Friday, December 17, 2004

"Independent Since Its Inception"

In the context of its 60th anniversary commemoration, which Le Monde has been celebrating with 60 articles, one for each year and one per day for the past two months, the newspaper of reference has published an article on the birth of the independent daily.

The 60th Anniversary Celebration of Le Monde

What is hard to understand is why the International Herald Tribune's John Vinocur would evoke "the newspaper's close relationship with" the French Foreign Ministry and why John Keegan would call it the "organ of official opinion and of the ruling class", when it is a well-known fact that the daily's motto is: "Indépendant depuis sa création".

Especially when two members of the French media (who happen to be Le Monde's partners), RTL and Arte, featured broadcasts on the anniversary, called respectively Birth of a Free Newspaper and A Free Press.

Ah, well… let's take a look at Le Monde's version of the circumstances of its own birth. We are in late 1944, Paris has been liberated, the war is not yet over, and… a vow is made…

"I will present the full information. I will force them to read me!" That vow is made by the first director of Le Monde
So far, so good. Hubert Beuve-Méry sounds exceedingly forceful and independent. But wait a minute; let us read the rest of Laurent Greilsamer's sentence:
That vow is made by the first director of Le Monde as he is given the mission to create a newspaper of reference worthy to represent France abroad.
Huh? "Is given"? "The mission"? "To create" not a newspaper but "a newspaper of reference"? "Worthy" not to bring the news but "to represent France abroad"? What's going on here?!

Read the full story

At Least, the Stiff-Backed German Occupiers of Paris (Unlike the Big-Toothed GIs) Were "Correct"!

As we start commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge (between the big-toothed costumed civilians from l'Amérique, and the "correct" — the word that is always used — stiff-backed Germans), I thought it not inappropriate to dig out Mary Blume's full-page IHT article on the liberation of Paris
Was it really possible to be that happy and to believe you would be that happy again and again? In Paris, on the 25th day of a pleasantly hot August 60 years ago, the answer was an exuberant yes: the Germans were gone and the city was again free. "Paris outraged! Paris broken! Paris martyred! But Paris liberated!" General Charles de Gaulle proclaimed that evening in the Hôtel de Ville.

… In the days following Aug. 25 the GIs arrived with their candies and cigarettes, but the Day of Liberation was strictly a French affair, the Allies having allowed French troops to enter the city first because — again accounts disagree — they were polite, because de Gaulle manipulated them, or because they knew that the Germans would not put up much of a fight, preferring to save their strength for the Battle of the Rhine, and the Allies needed to do the same.

… Years later, when questioned about the occupation Parisians seemed only to remember the food shortages as if they encapsulated and somehow eradicated the dreariness and shame. … Days before [Colonel Rol-Tanguy] called for an insurrection on Aug. 19, the German and collaborationist press had fled, and civil servants went on wildcat strikes. The major strike was by the Paris police, whom the Germans had just disarmed. Whether the strikers wanted their arms to fight the Germans or the Parisians who had suffered from the many collaborators among them is not clear. It was the police who had rounded up 13,000 Paris Jews, including 4,000 children whom even the Nazis were ready to spare, and sent them in open buses and trucks across Paris to the Vélodrome d'Hiver and death, a journey that no Parisian seems to have witnessed, though it occurred by day.

… No resistant, dead or alive, was mentioned by de Gaulle in his Aug. 25 speech at the Hôtel de Ville where, fearful of Communist takeover by Colonel Rol, he declared that the broken city had risen to free itself, sparked by la France éternelle. Throughout his career, de Gaulle's greatness would be bolstered by his useful gift for denial; he was a one-man show, and at that moment, as Alan Moorehead wrote, he filled an immense void.

The city was ready to move from a frozen present tense into the American optative mood, and when the GIs were allowed to arrive on Aug. 26 the welcome was so joyous that they quickly became rather choosy about whose embraces they sought, preferring the prettier girls. Jean Genet contempuously described them as big-toothed costumed civilians, and indeed they did not resemble the "correct" — the word that is always used — stiff-backed German occupants.

The French physicist Albert Libchaber, then a child hiding near Marseille, remembers that the GIs seemed more like children than soldiers — "they gave us oranges and played with us, we hadn't seen soldiers like that" — and his wife, Irene, saw them jumping into the fountain at the Place de la Concorde. When the Canadian writer Mavis Gallant came to Paris in 1950, she said you could still recognize Americans because they strode while the French shuffled.

Liberated Paris, with its morning-after blues, was gray, literally; its facades would be cleaned under Culture Minister André Malraux in the 1960s. Food shortages grew as the black market collapsed. People were vengeful and wary. "There was a terrible discretion between friends, after the years of separation, not knowing what the friends had thought or done, or where they had been," Martha Gellhorn wrote.

