Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What's Wrong with the Unions?

One answer.

Competitivity Poles Evaluated

France's 71 competitivity poles (competitiveness poles? centers of competitiveness? competition foci? how to translate pôles de compétitivité?) have been evaluated, and 13 are found wanting. During the presidential campaign, both Sarkozy and Royal promised to pump more money and resources into these strategic partnerships linking industry and universities--sometimes characterized as "industrial policy lite."

Another Reading of Le Livre Blanc de la défense

Here is another reading of the defense white paper by Louis Gautier, who was a defense advisor to Jospin. His critique centers on the idea that the document reflects "a world order defined solely by western fears. ... A pernicious security-oriented, anxiety-generating discourse is palpable on every page." This is a tough indictment. It suggests that France has not so much accepted American leadership as adopted America's unfortunate tendency in recent years to allow its foreign policy to be dominated by domestic fears rather than a realistic assessment of the ambitions and capabilities of other countries and non-state actors.

Indeed, Sarkozy visited a military base yesterday and inspected a drone. He had one question for the general: How much does it cost? (Answer: 1.5 million euros.) The drone is the symbol of a certain type of warfare: high-tech, remote-control, low-risk to one's own forces. Small, nimble, compact, high-tech: Americans will recognize the Rumsfeldian approach. France, similarly, is downsizing its forces and upsizing its ambitions: it hopes to project force into the Middle East and beyond. It also hopes not only to gather intelligence but to "project" it: the new strategy of "anticipation" seems to be premised on the notion that we need to understand foreign cultures better if we are to defend against threats emanating from them.

French drones manned by cultural anthropologists hovering over Asian caves: this might be a facetious way of summing up certain changes suggested by the white paper. A caricature, to be sure, but a caricature that M. Gautier at any rate seems to worry is being taken seriously by French defense planners.

Health Policy

I don't often cite Marianne, a magazine whose parti pris I find grating. But occasionally they interrupt the usual drumbeat of denigration long enough to publish a really intelligent article, like this one by Élie Arié on health policy. Arié is critical of the Left's tacit opposition to the planned closing of small hospitals, which, as he points out, may be conveniently located close to home but offer substandard care because practitioners do not see enough cases to maintain their skills. Safety is therefore compromised. He also chides the Left for failing to recognize that some drugs are ineffective and therefore should not be subsidized by state reimbursement. Instead of such futile oppositioin, he argues, the Left should pursue different objectives, and he details several flaws in Sarkozy's approach to health policy on which the opposition's fire could be more usefully traine.

National Identity

Review of two books on immigration and national identity by Gérard Noiriel and Patrick Weil.