Sunday, December 26, 2010

Nicolas Sarkozy: a common French-Chinese front against the United States?

Europe is so besieged by problems that on some days it looks as if its common currency and hopes for unity are disintegrating
writes John Vinocur as Barack Obama, according to Nicolas Sarkozy’s annotators, is preparing to receive the French president on Jan. 9.
All the same, Nicolas Sarkozy will head to Washington early in January for a conversation about reorganizing the world monetary system in a way that might just mark the United States as the real global force in decline.

For the last two years, the French president has been arguing that the dollar’s role as the single global reserve currency doesn’t reflect what he insists is a multipolar world with no further reason to kowtow to the greenback.

Now, as president and agenda setter in 2011 of the Group of 20 consultative body of leading economic nations, Mr. Sarkozy is leaving his bully pulpit’s specific aims and tactics on the dollar fluid — an imprecision difficult to avoid against a background of the euro’s daily ducks and dives.

Still, in the words of Le Monde last month, he is “counting on making the G-20 his magnum opus and finding a solution to the world’s monetary imbalances with, if necessary, a common French-Chinese front against the United States.”

…In his own pre-election year circumstances, Mr. Obama seemingly could not let pass an argument that tacitly centers on nudging or shoving the dollar aside or to a diminished role among the world’s currencies, and is based on a premise (or creed) of American decline.

Troublingly to some, Mr. Obama said this year, in reference to Afghanistan, he does not hold classical views of what constitutes America winning or losing a war. But he has never gotten into the business of reinforcing widespread assumptions of an American acceptance of multipolarity — a notional world of “equal” and competing powers in which the United States concedes loss of its primacy, whatever its many qualifications.

The dollar is not just a symbol of that primacy. The surrender of its prerogatives would damage the United States’ position in the financial and monetary worlds, and very possibly impair America’s military commitment to its allies in Europe and Asia.

Mr. Sarkozy embraces multipolarity, a decades-old Gaullist notion, as if it were a kind of divine commandment.