Wednesday, March 02, 2005

France's "Special Relatonship" with the Arab World Seems to Be Less Appreciated by the Masses Than By Their Autocratic Leaders

Almost two months after her disappearance, Florence Aubenas issues a plea for help. (She is the reporter from that country whose citizens, as you will remember, would not be targeted because the French are allies of the Arab world, with which they have a "special relationship" and which, unlike others [nudge nudge], they go to such an extreme to understand. Which may explain, in contrast to the reaction to, say, the images of Abu Ghraib, the muted reaction to the Aubenas videotape at home.)

In the meantime, the United States and France have joined in calling for an "immediate withdrawal of all Syrian military and intelligence forces from Lebanon". The meeting of minds with regards to Damascus led Plantu to ink a drawing in which Uncle Sam comes out in a positive light.

This alleged renewal of camaraderie would have some people (notably in the mainstream media, French as well as American) tell you that the relationship has changed, that Paris and Washington are friends again. Of course, no such thing is true. It is only a matter of France always being right, and when Uncle Sam agrees with this, it becomes a good guy, when it does not, it is played up to be the American bogeyman.

Speaking of understanding the Arab world, one will have noticed that, contrary to what the mainstream media and the Arab leaders would have you believe, it is not the Palestinian situation that would seem to be at the forefront of the individual Arab's (or Muslim's) mind; what preoccupies the average Arab and Muslim is not the Palestinians' so-called lack of rights and their sufferings at the hands of Tel Aviv and the Israeli army's trampling their rights. (Nor does their main preoccupation seem to be poverty, "misery", inequality, social injustice, the evils of capitalism, etc). No, what seems to be at the forefront of Arab (or Muslim) peoples' minds is their own lack of rights, and their own people's sufferings at the hands of their own governments, and their own security forces' trampling on their rights.

All of which makes this consequence unsurprising:

[Recent developments make] it increasingly difficult for France to cash in on its differences with the United States in the Middle East, said Dominique Moïsi, a senior adviser at the French Institute for International Relations. "France can't play the political card as it did before," in the negotiations to win Mr. Chesnot and Mr. Malbrunot's release, Mr. Moïsi said. "France's difference is less obvious today."
As long as French leaders, citizens, intellectuals, pundits, journalists, and artists make it a habit of treating democracy, and elections, as Le Monde's Serguei does (here Iraq's), France's drop of influence in the Arab world should not come as much of as surprise…

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