…That Paris survived mostly undamaged explains in part the immense importance given to the Liberation, an importance far outweighing its military significance. The weeklong battle of Paris was not as strategic as Stalingrad or as tragic as the hopeless Warsaw uprising, fiercely going on as Paris was freed. Some 20,000 members of the Polish underground died after holding out for 63 days, almost twice as long as the 1940 battle for France. …

There is more fun stuff towards the end on how Paris was/is viewed by foreigners, what the attitude of its inhabitants is towards them ("It cannot be claimed that Paris welcomes foreigners, distrusting the Other as it does, but in ignoring them it tolerates them; it is accommodating in its indifference"), and such matters as this:
Parisians, for the most part, don't think a lot about high-minded ideas, these having been resolved by the heavy thinkers memorized in the lycée. Americans trumpet moral views and find them, especially to their cost today, hard to enact. Americans want to do the right thing, not realizing it can be plural. Parisians want to do things the right way; that is, with precision and style …

French Foreign Minister in Washington

The Frenchman who called for Iraq's terrorist groups to participate in discussions about the country's future is in Washington. Foreign Minister Michel Barnier met with Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, while George W Bush preferred meeting with Silvio Berlusconi. Once again, Paris considers, in Patrick Jarreau's words, that "the members of the European Union will only have influence with the American government if they speak with one voice." Would that voice be closer to Italy's, Monsieur Barnier? Or to France's?

In not unrelated news, here is more tragic news from Iraq that confirm the validity of the "peace camp's" position…

Thursday, December 16, 2004

No beating about the Bush for this Muslim journalist

I can definitely live with Bush as US president — or as the world’s sole policeman — for eight years or longer, but would hate to spend even eight days under the Taliban’s theocracy, Saddam’s dictatorship or a regime of Ayatollahs. I have a strong feeling that the vast majority of people everywhere feel the same way
writes Razi Azmi in Pakistan's Daily Times.
A fellow columnist and friend thinks that I am “soft on Bush”. Considering the degree of President George Bush’s unpopularity in Pakistan and worldwide, it would be an understatement to say that most readers will concur with his view. When Bush is the subject, nothing short of outright denunciation is in order these days. I, therefore, consider it necessary to offer an explanation for my perceived ‘softness’.

… for me Bush is a non-issue. … Bush is not a threat to the world or to democracy and secularism in America, but Al Qaeda and its many affiliates who carry out terrorist attacks in the name of Islam are a clear and present danger. And, finally, the US constitution and civil society are capable of putting religious zealots, not to mention bigots, in their proper place. In any case, those who take the worst possible view of George Bush may relax in the knowledge that on January 21, 2009, he will have passed into oblivion …

George Bush’s military intervention in Afghanistan and invasion of Iraq have attracted the most condemnation. However, the former has been an astounding success (above all, from the Afghans’ point of view), while the latter is hardly the debacle many commentators represent it to be. In Afghanistan, an utterly despicable regime has been replaced by an elected president. Schools and roads are being built where the religious police once trod. In Iraq, except for the twenty per cent Sunnis who rode roughshod over the rest of the population under the previous regime, the people are eagerly awaiting the elections due next month.

Many people grieve over the unipolar world and hark back nostalgically to the bipolar world of the Soviet era. They need to be reminded that during the heyday of bipolarism and Cold War, the world came close to a nuclear catastrophe (Cuban Missile Crisis), the Korean and Vietnam wars wrought havoc in the Korean peninsula and Indo-China, there were two Arab-Israeli wars and two wars between India and Pakistan. The Soviet Union invaded Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan, while US meddling led to the overthrow of an elected government in Chile and caused turmoil in many Latin American countries. Angola and Mozambique were torn apart by gruesome civil wars with superpower involvement on all sides, China invaded North Vietnam to “teach it a lesson,” and the Iraq-Iran war led to a million deaths.

Taking advantage of the superpower tensions, Morocco occupied Western Sahara and Indonesia invaded East Timor. The Cold War generated a war between Somalia and Ethiopia. It allowed South Africa to remain in the throes of apartheid and gave Suharto a free hand to kill or incarcerate hundreds of thousands of alleged communists in Indonesia. The Khmer Rouge, who wiped out a fifth of Cambodia’s population, were also a by-product of that era.

The world is now a much safer and a much more democratic place. Thanks to the unipolar world with America as the sole superpower, democracy is advancing while dictatorships are receding. Dictators who roamed with a swagger now scurry for cover. Disenfranchised people now feel empowered, from Afghanistan to Georgia, and from Iraq to Ukraine. Bush’s band of neo-cons is succeeding where his more illustrious predecessors failed; they act where others balked.

Bush is not a threat to any democratic dispensation anywhere in the world. If he has made the world a trifle unsafe for thugs and dictators, he is to be commended. In any case, he will be gone sooner than we think. But terrorism in the name of Islam, which now stalks the world, is an unprecedented development in terms of magnitude, intensity, scope and danger. I can definitely live with Bush as US president — or as the world’s sole policeman — for eight years or longer, but would hate to spend even eight days under the Taliban’s theocracy, Saddam’s dictatorship or a regime of Ayatollahs. I have a strong feeling that the vast majority of people everywhere feel the same way.

(Danke zu Franz Hoffmann)

Where colleges are not just indifferent to diversity, but downright allergic to it

The Economist:
… Academia is simultaneously both the part of America that is most obsessed with diversity, and the least diverse part of the country. On the one hand, colleges bend over backwards to hire minority professors and recruit minority students, aided by an ever-burgeoning bureaucracy of “diversity officers”. Yet, when it comes to politics, they are not just indifferent to diversity, but downright allergic to it.

