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Archive for the ‘en français’ Category

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Pascal Riché has an important article in Rue89 on the growing debate in France over quitting the euro and the arguments for and against, and which he advises people to familiarize themselves with—”Entraînez-vous au débat qui déchirera vos dîners dans quelques semaines” he says—, as the debate will no doubt rise to a fever pitch during the election campaign for the European Parliament (May 25th in France). Riché notes that, until recently, most French critics of the ECB’s monetary policy and the SGP nonetheless argued that the euro was a net plus for France and that exiting from it was unthinkable. The only ones arguing otherwise—that France should and must quit the euro—have been the Front National, souverainistes like Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, extreme left groupuscules, and a handful of economists (the usual suspects on this subject, e.g. Jean-Jacques Rosa, Jacques Sapir). But Riché now observes that the arguments for leaving the euro are going mainstream, noting in particular the revirement on the question by the high-profile Keynesian economist Bernard Maris, an irreducible partisan of Europe—he voted ‘oui’ in both the TEU and ECT referendums—, but who has regretfully come to the conclusion that France has no hope of increasing economic growth and lowering unemployment so long as it remains in the single currency dominated as it by Germany. I was indeed surprised to hear Maris—of whom I am a fan—make this argument last Friday in his weekly debate on France Inter with the libéral/free-market economics journalist Dominique Seux, and equally surprised to hear Seux’s tepid counter-argument, in which he conceded many of Maris’s points (listen here). And this morning on France Inter I listened to invited guest Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who argued for six minutes straight why the euro has been disastrous for the French economy and that the only salvation for France is to exit from it. Some of Dupont-Aignan’s points were exaggerated or simplistic but he is exceptionally well-spoken and his argumentation is coherent (listen here); and it will certainly be convincing to many citizens who are otherwise not right-wing Eurosceptics or nostalgics for a Gaullist golden age.

IMHO the arguments for staying in the euro are still stronger than those for leaving—the consequences of which could indeed be calamitous—but my convictions on this are becoming shaky. It is, however, clear that the single currency was an error—and that having it run according to German conditions was a double error. I cannot imagine for a second that President Hollande or any of his credible successors would ever make such a fateful decision to leave the euro. But if the euro remains overvalued and France continues to privilege deficit reduction over economic growth, then the economic and social situation in this country is going to get worse, and with political and social consequences one can only imagine.

À suivre.

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Beppe Grillo

Beppe Grillo

That’s the title (in English) of a good 80 minute documentary, “Populisme, l’Europe en danger,” that aired last night on ARTE’s weekly news magazine, Thema. It takes up four cases, the first—and the most disquieting, IMO— being Beppe Grillo and his Movimento Cinque Stelle (M5S) in Italy (which I had a post on a couple of years ago, comparing it to the 1950s Poujadist movement in France). I find the M5S disquieting in view of its electoral strength—25% in the 2012 legislative elections, and whose support is apparently holding steady in the polls—and the real problems this is posing to the Italian political system given the big bloc of seats it has in both chambers of parliament, the dictatorial manner in which Grillo runs the movement, and the manifest anti-democratic—if not downright fascistic—undercurrent in his discourse and general world-view. The parallel with Mussolini was indeed suggested toward the end of the segment.

The second report is on the French Front National, with a focus on its municipal election campaign in Forbach (Moselle), a dying industrial town in the Lorraine and which the FN, via its high-profile mayoral candidate there—the énarque and party vice-president Florian Philippot—, had high hopes of winning (but didn’t). One interesting bit of information in the segment concerns the FN’s decision not to endorse or formally participate in the big anti-gay marriage movement of last spring, despite this being supported by the near totality of its traditional voter base (and with FN voters no doubt taking part in the demos in large numbers; for my one post on the French gay marriage issue, go here). The reason: Marine Le Pen did not want to jeopardize her budding alliance with Geert Wilders in the Netherlands.

