Thursday, April 21, 2011


Your intrepid reporter's job is to read stuff that you wouldn't want to read in the hope of coming up with that one revealing nugget in a bucketful of sludge. Normally, of course, I wouldn't bore you with the New York Times' latest waste of precious column-inches devoted to explaining to American women why they will never look as elegant as une vraie Parisienne (short answer: because, darling, you've never fallen out with Karl Lagersfeld after having been his top model and can't carry your 6-foot frame with only 125 pounds of flesh while consuming  "potatoes, chocolate, bonbons, wine, bread"). And then, ma chère, you probably haven't managed to hook up with Denis Olivennes:

Ms. de la Fressange’s life has not always been perfect. It turned tragic in 2006, when her husband, the Italian businessman Luigi d’Orso, died of a heart attack. She refers to the current love of her life, Denis Olivennes, a media executive, as her “fiancé,” even though they are not engaged. “ ‘Boyfriend’ sounds so childish, ‘partner’ sounds like a business. I guess I could call him, ‘the man I often see in the bedroom in the evening.’ ”

Denis Olivennes, in case you've forgotten, used to run the FNAC, then took over Le Nouvel Obs, and now heads Europe1 for Lagardère. Connected, quoi! So it's no wonder that "Ms. de la Fressange" somehow managed to get the Times to shill for her preposterous style guide. American Francophobia ceases to be a mystery when you realize that Americans are fed a steady diet of this kind of pap:

The perfect Parisienne never uses soap on her face or wears pink on her lips or goes out without makeup, even on weekends. She never buys long-stemmed flowers (too difficult to find a suitable vase), but likes to eat (“Rest assured, I do know a few size 4s.”). She washes her hair every morning. Asked if she feels like the perfect Parisienne, she replied, “Perfection is a nightmare. A great French wine would be nothing without the taste of the oak barrel or a touch of dust.” 
Gag. Blech. Aargh.

Quagmire in the Desert

Quote of the day:

“Some countries thought the Libya operation could be over quickly,” said a senior NATO ambassador. “But no military commander thinks so.”

France is not named, but naming is hardly necessary. If the Libyan war achieves nothing else, it will have served to highlight the divisions in NATO and the EU. Indeed, the very rationale of collective defense is being questioned:

“As soon as NATO went out of area it stopped being an alliance,” said François Heisbourg, a defense expert at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. “In area, it is an unlimited liability partnership. But now with a global scope, everything must be negotiated, and it’s all à la carte. That’s the post-cold-war world.”
Tomas Valasek, a defense expert at the London-based Center for European Reform, compared NATO to an American political party, “a coalition of countries with broadly the same interests, but with different views.”
It was inevitable after the cold war, he said, that NATO countries would focus on different threats: terrorism and Afghanistan for some, like the United States, Britain, Canada and the Netherlands; Russia, for the Central Europeans.
“As for the rest,” he said, “I don’t even know why they stay in NATO.”
NATO will never be what it was, Mr. Valasek said. “NATO will become more of a transactional place in the future, so, as in Libya, more often than not there will be coalitions of the willing, with NATO support.”

Indeed, the organization has not even been very effective as a military coordinator, because it has imposed additional layers of bureaucratic command and control on national military commands, resulting in less timely targeting (if BHL can be believed as a critic of military affairs--which is admittedly a large if). Since this is largely Sarkozy's war, it may prove to be a handicap if it is still raging once the presidential campaign starts in earnest. On the other hand, casualties among the allies remain non-existent, unless you count journalists, two of whom (Tim Hetherington and Chris Hodros) were killed yesterday, while French soldiers continue to die in Afghanistan (where there were major casualties yesterday) without much effect on French opinion.