Friday, December 18, 2009

Sarkozy of the North

President Sarkozy is treating Copenhagen as he has treated other international forums, as a good place to make headlines back home. "We are not here for a colloquium on the climate," he proclaimed. "We are here to make decisions." But this characteristic bit of Sarkozian rhetoric--the false dichotomization of talk and action, the personalization of the latter, the implication that heads of state are free to act at will, heedless of all prior constraints and competing interests, which must inevitably bow before their supreme arbitrages--is unlikely to impress China or the United States, which are at loggerheads over the issue of "measurement, verification, and reporting."

If Sarkozy has anything to offer on this score, he has kept it to himself. But by presenting himself as the Green Paladin, he "triangulates" the Socialists, caught between the UMP, which under Sarko has wrapped itself in the ecological mantle, and Europe Écologie, which has emerged as the environmental party to be reckoned with on the left. Needling Obama adds icing to the cake, and if the Copenhagen talks fail, Sarkozy has already designated his scapegoat. It's all working out rather nicely, even the joint arrival of Sarkozy and Merkel, who walked down the ecological aisle together, letting bygones be bygones.

As the neocons used to say, America is Mars, Europe is Venus, and apparently green politics is just a continuation of war and peace by other means. China, meanwhile, insists on remaining inscrutable--and jealous of its sovereignty. In post-sovereign Europe this smacks of archaism, whereas in imperial America it is perceived as a threat.

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