A report on Wilders follows the one on the FN. He and his party, the PVV—which speaks for some 10-15% of the Dutch electorate—, are a new kind of right-wing populist movement: liberal/libertarian on societal issues (notably on sexuality), economically free-market (though this is being watered down), and aiming its fire at Islam. Wilders’s Islamophobia—a neologism I don’t like but which is apt in his case—is well known and hardly needs explication, except to mention that this has enabled Wilders to avoid formally stigmatizing Muslims qua Muslims or to speak about immigration more generally. A clever sleight of hand. The ARTE report says that Wilders could eventually become prime minister, which I doubt. His latest dérapage probably hasn’t enhanced his prospects here, that’s for sure.

The final report is from Hungary, on the neo-Naziish Jobbik—which received a shocking 20.5% of the vote in last Sunday’s legislative election—and, above all, Viktor Orbán and the Fidesz, which took 44.5% (a drop of 8% from the 2010 election), though with 67% of the national assembly seats. The dérive autoritaire in Hungary has been written about extensively—e.g. see the 5-part series by Princeton University’s Kim Lane Scheppele, published in February on Paul Krugman’s blog. That the European Union has failed to take decisive action against Hungary is an absolute scandal. Then again, the reason for this inaction—as the report makes fairly clear—may have to do with the critical support offered to Orbán inside the EU’s institutions, his Fidesz being a member of the European Parliament’s current majority party, the European People’s Party (EPP), and whose other constituents include the German CDU, the French UMP, and the Spanish PP—not to mention European Commission President José Manuel Barroso’s home party, the Portuguese PSD.

This underscores the importance of next month’s elections to the European Parliament, of depriving the EPP of a majority and preventing the establishment of a parliamentary group by an alliance of far right-wing populist parties led by Le Pen and Wilders.

The documentary may be viewed on ARTE’s website here through next Tuesday.

Marine Le Pen & Geert Wilders, The Hague, November 13 2013

Marine Le Pen & Geert Wilders, The Hague, November 13 2013

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France 3′s monthly magazine Histoire Immédiate had two documentaries Monday evening on François Hollande, his presidency, and French public opinion, and that are well worth the watch. Here’s the synopsis of the first one, “Que se passe-t-il dans la tête de François Hollande?,” produced and narrated by Franz-Olivier Giesbert

François Hollande est une énigme. Est-il l’homme qu’il faut à la France? Après son élection il avait annoncé que tout allait changer. Rien ne s’est passé comme prévu: le changement n’est que parcellaire et le pays continue de s’enfoncer dans la crise. Alors que la popularité du Président sombre, il garde le sourire. Pour tenter de comprendre ce qui explique cet optimisme, Franz-Olivier Giesbert part à la rencontre de ses proches et leur demande qui est vraiment cet homme que les Français ont élu. Avec eux, il passe en revue son parcours politique, sa vie privée, son action à l’Elysée et brosse un portrait inédit.

The documentary, which runs 1 hour 25 minutes, may be watched on France 3′s website here until next Monday.

And here’s the synopsis of the second reportage, “François Hollande et nous”

François Hollande bat tous les records d’impopularité pour un président sous la Ve République. Comment en est-il arrivé là? Nicolas Sarkozy s’est usé à trop gouverner, François Hollande s’use-t-il à ne pas gouverner assez? Y a-t-il une fatalité, pour un président de la République française, à revenir à un niveau de popularité égal à son score au premier tour des élections présidentielles après quelques mois d’exercice? Aujourd’hui, François Hollande est en dessous de ce seuil. Quelles catégories de population a-t-il perdues? Est-ce lié à sa personnalité ou à sa politique? Sondeurs, observateurs, politologues et spécialistes de la communication donnent leur avis.

This one (55 minutes) may be seen here, also until next Monday.

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Pro-Putin demonstration, Moscow, March 10 2014  (Photo: Dmitry Serebryakov/AFP/Getty Images)

Pro-Putin demonstration, Moscow, March 10 2014
(Photo: Dmitry Serebryakov/AFP/Getty Images)

National chauvinism edition.

Angus Roxburgh, former BBC Moscow correspondent, has a disquieting “Letter from Moscow” in the New Statesman (April 1st), in which he describes how the mood there is turning increasingly nasty. The lede: In the wake of the Ukraine crisis a rampant chauvinism has been unleashed, while sanctions on Russia have created the kind of atmosphere dictators love.

