Monday, May 14, 2012

Neo-Atlanticism? Gaullo-Mitterrandism?

Le Monde chooses to describe the choice of foreign minister facing François Hollande as a choice between "neo-Atlanticism," championed by Moscovici, and "Gaullo-Mitterrandism," represented by Fabius. This alternative hardly does justice to the array of challenges that French foreign policy faces today. It harks back to a bipolar world in which the primary choice was whether to side with the West or stake out an "independent" position. The virtuosity with which one oscillated between these positions defined one's mastery of diplomatic statecraft.

Today's world is, first of all, multipolar and, second of all, far more in flux. The BRICs have become key players in the global economy. Africa is growing apace, even if its influence has yet to match its economic potential. Eastern Europe has managed its transition to capitalism better in most cases than its transition to democracy. Competition over raw materials including energy will loom large in the years to come. And America's focus has shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

For all these reasons, Le Monde's opposition seems to me too narrowly conceived. That said, I see little reason why Fabius should get the nod. He supported the No in 2005, he is no friend of Hollande's, and he served him badly in the campaign with his poor performance in debate against Sarkozy. He is a man of the past. Moscovici, on the other hand, may be too much of a smoothie: long on glibness, short on substance.

Perhaps there are other options, but Hollande does have a debt to Moscovici, who ran his successful campaign, at least nominally. Behind the scenes he may have demonstrated a competence not visible to outsiders. So he may be the choice after all, but not, I think, because he represents a "neo-Atlanticist" option. At this point I think Hollande's main goal should be to demonstrate his boldness, forcefulness, and independence--not only of the US but of the forces within his own party. So perhaps he has a more imaginative nomination in mind, someone from outside the ranks of the elephants. We'll soon know.

1 comment:

bernard said...

We will know in a couple days. I think that you are too hard on Fabius. He is a man with a quite astute political sense. He chose to personify the No in the referendum on the European constitution, and while that went against consensual politics and against the official position of his and my own party, we might do well to keep in mind that the No won then, and that again in the present election, candidates more or less aligned to these views did not do that badly. The political reality is that this view does exist and matters in France. As it does in a number of European countries which are enjoying the fruits of contractionary expansion. Greece is of course the ultimate example: we have been told for months that the greek population actually supported the present policies despite the pain. Consensual opinion just got a reality check in Greece and it turns out, right or wrong, that the population does not support these policies and has democratically let its opinion be known.

I had personally voted yes in the referendum while thinking that there was a massive disconnect between the EU commission and populations of Europe, due to the fact that the commission has not a shred of democratic legitimacy. Sure they are nominated by democratically elected leaders, but that is akin to the relevance of the French senate, which we only call "chambre haute" to confuse foreigners. Not to mention that European countries usually send personnel to the commission in order to get rid of them, and the present one is no exception: how many divisions, the baroness?