Tunisian "labor."

History of the UIMM

La Vie des idées has a long but very interesting history of the UIMM, the peak association of metals industry manufacturers, which has been racked by scandal this year. Of particular interest in Danièle Friboulet's account is the discussion of the UIMM's historical role in stiffening the backbone of member firms by providing material support to head off any concessions to striking unions, as well as the history of covert support for unions perceived as more pliable than the intransigent CGT. Since the current scandal involves allegations of continued covert support of selected unions, this history is illuminating.

Charles Tilly

Charles Tilly, historian, sociologist, and political theorist, known to all students of France for "The Contentious French" and many other works, has died. He had just been awarded the second annual Albert Hirschman Prize.