Le Monde Moscow correspondent Marie Jégo has an equally disquieting dispatch on “Vladimir Putin’s propaganda machine” (issue dated April 2nd), which is fanning the flames of national chauvinism in that country. N.B. the last two paragraphs

Parce qu’elle est intervenue dans la foulée des Jeux de Sotchi, l’opération spéciale des forces russes en Crimée a été accueillie par les Russes comme la victoire de leur équipe de football favorite, aux cris de « La Crimée est à nous » et « Jamais nous ne lâcherons les nôtres ».

Expédiée en dix-neuf jours – les troupes russes sont intervenues le 28 février, la Crimée est devenue « sujet » de la Fédération le 18 mars – l’annexion de la presqu’île a déchaîné l’enthousiasme du public. Selon le Centre d’étude de l’opinion publique (VTsIOM), 90 % des Russes l’approuvent. Dans la foulée, la popularité de Vladimir Poutine s’élève à plus de 80 % d’opinions favorables, contre 60 % en janvier.

Le petit écran alterne l’alarmisme et l’euphorie. Toutes les chaînes publiques – Rossia 1, Rossia 2, Rossia 24 – ou privées – NTV, propriété de Gazprom, Ren-TV et la 5e chaîne, du milliardaire et ami de Vladimir Poutine Iouri Kovaltchouk – font la part belle à la pensée unique. La victoire de l’armée russe en Crimée est encensée tandis que l’Ukraine est dépeinte comme un « territoire » à la dérive, rançonnée par des bandes criminelles, la faute (more…)

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There’s almost no question about it: the Socialists are going to get massacred. They could lose as many as 100 communes with a population of 10K or more. The PS’s dense network of local elected officials will be decimated. Whatever governmental remaniement President Hollande cooks up next week will be bien dérisoire in the face of such a monumental setback. Socialist voters are so demoralized and exasperated with their president—it is nigh impossible to find anyone on the left these days who will stand up for Monsieur Hollande—that they will most certainly repeat last Sunday’s performance and stay away in droves from the polls.

The UMP will do very well, of course, but all eyes will be on Marine Le Pen’s Front National, which, according to the above map, has a good shot at picking up seven communes—with Béziers and Forbach all but certain—, in addition to Hénin-Beaumont and Orange (whose mayor, Jacques Bompard—re-elected last Sunday with 60%—, quit the FN a decade ago but is no less a facho than when he first won the town in 1995). But the FN and its extreme right allies could, in fact, win as many as 20 municipalities, including several that the map forgot to include: Beaucaire (Gard), Bollène (Vaucluse)—whose incumbent mayor, Marie-Claude Bompard, is not formally FN but is politically identical to her husband in nearby Orange—, Brignoles (Var), Cluses (Haute-Savoie), Cogolin (Var), Hayange (Moselle), Le Luc (Var), Le Pontet (Vaucluse), L’Hôpital (Moselle), Marseille’s 7th sector, Tarascon (Bouches-de-Rhône), Villeneuve-sur-Lot (Lot-et-Garonne), and Villers-Cotterêts (Aisne). To these one may add Villeneuve-Saint-George in the suburban Parisian Val-de-Marne (and near where I live), where the 2nd place divers droite list—which had been endorsed by the UMP and UDI—merged with the 3rd place FN against the PCF-led incumbents. If the FN wins most of these, it will be a political earthquake equivalent to the PS’s débâcle annoncée. It does appear, though, that Avignon will be spared the FN, with the fusion of the PS and Front de Gauche lists there.

For an idea of what may lie in store for communes under FN rule, see this Rue89 enquête from two months ago, on Jacques Bompard’s reign in Orange, “Orange, 20 ans d’extrême droite: «Les cœurs se sont fermés».” Persons of Maghrebi and African immigrant origin—and particularly those who live in public housing—will wish they lived somewhere else.

