Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Prestige of Arms

I thank Anonymous for this link concerning the gain in Hollande's popularity since the French incursion into Mali:
Et un sondage de popularité, publié hier, et indiquant un regain de popularité, emballe l'ensemble. C'est donc parce que l'Armée française a libéré Tombouctou, que Merkel et Cameron sont présumés, par les journalistes français, devenus impressionnables par la parole de la France. La crédibilité, la popularité, engrangées par la campagne, pour l'instant victorieuse, de l'Armée française, sont présumées transposables sur le champ de bataille de la guerre économique.
Absurde, mais instructif, tant cet emballement irraisonné a le mérite de rappeler, à ceux des Français qui n'ont pas connu personnellement Bonaparte, Pétain ou Boulanger, les mécanismes inconscients du prestige des armes, et de l'illusion, étrangement toujours vivace en ce nouveau millénaire, selon laquelle les chefs de guerre prestigieux font les meilleurs dirigeants politiques.
Yes, the "unconscious mechanisms of the prestige of arms" seem to have given President Hollande a needed boost and revived hopes in his presidency. I don't expect it to last long, however. Nor do I believe that Hollande decided to resort to force because he thought it would give his presidency such a boost.

The test of his leadership will be to see whether he can figure out how to capitalize on the opportunity to assert himself as a more active president. His speech yesterday in Strasbourg was an opportunity not seized. To be sure, he did remind his European partners of the need for solidarity in a time of crisis. But the bolder accents of his presidential campaign were missing. There was no mention of such concrete manifestations of solidarity as Eurobonds or massive investment in a European Investment Bank.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit is not everyone's cup of tea as a politician, but I generally find his readiness to speak truth to power refreshing. As always, Dany rose to the occasion: "François, je t'ai compris." How compactly, with this parodic choice of diction and rhythm, did he signal the distance between François Hollande and another French president who knew the prestige of arms and who had once uttered the memorable phrase "je vous ai compris" in Algiers. And who had then maneuvered for five years to give the crowd not what it thought it wanted but what it in fact needed.

"The European budget needs to be increased," Cohn-Bendit reminded the French president, who still thinks he can finesse the difference between himself and Merkel and Cameron in this regard. Maneuver if you must, Cohn-Bendit seemed to be saying, but know where you want to end up, and be sure that you've made the right choice. If you cannot renounce austerity forthrightly, then at least be sure you renounce it subtly and have not drunk of the poisoned chalice.