Saturday, August 19, 2006

Chirac is Weaseling Out of Commitment.

Well, given the recent developments, it seems that French foreign policy is all about words and none about action. A commitment of no less than 200 additional troops to Lebanon, well imagine that! Not exactly what the UN or the rest of the world had in mind.

French newspaper Libération wrote that the offer of so few French troops was an insult for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

'I cannot ignore the fact that France has been accused of not fulfilling its duty as regards the Lebanon crisis,' the French defence minister said. Since the beginning of the crisis, France had been at the forefront and had made the greatest contribution, she added.

Apparently, French officials defended the decision not to become heavily involved in southern Lebanon, citing French casualties in previous UN peace missions such as that in Bosnia. France as well as Germany called on the United Nations to give the troops deployed in Lebanon an "unequivocal mandate" for the use of force.

That is a good point, I guess. Who needs another UN mandate of blue helmet “observers”? Multinational peacekeepers have been constrained by rules that allowed them only to fire only in self-defense in Bosnia or Rwanda for instance. (read here)

However, I wonder how much that can be used as an excuse. Why not then push for a vote that would allow change in the rules of engagement? It seems to me that Chirac is weaseling out of his commitments and is only interested in status quo. This is bad politics.

Now, not only is the UN upset but both Israel and Lebanon governments feel betrayed.

In the meantime, this another great opportunity for French-bashing in the American media – The Chicago Tribune wrote that "it is a bracing reminder about why the words "France" and "backbone" rarely appear in the same sentence". Others say that French diplomacy in this crisis has been brilliant but I find myself in agreement with the Chicago Tribune that “the French can't expect their diplomatic efforts to be taken seriously if they're not willing to back talk with commitment.”

I tend to believe that the presidential campaign now starting in France may also be another reason why the French government is not willing to commit troops to a something that could turn into another military quagmire and a political disaster. In fact, I am not sure that most French politicians would be willing to engage the country into a war for peace.

To me though, it shows that Chirac is very short-sighted and not worthy of the kind of leadership France needs.
I fail to see why he does not put more pressure on the UN Security Council for more fire power if he were truly committed. The truth of the matter is probably that he is just interested in keeping the status quo until the presidential elections.

Most French people have known that for years. His lamentable (lack of) leadership during the urban riots provided a good illustration.

In this case, though, the result is that the fragile peace in Lebanon and Israel is not likely to hold – as we can see today - and Chirac will have to take the blame. This is also bad politics for France though. It makes its word in international affairs worth peanuts and deeply hurt its future diplomatic move.

Boy, I can't wait for Chirac to be out of power. It seems nothing good can ever come out of his government. And The Sun may have been right after all - his legacy may be that of a sort of useless worm in the end.

NOTE: let me rectify what I said- some things are going surprisingly well in France. However, I'm afraid Chirac has little to do with them.

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