And on Hénin-Beaumont’s new frontiste mayor, Steeve Briois, see this one by Claude Askolovitch in Rue89, “Quand Steeve Briois, 15 ans, jubilait dans un bus rempli d’immigrés,” in which Askolovitch reproduces a passage from his (excellent) 1999 book Voyage au bout de la France: Le Front National tel qu’il est, recounting his experience of following Briois, then a teenage FN activist, around the declining industrial towns of the Pas-de-Calais. Briois, who hails from the couches populaires, developed a youthful antipathy toward his generational contemporaries of Maghreb origin, i.e. the punk was a racist from the get go. Now people do grow up and evolve in their ways of thinking. Or they don’t.

Also in Rue89 is this very interesting reportage of the FN’s campaign in Marseille’s 7th sector (13th-14th arrondissements), “La tentation du FN à Marseille: «Il faut bien leur faire peur»,” which may yield it victory tomorrow. One learns, entre autres, that a certain number of Maghrebi voters, driven by opposition to the gay marriage law or simply because they are totally fed up, voted FN. What is clear is that the FN simply does not strike fear in the hearts and minds of a significant portion of the electorate, including voters of immigrant origin who would normally have reason to fear it.

One will have noted that the majority of communes that the FN stands to win are in the southeast. On the regional cleavage in the FN vote, geographer Laurent Chalard, whom I linked to in my previous post on the election, had a good op-ed in Le Monde earlier this week on “Les failles stratégiques du Front national,” in which he discussed the contradictions at the heart of Marine Le Pen’s and the FN’s discourse as they strive to address constituencies with fundamentally divergent revindications: the FN’s traditional middle class/petit bourgeois base in the southeast, which is opposed to state intervention, taxes, and Parisian bureaucrats; and working class voters in the northeast, who fear globalization and favor state intervention in the economy to protect their jobs or restore them. How the FN manages this contradiction—and if the mainstream parties of the left and right can exploit it to undermine the frontistes—will have a significant impact on the party’s fortunes in the coming period.

As I did last Sunday, I’ll be working a bureau de vote all day tomorrow as an assesseur titulaire in my commune (where the local right-wing is tearing itself apart in a fratricidal war, as it always does in local elections). À suivre.

ADDENDUM: The blog 500 Signatures: French Politics & Elections Blog of political scientists Jocelyn Evans and Gilles Ivaldi is closely tracking the FN’s electoral progress, and with lots of data and statistical analyses.

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The website of the French journal Esprit has a lengthy interview (en français), “La fin de l’illusion turque,” with Ahmet Insel, who teaches economics and politics at Galatasaray University in Istanbul (and is a founder of the İletişim publishing house). It’s one of the most interesting analyses I’ve read of late on the current political situation in Turkey, and notably on the conflict between RT Erdoğan and the Gülen movement, and the role of the military in this. Insel says that an AKP national vote of 45% or above in tomorrow’s municipal elections—which he deems probable—will represent a big victory for Erdoğan, providing him with the legitimacy to launch an all-out offensive against the Gülenists (not to mention anyone else he feels like going after). But in the (improbable) event that the AKP wins less than 40%, many AKP militants will start looking to a post-Erdoğan era and which may provoke a split within the party, such that the AKP could lose its current majority in the Grand National Assembly.

But whatever happens in tomorrow’s elections

le Premier ministre restera condamné à une posture défensive. Il va passer le reste de sa vie politique à craindre l’ouverture de nouveaux dossiers, la publication de nouvelles preuves accablantes. Qu’elle soit lente, en passant par une phase «poutinienne», ou rapide en cas de défaite aux élections locales, la chute de M. Erdogan est inéluctable.

Sooner rather than later, inshallah.

What Insel has to say to about the Kurdish question is also most interesting. Erdoğan wants to cut a deal with the PKK but his hands are being tied by various domestic actors, not the least of whom is the nationalist Turkish public, i.e. the AKP base, and its ethnic conception of the Turkish nation.

Insel, who is quite smart, also has an interview in today’s Libération, “Turquie: «Erdogan est mortellement blessé, mais il ne tombera pas tout de suite».”

