The Return of France!

First Syria and now Iran, French President Jacques Chirac is acting pretty tough in what seems like a French return to the international policy-making scene. The lessons that have been learned from the US-led invasion of Iraq seem to be counterintuitive somehow. Rather than championing the cause of non-interventionism and real politick, Chirac’s future policies towards the region promise to be far more interventionist than they have ever been. 

 

 

Why is this so? Is Chirac becoming another Blair and France another Great Britain? That is, is Chirac leading France into becoming just another European satellite for the US? Or is Chirac simply losing his cool in his old age?

Or, is there something else at work here?

While I am not an expert on French affairs by any means, but, and as a casual observer of developments over the last couple of years, let’s just say that I am more in favor of the latter alternative. Indeed, cool calculations regarding what constitutes France’s interest in the region, rather than some alleged spate of rashness and subservience, seem to be the driving force behind Chirac’s recent assertiveness vis-à-vis Iran, Lebanon and Syria.

France has too many interests in the region to leave it to the Americans to do with it as they will. By not joining in the US-led alliance to topple e Saddam Hussein, the French ended up losing many lucrative oil and natural gas contracts, and all their previous agreements with the Saddam regime came to naught. All the suave realist politics of so many years produced nada.

To make things worse, and in his efforts to appease the Americans, Bashar reportedly ignored the French President’s polite plea for an exploration contract to be granted to a French company, and gave the contract to a US company instead, believing this will be a nice bribe to the Administration.

Whatever the truth in this regard may be, ever since his rise to power, with French support and endorsement as we all know, Bashar’s performance turned up to be consistently disappointing, and on all fronts. This was especially felt with regard to Syria’s relations with Lebanon, and to Bashar’s phantom economic reforms and his inability to commit within a reasonable timeframe to signing the Association Agreement with Europe.

The Lahoud extension fiasco, the assassination of Hariri, the rise of Ahmadinejad in Iran and the current nuclear stand-off with her seems to have increased the stakes. France cannot remain on the sidelines while things like these unfold.

So, Chirac’s recent aggressiveness comes as a reflection of an actual strategic decision on part of the French President and his advisors, and does signal the return of France to the international arena. This is not a completely surprising development really, for France has always been aggressive whenever its interests were at stake. Remember France’s intervention in the Côte d’Ivoire in 2003?

10 thoughts on “The Return of France!

  1. Chirac doctrine could be : don’t invade countries, just put an enormous pressure on them so that they reform their political system.But actually, Chirac’s doctrine is : you killed my friend so I’ll show you.

  2. “France has too many interests in the region to leave it to the Americans to do with it as they will. By not joining in the US-led alliance to topple e Saddam Hussein, the French ended up losing many lucrative oil and natural gas contracts, and all their previous agreements with the Saddam regime came to naught. All the suave realist politics of so many years produced nada.”Let us not interpret everything according to the Mossadegh syndrom. It’s not only about oil. The US didn’t invade Iraq for the oil and the French didn’t oppose the invasion because of a gaz contract. There are bigger things at stake.

  3. Ammar, I would addexplicitly to all the good reasons that you mention the French aversion to the concept of a unipolar world. As you may still recall the French even coined the phrase of “hyperpower” in descibing the US. The Eu attempt, led by the French to offer an alternative to the US unipolar moment was to advocate a Kantian view of international relations as often enunciated by Habbermas.The US stuck to its guns and has unfortunately demonstrated that Hobbs is still relevant and that Kantianism is an idea whose time has not come yet. I believe that Chirac has learned his lesson from what happened in Germany (socialists lost) and in the UK (Blair reelectd) in addition to the reelection of Bush and even the Conservative win in Canada. The French have had for almost two centuries a love-hate relationship with the US and Chirac will do all what he can to reassert aan alternative center of gravity to Washington DC. Actually, I wish him luck. I will always support a duopoly over a pur monopoly solution. Obviously the better solution is a multinodal world.

  4. Vox, indeed, I didn’t mean to reduce everything to oil and gas. As Ghassan pointed out, there is indeed, a long-standing doctrine involved as well. Still, the role of the Mossadegh Syndrome is not something that we can ignore either. Oil politics are no less important today than they were then. Just consider the various developments taking place in Central Asia and the Trans-Caucasus. The stakes are too high to be ignored.

  5. French pretentions to global relevance will not survive being on the losing side of yet another leadership clash with the superpower — nor will Chirac’s.These pretentions have always been prominent among France’s self-defined “interests” — however silly and “pretentious” Americans may think them.

  6. So, Chirac’s recent aggressiveness comes as a reflection of an actual strategic decision on part of the French President and his advisors, and does signal the return of France to the international arena.Exactly

  7. I’m glad that Chirac said what he said about using nuclear weapons. However, his job is online next year so do you think there is some domestic political calculation in his recent comments.

  8. I hate consipracy theories. I think they were created by the Jews to keep us busy from their Zionistic Imperialistic New World Order.BUTWhat is this now? As the pressures on Syria are mounting, the file of Iraqi WMD has popped up all of a sudden as Iraq’s number 2 man in the airforce has decided to meet with the Senate Armed Committee to testify about Iraq sending all of its WMD and CW to Syria via Civilian Airplanes disguised as aid to the Damn catastrophe in the north late 2002.This may be a coincidence, that is for sure. BUT If I hear Condi with Rice saying that Abu Musaab Al Zarqawi “qarqa3” matti with Asef Shawkat in August, 2004 I will formally join the What Really Happened Conspiracy group and go on Naked publicity stunts in Times Square. ODM in no shape or form is defending the regime..but what he sensed is no trend..it is a fact:America abuses each opportunity and tries to beef it up to reach its own agenda.Think about the results of that bloody september 11 day… Caspian Sea Oil, Iraq oil, Arab dominance, EU partnerships, and overall influence. Wish we had a president who followed the “God Bless Us, f*** everybody else!”Joine the Disobedience Movement

  9. KingDrudge, I a not sure I know enough about the French domestic scene at this stage to respond to that. Albeit, odds are there is something here indeed.ODM, Oil politics breed conspiracies, and not only conspiracy theories. God only knows what is going in the background. But, events in the foreground tend to be hard to control and do change people’s calculations. Working in the foregrounds of things is always tricky but I find it more “ethical” somehow. So, I guess, I’ll stick to it for now. Fomenting Civil Disobedience is going to be high on my agenda for a while to come.

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