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Foreign Policy: France Lining Up Behind the U.S.?

Translated Wednesday 7 May 2008, by Gene Zbikowski

Background. Nicolas Sarkozy in no uncertain terms oriented France towards an alliance with the United States at the last NATO summit.

“The more we are friends with the Americans, the more independent we are, the more we can build Europe and notably European defense. The more France assumes its place in NATO, the more European NATO will become.” It was in these terms that the French head of state, Nicolas Sarkozy, summed up the spirit of his initiative, at the last NATO summit in Bucharest, to bring about an “alignment” between France and NATO.

This “alignment,” which is being sold in a Europeanist wrapper, concretely signifies rejoining the integrated military command, that is to say the heart of NATO, from which General de Gaulle decided that France should withdraw in 1966.

The left was not long in reacting to this new presidential coup, filing a motion of no confidence at the National Assembly last Wednesday, April 9.

For, while France will not effectively rejoin the integrated military command before the next summit in 2009, Nicolas Sarkozy has, as of now, given a token of good will to “our friends,” who are bogged down in Afghanistan. An additional 700 French soldiers are to be deployed there before summer’s end. The left, which has refused to line up behind the neo-conservatives at the White House, and their enthusiasm for the “shock of civilizations,” and which is demanding a debate on the sending of reinforcements, has been accused, among other things, of “French isolationism.”

Thus, the leading lights of the French president’s governing majority say that respect for popular sovereignty, which is supposedly still embodied by French national institutions, has two possible consequences: at best, it weakens the voice of France on international questions, and at worst it is nationalist. Basically, the debate on the independence of French diplomacy comes down to two visions of the general interest: the one seems to merge the general interest into the drum-beating mobilization around the “war against terrorism,” while the other considers the general interest to be the outcome of a public discussion on the means to enforce the inalienable rights of the world’s peoples. What can France do for the Afghan people? Isn’t that the only important question?

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