“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Viva La France!

France has been as much an ally to the United States as England has been an historic enemy. Painting: Newell Convers Wyeth, The Last Of The Mohicans


Under Sarkozy, it's hard to use 'French' as a campaign slur.

By James R. Gaines Christian Science Monitor

WASHINGTON - Who's a better friend to America – Britain or France?

With a certain high-school-like insecurity, Americans have been changing their answer for two centuries. That's understandable. After all, the US has alternately been at war and in love with both countries.

In the last presidential election, the answer was quite clear. Republican attempts to smear John Kerry as "French" showed where America's affections lay. The beginning of the Iraq war had made British Prime Minister Tony Blair a stateside hero and turned French fries into Freedom fries.

Today, in the 2008 campaign, one Republican campaign strategist is trying to use the French insult again, this time against Hillary Rodham Clinton. It's tempting for a GOP operative to pin the tail on the Socialist, cheese-eating surrender monkey.

It's also totally out of step, because in the past year, France and Britain seem to have started trading places in America's heart.

Under the turbocharged presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, France isn't that old France anymore, while England's new Prime Minister Gordon Brown seems to be trying to assume the role of former French president Jacques Chirac.

A member of Mr. Brown's new cabinet warned a distinguished Washington audience not long ago that the time was gone when a country's prestige could be "measured in what [it] could destroy. In the 21st century ... we must form new alliances." The incoming foreign minister, a well-known critic of Britain's policy in Iraq, lost no time saying that Britain needs "to build coalitions that ... go beyond the bilateral blinkers of the normal partners."

As a British source in Washington commented to the Guardian about these distancing messages, the Brown team was going to assert its independence "one policy speech at a time.... It's a smarter way of doing it than [to] have a knockdown argument."

Meanwhile, Britain has moved, as Brown puts it, "from combat to overwatch" in three of the four Iraqi provinces under its control, and he is clearly impatient to leave the fourth as well. His position on the "military option" in Iran is leery at best.

All this plays well with Yankopho-bic commentators. One British writer last week called America "our imaginary friend," reminding his readers that the "rockets' red glare" of "The Star-Spangled Banner" actually came from the British.

And then there is President Sarkozy. Last week one columnist wryly called what he's doing "The French Revolution," but it could rightly be called an American Revolution as well.

His domestic policies make Socialist and union leaders' teeth itch: Cut a third of the civil service, pay for performance, encourage overtime, undermine the 35-hour workweek by any means necessary, rationalize the pension plans of half a million public workers, put work at the center of French life, and make heroes of those who, as he puts it, "get up early."

Despite his tough stand on illegal immigration, he would encourage the integration of France's Muslims into the economic mainstream with "positive discrimination" (euphemism for a measure long opposed by the French, which Americans call affirmative action).

In foreign policy, Sarkozy has gone American most notably in his policy toward Iran. He famously laid out the choice of "an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran." Iran's possession of nuclear weapons would be an "unacceptable risk to stability in the region and in the world," he said this week in a speech at the UN General Assembly.

"I want to tell the American people that the French people are their friends," he told The New York Times recently. "We are not simply allies. I am proud of being a friend of the Americans." He admitted that "a small part of the French elite" was anti-American, but added that this "in no way corresponds to what the French people think."

From his vacation in New Hampshire to his support for Israel and intolerance for French anti-Semitism, from his embrace of a market-driven society to his respect for ambition and worldly success, Sarkozy has shown himself as American as tarte aux pommes.

He has even reached out to touch that third rail of French politics, universal healthcare. Details are still unclear, but his desired outcome is likely to be closer to the proposals of Senator Clinton than those of Republicans such as Rudolph Giuliani, even though his posture of toughness has led supporters to call Sarkozy the "French Rudy."

Depending in part on the outcome of a test-of-wills strike that has been called for next month, Sarkozy could become just the latest victim of French political inertia or a national hero.

If the latter, which for now seems more likely, imagine Clinton and Mr. Guiliani battling over who is more like the leader of France. Coming so soon after Freedom fries, a contest for the mantle of "American Sarko" would be the richest of ironies.

James R. Gaines is the former editor of Time magazine and author of "For Liberty and Glory: Washington, Lafayette, and Their Revolutions."


  1. If you felt a disconnect from previous Burmese threads at BC, wait until you see the latest!

  2. Wiki:

    List by the International Monetary Fund: GDP (PPP) $ per capita for the year 2005

    17 Singapore 32,867
    18 Japan 32,647
    19 Germany 31,095
    20 Italy 30,732
    21 France 30,693
    22 Israel 30,464
    23 Taiwan 30,084

    Israel is very close to overtaking France Italy Germany. Given the enormous pressures Israel faces, even in terms of the most basic resource such as water and land, the economic performance of France Italy Germany is pathetic.

  3. Checked out Karridine in hopes of an update on the Muzzie Coup there.
    Also his updated profile:
    "Your pajamas have duckies on them. Why did you switch from choo-choos?
    To lessen the psycho-sexual tension accompanying choo-choos!"
    Occupation: CopyWrither
    Gives him a UNIQUE Profile browse link, which is the first one I've seen.
    Quite a guy, Bahai, Libertarian, Md., ex-pat in Thailand, think he once said he lost a son early on in a kidnapping.
    Reminds me of Richard Kimble, the one TV Show I watched religiously in college.

  4. How many Capitas reside in Israel?

  5. Also left out USA, which I expect Rufus will rectify, pronto, if you don't.

  6. Wait til Israel gets Charles' magic straw which you insert into the sea to get fresh water!
    it's Katy Bar the Door!

  7. Doug,

    Around 7.2 mil, I believe was the last count.