… a new national survey of more than 1,000 academics by Daniel Klein, of Santa Clara University, shows that Democrats outnumber Republicans by at least seven to one in the humanities and social sciences. And things are likely to get less balanced …

“So what”, you might say, particularly if you happen to be an American liberal academic. Yet the current situation makes a mockery of the very legal opinion that underpins the diversity fad. In 1978, Justice Lewis Powell argued that diversity is vital to a university's educational mission, to promote the atmosphere of “speculation, experiment and creation” that is essential to their identities. The more diverse the body, the more robust the exchange of ideas. Why apply that argument so rigorously to, say, sexual orientation, where you have campus groups that proudly call themselves GLBTQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and questioning), but ignore it when it comes to political beliefs?

This is profoundly unhealthy per se. Debating chambers are becoming echo chambers. Students hear only one side of the story on everything from abortion (good) to the rise of the West (bad). It is notable that the surveys show far more conservatives in the more rigorous disciplines such as economics than in the vaguer 1960s “ologies”. Yet, as George Will pointed out in the Washington Post this week, this monotheism is also limiting universities' ability to influence the wider intellectual culture. …

Bias in universities is hard to correct because it is usually not overt: it has to do with prejudice about which topics are worth studying and what values are worth holding. Stephen Balch, the president of the conservative National Association of Scholars, argues that university faculties suffer from the same political problems as the “small republics” described in Federalist 10: a motivated majority within the faculty finds it easy to monopolise decision-making and squeeze out minorities.

… As for the university establishment, leftists are hardly likely to relinquish their grip on one of the few bits of America where they remain in the ascendant. And that is a tragedy not just for America's universities but also for liberal thought.

Read also Jeff Jacoby's left-wing monopoly on campuses

In other comments gleaned from the Ashbrook Center:

Quoting Robert Kaplan's The Media and Medievalism, Belmont Club's The Absence of Evidence says that the most powerful tool of totalitarianism is to don the guise of righteousness and assume "the right to question and to demand answers, the right to judge and condemn, and the right to pardon and show mercy." It is in the end an attempt to usurp the wellsprings of legitimacy. (Why is it that one might think of the International Criminal Court when reading about those "rights"?)

After the Berlin Wall fell, I reread [the list of ingredients necessary for oppression] and noticed that some of [Nobel laureate Elias] Canetti’s six ingredients were also tools of legitimate regimes seeking to keep the anarchy of the mob at bay. Yet to read Crowds and Power now, at a time when truly noxious authoritarian regimes exist in fewer and fewer places, is to be chilled by another realization.

Boring French drunks Brèves de comptoir
Investigative reporting on the 'holy war' in Iraq. Le Monde Al-Jazeera on the Seine investigates from the comfort of the Baghdad hotel bar.
Enquête sur les filières de la 'guerre sainte' en Irak. Les journalistes de Le Monde Al-Jazira sur Seine mènent l'enquête depuis le bistrot cossu situé à l'intérieur de leur hôtel à Bagdad.

The cute happy Djihadi is reading a book called 'Holy War: User's Guide'.

The little dude is supposed to represent the UN.

Shock and awe Secousses et effroi
Authors previously published or not: New Paris publisher starting activity in July 2005 is looking for manuscripts from daring French language authors. Contact publisher at
Ecrivains débutants ou confirmés: Nouvel éditeur parisien qui démarrera son activité au mois de juillet 2005 recherche des manuscrits inédits de la part d'écrivains qui osent. Contactez l'éditeur à

250 Years of Anti-Americanism

Where do the following opinions come from? Chirac's France? Schröder's Germany? Villepin's Europe? Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda? Read them and see if you can guess… Read them and ask yourself whether the correct approach to the ranting and raving around the world is simply to "ignore them and they will go away"…
  • "Consumption for the sake of consumption is the sole procedure that distinctively characterizes the history of a world that has become an unworld"
  • Americanization can be defined as the "uninterrupted, exclusive and relentless striving after gain, riches and influence"
  • "the distinctive vice of the new world … is already beginning ferociously to infect old Europe and is spreading a spiritual emptiness over the continent"
  • America's future will bring the "greatest mediocrity in all fields: mediocrity of physical strength, mediocrity of beauty, mediocrity of intellectual capacities — we could almost say nothingness"
  • "The American knows nothing; he seeks nothing but money; he has no ideas"
  • America "is the most fragile thing in the world: one could not bring together more symptoms of weakness and decay"

The "opinions" are respectively from the 1930s, the early twentieth and the late nineteenth centuries, the mid-nineteenth century, the early nineteenth century, and the eighteenth century.

Find out more by reading A Genealogy of Anti-Americanism by James W. Ceaser.

(thanks to Pamela)

Who Is Really Lacking in Lucidité When It Comes to Dealing with Uncle Sam?

In their late eighteenth-century revolution (they have had several since), the French missed a trick when they chose to pursue the visionary theories of Rousseau, instead of following the more liberal advice of Montesquieu, the slightly older and infinitely saner political philosopher. Montesquieu was far less influential in his own country than in America, whose own revolution was guided in part by his books.
writes John Zvesper in Liberty in London
Montesquieu admired the English polity of his day (the first half of the eighteenth century). He saw in it a modern republic hidden beneath the trappings of monarchy. England displayed not only such useful constitutional devices as the separation of powers, but also the liberal democratic moral strategy of supplanting the more martial virtues and activities of ancient republics with tolerance, humanity and commerce.