2009 municipal elections

2009 municipal elections

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I just read (several days late) a full-page op-ed by Belarussian-Ukrainian investigative journalist and writer Svetlana Alexievich in Le Monde dated March 16th-17th, “Poutine et les bas instincts,” in which she describes, almost to her horror, the Kremlin propaganda induced nationalist hysteria that is currently sweeping the Russian population. Russia sounds very much like Serbia in 1990-91, and with Russian attitudes towards Ukraine akin to Serbia back then vis-à-vis Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo. Worrisome, to say the least. Alexievich‘s tribune is translated from Russian. If it exists in English—or if I can find it in Russian—I’ll post it as an update.

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ARTE aired another remarkable documentary last night (for the other one, see previous post), this on the uprising in Homs, Syria, and which was shot over a two-year period by Syrian filmmaker Talal Derki. It won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for best documentary at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival (English title: Return to Homs). It may be viewed for the next week on ARTE’s website here (90 minutes, version française).

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ARTE aired a fascinating one-hour documentary last night on Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to the United States—the first ever by a Soviet leader—in September 1959, “Khrouchtchev à la conquête de l’Amérique.” He spent thirteen days in the US—Washington, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, rural Iowa, and Pittsburgh. I of course knew about the visit but hadn’t seen the film footage. The documentary may be watched on ARTE’s website here. It’s absolutely worth it.

What is particularly striking is the hundreds of thousands of people—regular Americans—who turned out to see Khrushchev, lining the streets everywhere he went (and in the towns his train passed through between L.A. and San Francisco). One can hardly imagine that nowadays, of huge crowds spontaneously gathering to greet a visiting foreign leader—in the US, France, or just about anywhere. But that’s the way it was back then. For the anecdote, when Chou En-lai came to Somalia on a state visit in 1964 (I was living there at time), a significant portion of Mogadishu’s population—probably most—turned out to greet him (my memory of this is hazy, as I was a mere lad, but it’s there). Likewise with Nicolae Ceaușescu’s visit to Somalia in 1967. The following year, when Charles De Gaulle came to Ankara, Turkey (where I was now living), tens of thousands of people lined Atatürk boulevard to see him (standing up in the limousine). Ditto when the Apollo 11 astronauts (Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin) came a year later (we got off school for that one). I wonder how many Turks turned out to greet François Hollande on his state visit there in January? Or Americans when he went to the US last month? Poser la question c’est y répondre…

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#StopQatar2022

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France 5′s weekly news magazine “Le Monde en face” had a very good two-part documentary on Qatar two nights ago—on its transformation from an obscure patch of desert to a veritable regional power and with near global reach—, by investigative journalists Vanessa Ratignier et Pierre Péan, and which may be viewed on the France 5 website until next Tuesday: “Qatar: la puissance et la gloire – 1995-2008” (part 1) and “Qatar: trahisons et double jeu – 2008-2013” (part 2)—both 53 minutes and followed by a 15-minute discussion, “Faut-il avoir peur du Qatar?,” with two specialists of that accidental country and its megalomaniacal ruling family. The documentary touches on, among other things, the slave-like conditions afflicting the bulk of the mainly Asian labor force there, which was the subject of my post “Qatar: modern-day slavery” last September, in which I insisted on the utter unfitness of Qatar to be hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

À propos, The Guardian reported this week that “[m]ore than 500 Indian workers have died in Qatar since 2012,” and to which may be added the 382 Nepalese workers who have died there during the same period. The Qatari World Cup organizing committee announced last week that workers building the stadiums—but not those building other infrastructure—would be held to higher standards, but with the kafala system remaining unchanged. This is BS to mollify foreign critics. When it comes to the conditions of migrant labor, nothing will change there. Qatar needs to be stripped of the 2022 World Cup. Spread the word on Twitter and everywhere else: #StopQatar2022!

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La France moisie

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Jean Quatremer, l’excellent correspondent de Libération à Bruxelles, a posté, sur sa page Facebook, cet extrait d’une tribune de Philippe Sollers, publiée dans Le Monde le 28 janvier 1999, et qui a été très remarquée à l’époque—et qui a mécontenté plus d’un, à gauche comme à droite. Elle garde sa pertinence.