  8. Karridine, cont.
    ...used to have pictures of his wife and two sons:
    Oddly enough, under the new Islamic Junta, he doesn't.

  9. Joos Count?
    How about A-Rabs?

  10. Doug,

    Joos make up about 80 percent of that number. The rest are the arab 5th column.

  11. Yeah, Multiplying away!
    Foolish Joos!
    Foolish Americanos!!!

  12. ...oh, and then there was
    "Sea Hunt"
    Can still hear the Bubbles and the theme song!
    Friends would come over to share that high drama!

  13. Sky King, doug.
    That Cessna 310 was really something

    At the Financial Times there is a piece about Mr Sarkozy. John Thronhill writes a reasonably informative background piece.

    A tad over 42,000, puts the US in 6th place on the GDP per capita.

    Quite substantial when the number of the capitas (over 300 million) is considered.

    None of the other population giants even comes close.

    With regards to the Mohammedan Wars, Mr Abracadbra's speach and tying it all together, Ms Glick is at it, again.
    Caroline, at her pointed best

    Here is a snippet

    Ahmadinejad is not interested in convincing the US government or even the majority of Americans to convert to Islam. He is interested in convincing adherents of totalitarian Islam and potential converts to the cause that they are on the winning side. He is interested in demoralizing foes of totalitarian Islam within the Islamic world and so causing them to give up any thoughts of struggle. In this goal he is no different from any of his Sunni counterparts in Saudi Arabia, al-Qaida, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas or their sister organizations throughout the Islamic world and indeed throughout the West.

    Throughout the world, Islamic ideologues are aggressively spreading their message of global domination. In mosques, on the Internet, on television, in schools, hospitals and prisons, Islamic preachers can be found propagating the cause of Islamic domination. And aside from Iran, no regime, including the Saudi regime, is immune from the pressures of the message.

    Perhaps the central reason that Ahmadinejad's message, and the hundreds of thousands of voices echoing his call throughout the world, are so dangerous is because
    the Free World is making precious little effort to assert its own message.

    Indeed, rather than contend forthrightly with the challenge that men like Ahmadinejad and Osama bin Laden pose to the West, the West searches for ways to either co-opt their message by seeking out points of agreement or to show that really, the Islamic imperialists have nothing to fear from the West.

    3,700 troops Home for Christmass
    30,000 Home for the 4th of July

    Just in time for the Parades.

  14. France Races to Oust Illegal Immigrants
    By ELAINE GANLEY – Sep 22, 2007

    PARIS (AP) — A Russian boy suffers head injuries after falling from a window while trying to elude police. A North African man slips from a window ledge and fractures his leg while fleeing officers. A Chinese woman lies in a coma after plunging from a window during a police check.

    As France races to deport 25,000 illegal immigrants by the end of the year — a quota set by President Nicolas Sarkozy — tensions are mounting and the crackdown is taking a toll.

    Critics say the hunt threatens values in a nation that prides itself on being a cradle of human rights and a land of asylum. Protesters have gathered by the dozens in Paris to protect illegal aliens as police move in.

    But with three months left in the year, police have caught at least 11,800 immigrants, less than half the target, so Sarkozy has ordered officials to pick up the pace.

    "I want numbers," Sarkozy reportedly told Brice Hortefeux, head of the Ministry of Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Co-Development, which Sarkozy set up after taking office in May. "This is a campaign commitment. The French expect (action) on this."

    There are no solid estimates of the number of illegal aliens in France. The Immigration Ministry puts it at 200,000 to 400,000, many from former colonies in Africa. France has a population of some 63 million.

    At the same time, following protests by teachers and parents, families with children in school appear to have been spared, advocacy groups say. Only four high school students and two primary school pupils are known to have been among the deportees since early July, according to the Education Without Borders Network, the main organizer of the protests.

  15. Paris area mayors to resist immigration crackdown
    Thu 13 Sep 2007, 15:59 GMT

    PARIS, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Eight mayors in the Paris region said on Thursday they would resist a plan by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to expel more illegal immigrants.

    Sarkozy, a law-and-order hardliner, won the election in May after campaigning vigorously on the theme of national identity and promising a crackdown on illegal immigration.

    But Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux is struggling to meet Sarkozy's target to expel 25,000 illegal immigrants by the end of the year, after officials said they expelled some 11,000 in the first seven months of 2007.

    Hortefeux met local prefects from areas who had not met their expulsion targets on Wednesday, sparking a wave of criticism among human rights groups and the left-wing opposition, which said he was obsessed with numbers.

    "We ... remind you that we are doing our duty as citizens to protect inhabitants who live, work and study in our community," eight mayors from the political left in the Paris region wrote in an open letter to Hortefeux.

    "We are not at your orders," they said. "Your obsessive vision of numbers in the area of immigration policy is even more condemnable because human beings are involved."

    French media said Hortefeux was under fierce pressure from Sarkozy to reach the expulsion target.

  16. Countries don't have friends; Countries have "Interests."

  17. And unless offering an alternative course of action, one that is practical and realistic, to obtain the stated National goals, then it is encumbent on all of US to support the best efforts of our Government, in its' adventures overseas.

    We're all along for the boat ride, regardless.

    30,000 troops for the
    Fourth of July Parades

    With a Spirit of Victory
    or the agony of de feet.

    It's all in the presentation
    Running up to the Election.

    That must be the GOP Plan,
    the March 08 "Progress Report", followed by announcements of further draw down of forces,
    to the 100,000 level by Jan '09. With accelerated departures proposed after that.

    Big homecoming celebration at the 4th, then throughout the summer, running up to the Election.

    The GOPs only chance is to spin it as Victory, embrace Maliki and the Government, the Iraqi Army most of all.

    Stage management, all the pieces are there. Support the President, Support the Cause

    Stay the Course!