… For more than a hundred years, and more intensively since the Second World War, one thing that has often inhibited or distorted French thinking about the interests of France is French obsessions with (not to say deep knowledge about) the United States: usually anti-American, sometimes pro-American, obsessions either way. These obsessions currently affect not just the Franco-American disputes about terrorism and war, but also the relations between America and Europe more generally, as well as relations among France and other European states.

… In Paris, Chirac had noted that Blair had failed to get, in return for Britain’s contribution to the Coalition in Iraq, any American commitment to push Israel towards making some concession to the Palestinian Authority. This was a variation of the standard French theme that Britain is weak and undignified in its relationship with the United States. As Charles de Gaulle used to put it, Britain is America’s "able junior partner."

This French view (which quite a few British critics of Blair share) has an insulting clarity, but it is based on the error (very common — my sons sometimes point it out) of assuming that juniority, whether of age or of strength, is incompatible with prudence, maturity, or dignity. Perhaps this error is built into French, a very conservative language that betrays suspicion of youths. …

Blair, for his part in this not altogether cordial exchange with Chirac, made his annual address at Mansion House into a very diplomatic but nonetheless comprehensive critique of Chirac’s view (which many British but more French citizens share) that Europe must build a more distant, less British-style relationship with the United States. Blair’s speech has been very badly reported by a press that is evidently still out to get G. W. Bush. Headlines have commonly agreed with the Associated Press spin: "Blair Urges U.S. to ’Reach Out’ to Allies." No one who has listened to or read the speech could recognize it under that rubric. Blair’s primary audience was not Americans, but the British and other Europeans, and his message was that Europeans should reach out, to each other but mainly to the United States. His address — one of the best political speeches of 2004 — is a concise, spirited and reasoned case for "a strong bond" between Europe and America.

… there is a more serious defect in the French picture of relations between Britain and the United States: it entirely omits the rational and political basis of these relations. This is the crucial point that Blair made in his address.

Chirac insists that the European-American relationship, being less sentimental than the British-American "family" relationship, requires each side "to be aware of the respect that it owes to the other." Blair accepts that such political relations among states are, as Chirac rightly demands, relations in some sense among equals — not as among equal common citizens, but as among equally sovereign states — in other (Thomas Jefferson’s) words, among "powers of the earth" with "separate and equal station[s]." Thus, Blair asserts that "neither Europe nor the US should be arrogant about the other" (subtext: France, too, is sometimes arrogant). But he sees that the British-American relation is already essentially a relation of equals, and that every other sovereign country (including France) has (or could have) such a relation with the United States.

… In agreement with Chirac’s view, Blair emphasized that the relevant basis for these relations is "hard-headed interest" rather than sentiment. But he argued that such practical considerations will lead Europeans to be "enthusiastic for the transatlantic alliance." Not some atavistic "familial" solidarity, nor some dark compulsion to be "America’s poodle," but "the good old British characteristics of common sense" show that Europeans should ally themselves closely with the world’s "one superpower," given that, in spite of many important differences, "their way of life and ours is lit by the same light of freedom, the same love of democracy, the same fellowship of reason." This argument can be rationally disputed, by France or anyone else, but only if it is treated as an argument, not as a sentiment or an unavoidable and indisputable "familial" duty.

Paradoxically, then, it is the French, not the British — nor any other European country — who bring too much sentimental baggage into their relations with America. … It is the French who let their sentiments of envy or resentment of the United States interfere with a clear-headed calculation of their interests. …

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

While a Smug Kristof Snickers, Friedman Points Out that the Real Culprits Are Not Those Who Act (Even If They Did But Little) But Those Who Do Nothing

So France and Germany are no longer our best buddies. But we have found new pals, like the Baltic countries. Of course, they are kind of small…
I suppose that any time someone complains about a joke, the idea pops up that the joking was effective.

Still, I will speak up to say that what is the worst thing about Nicolas Kristof's joking about the coalition allies (listen to his snickering throughout his "interviews") is the New York Times writer's double standards.

If one can make a joke about countries supporting Uncle Sam while admittedly doing relatively little, where are the jokes regarding countries opposing Uncle Sam while not doing anything at all?

Where are the (well-deserved) jokes towards countries sitting on the sidelines and haughtily criticizing America (and the members of the Coalition of the Willing) while not acting in any way at all?

Where are the jokes regarding those allies' supposed sincerity when it really hides (at least a fair amount of) duplicity?

Why is the word "arrogance" never applied to the chatterboxes freely offering criticism from the safe seats of their (figurative and real) armchairs in the safe dens of their (figurative and real) homes?

And how about the smug Kristof's arrogance towards the Baltic countries… Whose citizens he interviews with a smile, enjoys a laugh with, and then disparages?

And you will notice that I have not even gone into his basic ignorance of the fact that it would be far more real to state the problem thus: to France and Germany, the United States is no longer (if it ever was, or if it ever was regarded as such) their "best buddy"…

In this perspective, it is far more instructive to listen to Kristof's colleague, Thomas Friedman, who points out that "a determined minority, more worried about an American success than an Iraqi failure, is holding NATO back" from participating in Iraq (emphasis mine):

I couldn't help but wonder to myself: Let's see, there are now 26 countries in NATO. If each NATO country contributed just 100 soldiers, roughly speaking we could have five NATO soldiers guarding every polling station in Iraq for the January election. That would be a huge help. After all, what does NATO stand for today if not for helping to protect a free and fair election in Iraq that is being opposed by a virulent minority whose only motto is: "You vote, you die — elections must fail." Is it so much to ask that each NATO country contribute 100 soldiers for a long weekend to advance the prospect of Iraqi elections?

