Sunday, October 25, 2009

Spendthrift EU Presidency?

Did Nicolas Sarkozy spend too much on the French EU presidency? The Cour des Comptes has raised a collective eybrow. It seems a tad punctilious, however, given that the Parlement authorized 190 million euros for the purpose out of which 171 million were spent. The time to draw the line is before the checks are written, not after.

On Precocity

Hugh Brogan* on Tocqueville's precocity:

Many and many a talent has announced itself at the age of twenty-three. The vigour of manhood is suddenly at the flood, tutelage and self-doubt are shaken off, and a Byron, an Hugo, a Picasso appears. At twenty-four Pitt was Prime Minister; at twenty-five Bonaparte captured Toulon. Tocqueville's time had come ...

Too bad Jean Sarkozy's defenders didn't have this quote at their fingertips.

*Hugh Brogan, Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life, p. 89. (Ignore the error in the bibliography which attributes my work to someone else.)

Great Debate about French Identity

Eric Besson, minister of immigration and national identity, proposes a great debate on French identity, culminating in a symposium next January or February. I can hardly wait. So far there is one item on the agenda: "Resolved, French identity does not include wearing the burqa." Great start. Perhaps we can continue with "French identity does not include leaving one's own wedding to watch a Grand Prix on the telly with the guys" or refusing, earlier in the day, to promise "fidelity" to one's bride (Besson's ex accuses him of both infractions). Since French identity these days seems to place unprecedented value on respect for women, identity should start at home.

More seriously, when the Left railed against the addition of the "national identity" tag to the ministry of immigration, I thought the criticism was excessive. Now I'm not so sure.

Courtly Love

The troubadour-in-chief considers the phenomenon of the republican court that gathers around presidents.

Once More Into the Breach

Was the British victory over the French at Agincourt really that big a deal, or was Shakespeare simply the greatest propagandist of all time? You decide. And bear in mind that your decision may affect US military strategy now that our generals have become intellectuals:

But the most telling gauge of the respect being given to the new historians and their penchant for tearing down established wisdom is that it has now become almost routine for American commanders to call on them for advice on strategy and tactics in Afghanistan, Iraq and other present-day conflicts.

The most influential example is the “Counterinsurgency Field Manual” adopted in 2006 by the United States Army and Marines and smack in the middle of the debate over whether to increase troop levels in Afghanistan.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as the head of the United States Central Command, drew on dozens of academic historians and other experts to create the manual. And he named Conrad Crane, director of the United States Army Military History Institute at the Army War College, as the lead writer.