James Snell admits/confesses that this time, the French are right and why we need to listen to them!
I HATE to say this, I really do, but the French are not only right on foreign policy, for the first time in decades, but they are also doing far better than the rest of us, not least the dogmatic Americans and the naïve foray into international statesmanship which David Cameron has decided never to try again.
It is indeed a very surprising event to occur. Two successive French Presidents; one a racist ideologue and the second a socialist isolationist, have both made masterstrokes of internationalism in the course of human rights, despite a preconceived notion of French je ne sais quoi about intervening in the rest of the world in defence of democracy. This also marks a pleasant departure from the normal French involvement in the third world, which is usually one of post-colonial dominance of the vassal-like ‘Francophonie’: a loose collective of former subjects the motherland can invade or meddle with on a free and regular basis with disastrous results.
French puppet regimes have become one of the crimes of which the nation is less proud, (it is rumoured that the French government consorted with the Tunisian regime in the early days of the Arab Spring) as well as the installing of dictatorships in former colonies such as that of Moktar Ould Daddah in Mauritania, which was propped up by French aid as it descended into the barbarism of a one party state.
But this is clearly not the case anymore: the two successive French governments have made huge strides in their own response to international tyranny. Their brave steps to fight for international peace and freedom have not been noted as much as they deserve to be, and their efforts need to be recognised and supported. Since the disgraceful lack of French support in other recent foreign policy events, such as their bungling in Bosnia in the 1990s and their non-assistance in Iraq, they cannot truly describe their country as one of compassion and the promotion of democratic values across the world in the way that the US and Britain can.
But all of this changed in the fateful year of 2011, when then President, Nicolas Sarkozy was one of the first, alongside David Cameron, to urge the international community to fight the terror being inflicted by the Gaddafi regime on the women and children of rebels. Their brave action forced the world to act, and the ensuing no-fly zone (in which French aeroplanes were first into action against Gaddafi vehicles) saved Benghazi and arguably the NTC from destruction by the forces of evil.
This action also had the consequence of involving the United States, who got the war off to a powerful start, in launching 120 Tomahawk Missiles at targets on the mainland, comprising of Gaddafi forces, communication units and command structures. The French took a strong line of international participation too, and this led to a distinct lack of Euro-centric bias in the makeup of the NATO forces, with the Arab League and the African Union on-side. This made the frequent isolationist call that a war of this type is ‘imperialist’, invalidated, and the tyrant-loving antics, of people such as George Galloway, significantly curtailed.
The second great act that France has managed to accomplish in such a short timescale is about equal rights in Israel and Palestine. While I, personally, am pro-Israeli; I do value Palestinian rights and I think that the campaign from President Hollande to promote Palestine to a non-member observer at the UN is of great credit. While Palestine is not a perfect society, and making it a full state would be a de facto legitimisation of their fundamentalist leaders in Hamas, this is a good thing; with a greater move towards lasting peace for the region that only a two state solution can provide.
The dogmatism of the USA and their full-out refusal to support any advance in the case for Palestinian statehood reflects poorly on them, and in the long run will badly affect Israel, in whose interests they claim to be acting. Mr. Hollande can be proud that in the course of a rather dismal first term, he has made a stride in Palestinian advocacy and also moved in a positive direction towards peace in the region.
With helping the poor and oppressed in two separate incidents in two distinct countries under two different Heads of State, it does seem that French attitudes to the wider world are changing, and that it is finally stepping out of the fold of isolationism and colonialism, which dogged its politics for so long. With the next intervention, they are not only joining a camp of others fighting for what is right, they are trail-blazing themselves, and this could prove to be the defining moment when a central European nation, normally so content to occupy the mantle of a regional superpower, shakes off the burdens of their past, and becomes a advocate of freedom from tyranny and of worldwide justice.
The French have been the first outside nation to intervene in the disaster that is engulfing Mali, a former colony (to whom, one hopes, they have a sense of historical obligation). The north of the country has been swiftly taken over by the vile forces of Islamic fascism (possibly aided by the toppling of Gaddafi in Libya), and the terror has already begun. In this sparsely populated area lies the cultural capital of the region, Timbuktu. This jewel of Africa has a huge significance to the world, as it is a repository of ancient pre-Muslim manuscripts – most of which documenting now-extinct religions and societies. These documents are being destroyed in a home-grown ‘cultural revolution’ perpetrated by the religious leaders who are intent on establishing dictatorial theocracy.
With French intervention (at the behest of a beleaguered government) the sinister rebellion can be put down and democracy (re)-installed. Their action is not being condemned by the world: in fact there is a scramble to imitate the plucky Gauls, with the feckless EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Baroness Ashton, wittering on about an EU mission to do the same. The African Union are also contemplating action. Similar to their own in Somalia last year, this will be a huge help to terrorised civilians fleeing barbarism.
So, for the first time since the Second World War, it is a good time to say: ‘Vive la France!’