… The Arab League has been sniping at the U.S. from the minute it toppled Saddam's tyranny, constantly barking that the Iraqi government there was not representative. Well now we're trying to help elect one that would be the most representative in the Arab world, and what is the Arab League doing? Virtually nothing. Why couldn't it offer to send some Arab and Muslim soldiers to protect polling places in the Sunni towns of Iraq?

If only we could call the Iraqi election, "A Seminar on the European Defense Initiative: Why NATO Is Passé and E.D.I. Is the Future" [the European Defense Initiative is the E.U.'s quest to build a military force independent of NATO and America]; then we could get thousands of Europeans to take part. If only we could call the Iraqi elections, "A Seminar on George Bush and Genghis Khan: Why Bush Is Worse"; then the Arab League would send so many people, we'd be turning them away. We'd be talking pay-per-view on Al Jazeera.

… is it such a hard call for Arabs and Europeans to figure out on whose side they should be? Do these people really feel good about not lifting a finger?

"We in Iraq have a lot of disappointment with many of our neighbors," Ghazi al-Yawar, Iraq's interim president, told me the other day while he was visiting Washington. President Yawar described Iraq's neighbors as sitting on a fence "dangling their legs and munching on pistachios," while "the forces of darkness" try to rip Iraq to shreds. "We do not understand why a vicious suicide bomber who claims the lives of innocent civilians is a terrorist in one country and in Iraq he becomes a freedom fighter," added Yawar, a bright and decent man.

Most NATO countries (I hope) would prefer a decent outcome in Iraq, but a determined minority, more worried about an American success than an Iraqi failure, is holding NATO back.

So let the record show that when Iraq finally decided to hold a free and fair election, all the bad guys decided to come and "vote" and all the good guys sat on the fence, dangling their legs, eating pistachios.

Back to Kristof: You appear to have a great sense of humor, Nick. Isn't it time you learned to apply it in a fair and impartial way?…

"Afghanistan grows poppies'' is the sun rising in the east, "Afghanistan inaugurates democratically elected president'' is the sun rising in the west

While Thomas Friedman discusses Iraq sensibly, Charles Krauthammer takes on Afghanistan (along with Iraq and the New York Times):
"Miracle begets yawn'' has been the American reaction to the inauguration of Hamid Karzai as president of Afghanistan. Before our astonishing success in Afghanistan goes completely down the memory hole, let's recall some very recent history.

For almost a decade before 9/11, we did absolutely nothing about Afghanistan. A few cruise missiles hurled into empty tents, followed by expressions of satisfaction about the "message'' we had sent. It was, in fact, a message of utter passivity and unseriousness.

Then comes our Pearl Harbor and the sleeping giant awakes. Within 100 days, al Qaeda is routed and the Taliban overthrown. Then the first election in Afghanistan's history. Now the inauguration of a deeply respected democrat who, upon being sworn in as legitimate president of his country, thanks America for its liberation.

This, in Afghanistan, just three years ago not just hostile but untouchable. What do liberals have to say about this singular achievement by the Bush administration? That Afghanistan is growing poppies.

Good grief. This is news? "Afghanistan grows poppies'' is the sun rising in the east. "Afghanistan inaugurates democratically elected president'' is the sun rising in the west. Afghanistan has always grown poppies. What is Bush supposed to do? Send 100,000 GIs to eradicate the crop and incite a popular rebellion?

The other complaint is that Karzai really does not rule the whole country. Again the sun rises in the east. Afghanistan has never had a government that controlled the whole country. It has always had a central government weak by Western standards.

But Afghanistan's decentralized system works. Karzai controls Kabul, most of the major cities, and much in between. And he is successfully leveraging his power to gradually extend his authority as he creates entirely new federal institutions and an entirely new military.

Again, what should Bush have done? Send another 100,000 GIs to put down warlords with local roots, local legitimacy and a ton of firepower?

What has happened in Afghanistan is nothing short of a miracle. Who is responsible for it? The New York Times gives the major credit to "the Afghan people'' with their "courage and commitment.'' Courage and commitment there was, but that courage and commitment was curiously imperceptible until this administration conceived a radical war plan, executed it brilliantly, liberated the country and created from scratch the structures of democracy.

… Iraq will be very difficult. … against all expectations, Afghanistan is the first graduate of the Bush Doctrine of spreading democracy in rather hostile places. We should take a moment to celebrate a remarkable success that had long seemed so improbable.

(Thanks to Gregory)

The more legal protections you have against getting fired, the less…

I thought about the Danish model while reading the recent reports from Germany about workers at troubled Opel factories
wites Thomas Fuller in the International Herald Tribune (emphasis mine).
The automaker is so desperate to lay off employees without making too many waves that it is reportedly offering buyouts of as much as $200,000, or $266,000.

The corollary to this generous offer is of course a familiar but key question for Europe: Who wants to hire someone if the cost of firing them is such a huge sum?