Elle était là, elle est toujours là ; on la sent, peu à peu, remonter en surface : la France moisie est de retour. Elle vient de loin, elle n’a rien compris ni rien appris, son obstination résiste à toutes les leçons de l’Histoire, elle est assise une fois pour toutes dans ses préjugés viscéraux. Elle a son corps, ses mots de passe, ses habitudes, ses réflexes. Elle parle bas dans les salons, les ministères, les commissariats, les usines, à la campagne comme dans les bureaux. Elle a son catalogue de clichés qui finissent par sortir en plein jour, sa voix caractéristique. Des petites phrases arrivent, bien rancies, bien médiocres, des formules de rentier peureux se tenant au chaud d’un ressentiment borné. Il y a une bêtise française sans équivalent, laquelle, on le sait, fascinait Flaubert. L’intelligence, en France, est d’autant plus forte qu’elle est exceptionnelle.

La France moisie a toujours détesté, pêle-mêle, les Allemands, les Anglais, les Juifs, les Arabes, les étrangers en général, l’art moderne, les intellectuels coupeurs de cheveux en quatre, les femmes trop indépendantes ou qui pensent, les ouvriers non encadrés, et, finalement, la liberté sous toutes.

La France moisie, rappelez-vous, c’est la force tranquille des villages, la torpeur des provinces, la terre qui, elle, ne ment pas, le mariage conflictuel, mais nécessaire, du clocher et de l’école républicaine. C’est le national social ou le social national. Il y a eu la version familiale Vichy, la cellule Moscou-sur-Seine. On ne s’aime pas, mais on est ensemble. On est avare, soupçonneux, grincheux, mais, de temps en temps, La Marseillaise prend à la gorge, on agite le drapeau tricolore. On déteste son voisin comme soi-même, mais on le retrouve volontiers en masse pour des explosions unanimes sans lendemain. L’Etat ? Chacun est contre, tout en attendant qu’il vous assiste. L’argent ? Evidemment, pourvu que les choses se passent en silence, en coulisse. Un référendum sur l’Europe ? Vous n’y pensez pas : ce serait non, alors que le désir est oui. Faites vos affaires sans nous, parlons d’autre chose. Laissez-nous à notre bonne vieille routine endormie.

La France moisie a bien aimé le XIXe siècle, sauf 1848 et la Commune de Paris. Cela fait longtemps que le XXe lui fait horreur, boucherie de 14 et humiliation de 40. Elle a eu un bref espoir pendant quatre ans, mais supporte très difficilement qu’on lui rappelle l’abjection de la Collaboration.

Pendant quatre-vingts ans, d’autre part, une de ses composantes importante et très influente a systématiquement menti sur l’est de l’Europe, ce qui a eu comme résultat de renforcer le sommeil hexagonal. New York ? Connais pas. Moscou ? Il paraît que c’est globalement positif, malgré quelques vipères lubriques.

Oui, finalement, ce XXe siècle a été très décevant, on a envie de l’oublier, d’en faire table rase. Pourquoi ne pas repartir des cathédrales, de Jeanne d’Arc, ou, à défaut, d’avant 1914, de Péguy? A quoi bon les penseurs et les artistes qui ont tout compliqué comme à plaisir, Heidegger, Sartre, Joyce, Picasso, Stravinski, Genet, Giacometti, Céline ? La plupart se sont d’ailleurs honteusement trompés ou ont fait des oeuvres incompréhensibles, tandis que nous, les moisis, sans bruit, nous avons toujours eu raison sur le fond, c’est-à-dire la nature humaine. Il y a eu trop de bizarreries, de désordres intimes, de singularités. Revenons au bon sens, à la morale élémentaire, à la société policée, à la charité bien ordonnée commençant par soi-même. Serrons les rangs, le pays est en danger.

