ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Chef de guerre
by Maurice Ulrich
Translated Wednesday 27 July 2011, by Derek Hansonand reviewed by
Éditorial Par Maurice Ulrich
Three years ago during the armed conflict between Russia and Georgia, Nicolas Sarkozy, with moderate success, assumed the mantle of peacemaker. One might have known it wouldn’t last. Today France is fighting on two fronts, Afghanistan and Libya. At this week’s 14 July national holiday – that is looking increasingly like a military pageant – “Sarkozy”, as Le Figaro trumpeted, “dons the robes of a War Lord." But that’s nothing to be proud about. Hot on the heels of the Americans, the French military presence in Afghanistan, which took up the pretext of looking for Ben Laden but in reality was geostrategic, has resulted in no significant progress in the region. Sixty-three French soldiers have died there, the last of these yesterday. And how many Afghan civilians? A very gradual withdrawal is announced. When the time for assessments comes they won’t be found victorious.
The authorisation for the French/English and initially US intervention in Libya, which was wrested with difficulty from the UN, at first had a semblance of justification that for a time hoodwinked the public, even those on the Left: to rescue the besieged insurgents of Benghazi. Four months later the UN mandate has long since been overstepped. The objective of NATO which usurped the UN has become the elimination of Gaddafi. To replace him with what? A transitional national council that no longer has anything to do with a popular uprising but is headed by former Gaddafi Justice Minister, Moustapha Abdeljalil, the zealous architect, with one of his cronies now his military advisor, of the fate that was reserved for the Bulgarian nurses. Meanwhile every missile that hits Tripoli, with its collateral damage, that is to say civilian casualties, can only work against the proclaimed goal. And all illusions have been shattered about the formidable effectiveness of our surgical strikes meant to take down a teetering dictator in less time than it takes to say humanitarian intervention. Four months now, four months for 160 million euros to go up in smoke, leaving the French Air Force buying ammunition from Germany!
One might logically expect that the debate today in the National Assembly will draw some conclusions. French popular opinion for the intervention was at 66% in the beginning: now 51% are opposed to it. Some denounce a stalemate, a campaign of lies, or demand a political solution, as General Desportes, Director of the École de guerre from 2008 to 2010, has in le Journal du dimanche. At the Assembly, Green and Communist MPs will demand an immediate cease-fire, a UN General Assembly and the organization of an international conference. It may seem surprising at this stage that the Socialist deputies always seem to take the side of war just when the humanitarian and political justifications for it have fizzled out. As if they wished to be as strong as those in power! Speaking of those in power, the defence minister, Gerard Longuet, talked on Sunday of a cease-fire, a compromise between the two parties and a political settlement. This is a new tone, and one that should probably be taken into account. Bets are that the turnaround in public opinion has something to do with it, but now action is required. The positions of the UMP at the Assembly will indicate the weight to be given to the minister’s comments.
Authorisation for the intervention, wrested with difficulty from the UN, might have had a semblance of justification that hoodwinked the public at the beginning. But not any more.