It is an unpopular question in Europe because many people have come to think of employee protections as part of a higher form of civilization. Making it easier to fire people, by this logic, is slipping backward in social evolution.

That is not the thinking in Denmark, however, which after all is a pretty civilized place.

Protection against dismissal has never been a major issue" [in this European welfare state par excellence] said Einar Edelberg, deputy permanent secretary in the Danish Ministry of Employment. "It's easy to fire — and accordingly, it's easy to hire."

And that's the main point, say Danish experts on the system. …

One footnote on the Danish model: Workers here tell pollsters they feel confident about being able to find work. A study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed that workers in Denmark led the world in a feeling of employment security, along with workers in the United States [!]. At the bottom of the list were countries with higher degrees of protection, like France and Spain.

The moral of this story: The more legal protections you have against getting fired, the less protected you feel.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Oh yeah, you and what army ... ? Cherche potion magique gauloise déséspérément
Chiraq talks like he has the US Marines double parked outside as he tries to pass off Zeropa as a super power.
Chirak fait comme s'il avait les US Marines garés en double file devant l'Elysée quand il tente de nous fourguer de la Zéropa en tant que super-puissance.

Pyramid scheme Pyramide financière
One more socialist rip-off.
Encore une arnaque des socialistes.

Japan and the Paris Syndrome

The crass Americans just don't get it; unlike those louts across the Atlantic, the French are tolerant, sophisticated, refined, and open-minded. No wonder the Japanese derive so much more joy from dealing with visionary Europeans than neanderthal Yanks

My Maugein Is Rich

Niles Lathem's exclusive New York Post piece is mainly about "pardongate billionnaire" Marc Rich's (and other Americans') involvement in the oil-for-food scandal at the UN, but (notes GS) there is also a passage on France:
Of particular interest to investigators is a series of deals outlined in recently released Iraqi Oil Ministry documents that show allocations of more than 72 million barrels of oil to … Patrick Maugein.

Maugein, [a French] oil trader, is a longtime business associate of Rich and oil-trading firm Trafigura and has also been identified as a close friend of French President Jacques Chirac. A report in October by CIA weapons inspector Charles Duelfer said members of Saddam's regime "considered Maugein a conduit to Chirac."

Incidentally, the (unsurprizing) fact that the "U.S. attorney's office in New York and [the] Manhattan District Attorney" are going after American individuals and American oil companies puts the lie (if such were needed) to the French rumor that there is a conspiracy Stateside to whitewash the presence of American participants in the scandal while scapegoating the French.

But don't expect members of the French press or élite to issue retractions; after all, this rumor is typical of the deliberate rumorizing (always self-serving) that the French are poor, (relatively) innocent victims of the big bad Yankees. And… isn't there a school of psychology that states that what we see in others — and what we accuse others of — is often something that exists in ourselves…?

Chirac's Message Misses the Big Question…

After mentioning Britain and Germany as EU nations whose leaders George W. Bush will probably visit in late February when he comes to Europe "to make things trans-Atlantically whole and wonderful again" (although Gerhard Schröder has "made sealing the 'fissures' and 'breaches' more complicated by clamoring to sell arms to China"), John Vinocur devotes the rest of his International Herald Tribune article to the country lying between the two:
The French, theoretically the ally with the furthest to go in improving ties with Bush administration (Colin Powell describes the White House as specifically hoping to "mend" the relationship), have smartly laid out through a speech by Jacques Chirac a blueprint of where they want to be positioned in terms of the United States.

The speech was made last month and has gotten only marginal attention. This is curious in the view of an aide to a European prime minister because he considers that Chirac was trying to explain for the first time how his multipolar view of the view of the world can be compatible with good relations between the United States and Europe.

In the speech, where he keeps things simple and away from away the world being organized around the idea of multipolarity — which to the permanent grief of France's global civilizing mission has a conversation-ending, Hegelian sound to it — Chirac is forthcoming, saying things that the Bush administration would presumably like to hear.

Terrorism is not some kind of nuisance as John Kerry promised to make it, but a threat Chirac described as "present and growing." France and the United States are on the same line, "with exemplary cooperation" (no reference to Iran, though) on the issues of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear proliferation, Chirac said. And, he stressed, finding peace in the Middle East "should rally America and Europe together," as should cooperation in reducing poverty, and environmental protection.

At the point where he comes the closest to dealing with why France has explicitly called for European and world counterweights to American power (notably on trips to China and Russia by Defense Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie and former Prime Minister Alain Juppé), Chirac argues, very narrowly, that strengthening European defenses "is obviously not, as sometimes said, about building up a Europe against the United States."

European defense is not the issue though. Rather, talking from an honest nook in a zone of frequent disingenuousness, the Americans really mean it when they say they're in favor of greater European military independence if the result is European willingness to take over greater military responsibilities.

The big question is whether chopping the world up into specific spheres of schematized and artificially defined characteristics and interests, à la Chiracian multipolarity, doesn't really concretize its divisions. Not to mention whether in assigning Europe (and other places) polar status, Chirac isn't really trying to seat the American superpower alone, across the table from a committee of global censors.