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Twitter @Lauren_Provost: Vu dans le cortège #JourDeColere

Twitter @Lauren_Provost: Vu dans le cortège #JourDeColere

[update below] [2nd update below]

Thomas Legrand had an excellent commentary on yesterday’s ‘Jour de colère’ in his political editorial on France Inter this morning. He absolutely, totally nails it. One may listen to or read the editorial here. For those who are too lazy to don’t feel like opening the link, here’s the whole thing

Jour de colère : la manif “travail famille patrie”

C’était une manifestation, non pas d’exaspération envers une politique mais envers une personne, François Hollande. Pour ce qu’il représente pour eux, l’anti-France ! Pourtant on ne peut pas vraiment dire que François Hollande soit l’incarnation de la gauche “couteau entre les dents”. Ni que ses discours soient imprégnés d’idéologie sectaire, que son propos soit particulièrement “clivant”…  Une autre partie de la population, beaucoup plus large, aurait même tendance à lui reprocher le contraire : sa mollesse, son absence de leadership ! Alors que leur a-t-il fait pour les mettre dans cet état là ? Le mariage pour tous ? Trop d’impôts ? La promotion des congés paternité qui “assexueraient” notre société ? Non, ces éléments avancés comme autant d’attaques invivables contre notre civilisation, ne sont, en réalité rien au regard d’un seul élément, toujours le même quand la gauche est au pouvoir : l’illégitimité. La gauche héritière de la Révolution française, la gauche régicide est toujours illégitime pour une petite partie de la droite la plus réactionnaire. Cette partie de la droite, depuis la Libération et les révélations de ses trahisons pendant la guerre, se taisait, se terrait dans quelques recoins de Versailles, dans l’ouest parisien, dans de vieilles familles du grand ouest, dans quelques belles demeures de province et églises intégristes… Mais bon, il ne faut pas non plus surestimer le potentiel révolutionnaire du Vésinet.

C’est vraiment une France très minoritaire que vous décrivez là !

Oui on l’avait vue ressurgir auprès de Jean-Marie Le Pen, avant que Marine Le Pen ne républicanise la façade du FN. Cette droite n’est pas le gros du bataillon de la droite politique UMP, ni même du Front National. C’est un petit noyau réactionnaire qui a trouvé, à l’occasion de la contestation du mariage pour tous, une caisse de résonance. Internet a fait le lien entre toutes les miettes vieille France éparpillées et qui avaient l’impression -avant de se voir les uns les autres- de n’être que la trace d’un monde qui s’en va. En réalité ils le sont mais l’amplificateur d’internet et la coagulation (momentanée) de leurs préoccupations avec celles d’une population beaucoup plus large et beaucoup plus modérée, au moment de la manif pour tous, ou des bonnets rouges, leur fait croire qu’une forme de restauration est possible. Il existe à gauche aussi une petite frange, héritière des sans-culottes, et qui considère que tout ce qui est de droite est fasciste ! Chacun des deux camps, droite et gauche ne peut se permettre de couper tout à fait les ponts avec ces deux franges qui regroupent tous ceux qui n’ont pas accepté, soit que la révolution ait eu lieu, soit qu’elle n’ait pas été assez loin. Il est quand même étonnant, après avoir vu les fleurs de Lys et les quenelles hier qu’un responsable de l’UMP comme Luc Chatel dise “comprendre les manifestants”. Car il s’agissait bien d’une manifestation factieuse. “Travail, famille, patrie” ! Que cette droite légitimiste soit rejointe par l’extrême gauche antisémite et populiste de Dieudonné et d’Alain Soral, et nous avons le cocktail anti républicain de la révolution nationale de la collaboration. La manif pour tous du printemps denier a engendré un petit monstre… Plus ridicule qu’effrayant… à l’image de Béatrice Bourges, martyre de la dictature Hollandiste et qui a décidé de faire une grève de la faim jusqu’à la démission de François Hollande ! Il faudrait prévenir la chef du printemps français que si le ridicule ne tue pas, la privation de nourriture : si !

On the bit about the “illegitimacy” of the left in power in the eyes of the hard right: I mentioned this in my post w/pics yesterday and made the parallel with the GOP right-wing in the US, which does not accept the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s victories (but didn’t with Bill Clinton’s either; and no doubt wouldn’t have with Gore or Kerry if they had been elected). If Rush Limbaugh’s ditto heads were transformed into Frenchmen and transported to Paris, a certain number would have found themselves in yesterday’s demo, c’est sûr.

