Monday, September 8, 2008

Facebook Group

I've created a group on Facebook, "Friends of French Politics Blog," where you can discuss topics that come up on the blog or anything else that seems pertinent. It's a closed group, so I guess your request to join will come to me for approval, but I'm not quite sure how this works. Let me know if you have any problems. I don't promise to join any discussions that may arise on Facebook, but I thought it would be useful for readers to have a way of launching their own discussions without having to accept my judgment about the news of the day. This is an experiment, so we'll see what happens.

To join, search "Groups" for "Friends of French Politics Blog." The link I gave previously didn't work. But this one might.

Sarko in Moscow

Sarkozy is in Moscow trying to negotiate a deal to allow EU observers to monitor Russian behavior toward Georgia. The Russians have rejected his initial proposal, calling instead for a policing arrangement under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. There also seems to be a dispute over the translation of the initial agreement and whether it called for guarantees of the security OF South Ossetia and Abkhazia or IN South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The commenter signing himself "F-Town," my principal contradictor on matters Georgian, recommends reading this article by BHL in The New Republic. I read it. It combines défauts et qualités in the patented BHL manner: a vigorous, energetic style, high moral dudgeon, a tendentious recital of recent history, a speculative assessment of Russian motives and goals presented as absolute certitude, a liberal use of emotive phrases such as "mass murder," an a priori rejection of attempts to examine the errors and misdeeds of the side he considers to be in the right, and a readiness to characterize anyone who would disagree with him as a cowardly appeaser. "Only by openly acknowledging the possibility of blackmail or an interruption in oil or gas supplies can we be realistic and pragmatic," he writes. Indeed--but who would deny that? And he fails to mention that it was one of the "young democracies" he champions--Ukraine--that attempted to use the interruption of gas supplies to Western Europe to strengthen its hand in market negotiations with Russia. And of course he places himself at the center of world history: if only the West had heeded him and his "friend, the writer André Glucksmann," all this unfortunate mess could have been avoided.

So, F-Town, I am not persuaded, and in the end I am not even clear what Lévy is proposing that would go beyond what Sarkozy is attempting to do. Lévy writes:

In the end, people say, "But even if we admit that they [the Georgians] are right, what can we do about it? What great country wants to go and die for Tbilisi?" The truth is that it is not about dying, but about being firm and conditioning our relationship with Russia on its minimal respect for the rules in its dealings with its neighbors. And the truth is that in this particular situation, it is not only about those neighbors but about us, we Europeans. Why? Because what is at stake are Europe's energy needs.

Indeed. Who would say otherwise? And the stentorian denunciation of the "mass murderer" ends with this wet squib:

That Russia is a great country, no one can deny. That it is inevitably a partner is obvious. But a partner can sometimes be an adversary. And maintaining normal relations with Russia does not exclude speaking clearly to it about truth and principles.

Absolutely. I'm all for speaking clearly about truth and principles. I'm not all for building up the Georgian military, inserting U.S. antimissile systems into Eastern Europe, setting up Ukraine and Georgia as NATO-protected pinch points for squeezing supplies of energy from Russia, or countering separatist movements with Western military support. So if we're going to speak clearly to the Russians, let Lévy speak clearly about exactly what he proposes, if dying for Tbilisi isn't it.

Another Pauv' Con

This time the pauv' con is un ami du Président. Sarko even took him to visit the pope. But Jean-Marie Bigard believes that the Pentagon was not struck by an airplane on Sept. 11, 2001; it was rather hit by an American missile, he says. And the World Trade Center was destroyed by "controlled demolition." "All the experts of the earth agree on this." And to think that this loudmouth is a presidential pal. Casse-toi, pauv' con.