In his speech, Chirac presents Bush with a Europe that is a clearly separate pole "set to establish special links with the world's major poles," which he lists, beyond the United States and Japan, as China, India, Brazil, Russia and regional groupings in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

In doing so, Chirac transmogrifies Europe into a unified, muscular, spirited entity that it may never be. And he disregards Tony Blair's view that the world is unipolar, or even Gerhard Schröder's acknowledgment last year that Blair's description sounded pretty accurate to him. …

How much of this would Bush like to deal with head-on during a trip seemingly preprogrammed to be nonconfrontational? … In the French case, Bush could take the advice of all those in Washington who say respect France but do not exaggerate the importance of what it says about the world's future. This argument maintains that since Europe will never be a superpower, it makes no sense for the United States to overreact to French theorizing.

A counterargument accepts over-reaction as a mistake, but makes the point that the United States shouldn't just let lie an approach to the world that essentially defines America as the globe's biggest problem. Doing this tends to legitimize French and German ambitions to lead Europe at Britain's expense, and leaves in the lurch the countries in Europe and elsewhere that see their development secured in a comfortable relationship with the Americans — and not rebranded by Chirac as their counterweights. …

1954: The U.S. Does Not Want to "Hinder the Progress of Negotiations Between France and" a Third Country

Remember how Uncle Sam, when recently asked by France to vote in favor of an arms ban to Ivory Coast, voted as Paris asked it to, with apparently no malice whatsoever nor a desire for tit-for-tatness? In the IHT's archives section, it is noted that 50 years ago, something similar happened:
Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. said today [Dec. 13, 1954] that the United States would not support a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly for Moroccan independence negotiations. Lodge, chief U.S. delegate to the United Nations, told the Political Committee that the resolution, proposed by 12 Arab and Asian nations, contained wording that "might hinder the progress of negotiations between France and Morocco." He did not seem to be suggesting that such negotiations were already in progress. The resolution calls for them, and delegates speaking for it have declared repeatedly that there are none on now. Since Lodge did not say the United States would vote against the resolution, it was assumed that it would abstain.
Granted, neither yesterday's case nor today's is enough to make generalizations about America, but still, isn't it funny how the the perfidious Uncle Sam we always hear about from French intellectuals, leaders, and periodicals often seems to wield its power responsibly?

(Meanwhile, the 75 years ago section mentions the forging of "another link in the chain of historic amity between France and the United States" when the American ambassador to Paris arrived at Le Havre under "an omen of continued friendship"…)

FYI, incidentally, I believe that the content of the IHT's archives link changes daily, so by tomorrow there should be a different text on the hyperlink…

Monday, December 13, 2004

Are French Anti-Americanism and America's Current Irritation with France "Perfectly Symmetrical Lunacies", as BHL Claims?

Its a good thing that they got rid of that warmonger Aznar!
writes Gregory Schreiber as he looks at a picture of an empty Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Meanwhile, RV forwards a Jean-Pierre Stroobants article from Le Monde which explains how the absence of Islamic attacks in Europe can only mean one thing: that the Europeans' indulgence for terrorism is working and that dialogue and understanding is the only thing, in fact, that does work — certainly more than the Americans' emphasis on violent tactics and on law and order (and why can't those thick-headed Americans understand that?!)

Bernard-Henri Lévy, in the meantime, takes a potshot at John J. Miller and Mark Molesky's Our Oldest Enemy. The New York Times published the potshot, as Gregory points out, as the French media has turned on France's favorite philosopher. For Jean-Paul Enthoven, editorial chief at the Grasset publishing house,
the campaign against his friend is ideologically-motivated, with most of the critics coming from the anti-capitalist left: in their eyes BHL has betrayed the cause by his refusal to rush to condemn the US and his uncompromising views on radical Islam.
Maybe wanting to get back some respect (and prove his independence — from Uncle Sam, that is!) helps explain this article of Lévy's.

But, more likely, he is, consciously or not, using the old trick; after spouting out anger and mockery about America, French citizens, leaders, and members of the media will often retreat to a position (embraced by such entities as the NYT editorial page) that both countries must work to overcome their respective antagonism and caricaturing of the other, or, in BHL's words, "the opposition of two apparently antithetical but actually perfectly symmetrical lunacies." (I call this a mental trick — a conscious or a subconscious one — because the person making the argument, by the very fact that (s)he is making it, comes out appearing more reasonable, more detached, more willing to compromise, more open to dialogue, more in search of a peaceful solution, more lucide — and thus more superior.)

Except that what BHL says about Americans' hardened attitudes towards the French isn't true. Nobody in his right mind can fail to notice the difference between French anti-Americanism which has gone on, for decades year in and year out (and even centuries — see next para), concerning every subject under the sun, on the one hand and, on the other, the current attitude in the United States, which has far less (hardly anything, in fact) to do with amounting to being a "parodic counterpart of French anti-Americanism" than with the sentiment — real or false — that in the Iraq crisis, Marianne not only refrained from coming to Uncle Sam's help, but that she tried to stick a knife in his back. And that, as far as I can tell, is what the book is about. It is not written due to an "eagerness to contrast evil France with a virtuous and radiant America", but due to the feeling that Uncle Sam was given a bum deal (to say the least) by Marianne, and that this was not the first time in history…

In fact, John J. Miller and Mark Molesky appear to be doing hardly more than echo L'Ennemi américain, Philippe Roger's study of anti-Americanism in France over the centuries, an anti-Americanism that carries nary a counterpart in the United States vis-à-vis France. Moreover, it is not a book like the one called 50 Good Reasons to Hate Americans, and it certainly has not become best-seller in the U.S. the way the latter has in France.

To counter some of BHL's arguments:
In their eagerness to contrast evil France with a virtuous and radiant America, Miller, a national political reporter for National Review, and Molesky, who teaches history at Seton Hall University, offer us an assortment of arguments — extravagant at times, nauseating at others — intended to prove the perversity of the French mind.

Consider their use of a quotation from Francois Mitterand, the most pro-American French president of our time, to establish that France is ''at war with America.'' Or their implication that Mitterrand's successor, Jacques Chirac, applauded the destruction of a McDonald's by the followers of the antiglobalization sheep farmer José Bové.

Then there is the long series of collages, inflating Clemenceau's remark about America as a nation that has gone ''directly from barbarism to degeneration without the usual interval of civilization'' to a statement of principle, and crediting the philosopher Jean Baudrillard with the notion that the destruction of the World Trade Center was a French dream fulfilled by Osama bin Laden.
Except how many quotes can you find from American leaders and the élite towards France? Before 2002-2003, not many. And, more importantly, insofar as anti-French quotations can be found (and I can't think of any), to what extent does the leader owe his popularity (if any) to his anti-French remarks?
The fact is, yes, there is a kind of racism in dragging out as evidence a text by Mark Twain that contains, we are told, ''more than a little truth'' and according to which ''the race consists of human beings and the French.'' Go ahead, these careful readers of ''Tom Sawyer'' urge, ''scratch a Frenchman'' and you will discover ''a savage'' if it's a man, a ''harlot'' if it's a woman — a brutishness, in any case, ''unknown in civilized lands''!
Dave Barry, too, has written about the French in similar terms, and Art Buchwald's first columns (for the New York Herald Tribune's Paris office) are replete with funny observations about France and its inhabitants. Except both also wrote that way about other nationalities, being harshest with… Americans themselves! And so, of course, did the "racist" Mark Twain…

I, personally, would be perfectly happy to see and read Le Monde, Fabius, De Villepin (when in opposition) castigate American foreign policy if only they would apply the same standards to the French interventionist society and French foreign policy.

Which brings this to mind: At times, French readers write to complain that I don't criticize the American government enough. That is misunderstanding what this blog (or at least my understanding thereof) is about. This blog, in my mind, is not about criticizing France or the French government (under Chirac or anybody else). It is about double standards. Double standards in the French media, among French citizens, and in French education. Double standards which certainly have no equivalents (no matter what one thinks) in the United States…

Serguei's tripping Serguei trippe grave

Sunday, December 12, 2004

France 2 and Charles Enderlin? Products Far Superior to CBS and Dan Rather!

While France's newspaper of reference and other media wax on, among other things, about 1) the Bush/Blair/Aznar lies, 2) the baseness of "embedded" journalism, 3) the silencing of American media and their kowtowing to American nationalism 4) the supposed unreliability of Fox News and 5) the admissions of the Washington Post and the New York Times that they were not vigilant enough in trusting the Bush administration, there is not a word anywhere (certainly not on France 2) about the France 2 case of the mythical martyr.

Better yet: In contrast to the way October's Dan Rather/CBS scandal unfolded in America, France's independent newspaper goes out of its way to heap praise on France 2 as well as on one of its star reporters, Charles Enderlin

(By the way, there is a petition to sign at the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism…)

(Shookhran to Jane)

Way to go Joli coup
European blogs, including the Dissident Frogman, pick up a mention on TCS.
Des blogs européens, dont le Dissident Frogman, sont cités sur TCS.

The French Press "Must Spread Healthy Ideas", Says…

Serge Dassault. While the National Assembly was working towards the creation of a French CNN (will the CFII ever risk being as loathed in l'Elysée as Ted Turner's news-only channel is in the White House?), the head of the Dassault armaments group made the above remark (on the France Inter radio station), adding that healthy ideas are "ideas which make things go forward" (scroll to bottom). And the UMP senator goes on to explain that newspapers cannot only report that leftist politicians and organizations have said so-and-so and such-and-such (which he calls "fiction"), they also have a responsability to say "stop, we are going in an erroneous direction. That is not what is working."

Not much of a problem here. So far. The problem comes in that Serge Dassault makes his comments exclusively in regards to 1) economic ideas on 2) France's domestic scene. How about a press not only refusing to letting leftist politicians off the hook, Monsieur Dassault, but politicians and organizations (and armaments makers — hint, hint, nudge, nudge) in general? And that, in relation to diplomatic and international relations as well?

Thus, when Dominque de Villepin, say, declares that America must be opposed in Iraq (and everywhere else) and that, with a bit of dialogue, Saddam Hussein can be made to come to terms, a newspaper (a French one) might tell him that "halte là, on va dans l'erreur. Ce n'est pas ça qui marche" — that psychopath is not our friend and ally, and there is no way democracy can ever be made to work if it involves keeping a mass murderer in power.

Or if a politician (say, the senator from Essonne) says that a good idea would be to lift the embargo on selling weapons to China, a member of the press (say, Le Figaro) could jump in, and say "stop, we are going in an erroneous direction. That is not what is working."

Oui, je sais : it's hard to imagine. N'est-ce pas?