This half-minute video of the ‘Jour de colère’ pretty much sums up the general Weltanshauung of the marchers. And then there’s this one

UPDATE: Le Monde journalists Abel Mestre and Caroline Monnot have a must-read post on their ‘Droite(s) extrême(s)’ blog—and that seconds Thomas Legrand’s analysis above—on “La défaite politique de «Jour de colère».”

2nd UPDATE: Yesterday’s Le Petit Journal (Canal+) had a report on the Jour de colère, showing its journalists being aggressed and manhandled by demonstrators. (January 28)

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Paris 01 05 2013

Henri Guaino, sarkozyste du premier plan, had a full-page tribune on the Front National in Le Monde dated December 17th (voici le lien), explaining why, from his Gaullist standpoint, the FN’s world-view and political posture is antithetical to his, of why he feels no affinity whatever with this political party. Now I am not a fan of Guaino, to put it mildly. I have felt no affinity whatever with him over the years—and particularly during his five-year stint at the Élysée as Sarkozy’s right-hand man—and have made unkind statements about him on occasions too numerous to count. But giving credit where credit is due, I have to say that his tribune is excellent. As a principled man of the right, he nails what it is about the FN that renders it beyond the pale. The tribune merits being read in its entirety but here is one noteworthy passage

D’où vient alors ce malaise indicible que j’éprouve comme tant d’autres face à ce parti et qui m’empêchera toujours de pactiser avec lui ? Il vient du sentiment, dont je ne peux pas me défaire, qu’il y a dans sa conception du pouvoir quelque chose de monstrueusement inhumain et que le problème posé par le FN est dans ce que j’appellerais, au risque assumé de la polémique, son ADN. C’est une métaphore. Il ne s’agit nullement ici de biologie. Mais, j’y reviens, les partis comme toute collectivité humaine, comme les nations, ont une histoire, une expérience, une culture qui leur façonne une manière d’être et de penser.

Si avec les responsables du FN, il n’y a jamais de débat possible, seulement des affrontements, c’est parce que ce parti a encore et toujours besoin d’ennemis. Sa nature est d’être toujours l’instrument d’une colère ; aujourd’hui, l’immense colère qu’éprouvent tous ceux qui se sentant dépossédés de leur vie veulent dire non à tout parce qu’ils ont le sentiment que c’est l’ultime refuge, l’ultime expression de leur liberté.

Reading Guaino’s description of the FN’s DNA, I was reminded of the Tea Party GOP. The need to have enemies, to demonize part of society… For the anecdote, I mentioned Guaino’s tribune yesterday to two of my American students, which led to comments on American politics. One said that her mother, a lifelong Republican, was now calling herself an independent on account of the GOP’s right-wing lurch. The other said that her father, an investment banker and Republican, was so fed up with the party that he may vote for Hillary Clinton in ’16. As I’ve said before, the Tea Party GOP = FN. A not insignificant number of Republicans want nothing to do with the party if it is taken over by its extremist wing. And an even more significant number of principled French conservatives want nothing to do with the FN. Which is why the UMP will not, malgré tout, enter into any kind of formal alliance with the Frontistes, now or in the future.

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This is a 3½+ hour, four-part documentary on the history of Jewish-Muslim relations—from the 7th century to the present—by French filmmaker Karim Miské. Parts 1 and 2 aired on ARTE last night and may be watched here (for one week at least). The documentary is quite good and with an impressive number of francophone and anglophone academic and other specialists interviewed. I noted in the credits that the film received the support of the cultural services of the US embassy in Paris. Parts 3 and 4 will air next Tuesday (and which will be on ARTE’s website linked to above).

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EU Profiler

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Last year I linked to the Politest: le test pour se positionner politiquement, i.e. the test to see where one is situated politically in France (here, with questions translated into English). There’s a similar test—which I just learned about—, EU Profiler, that was devised for the 2009 elections to the European parliament, that tells which parties one is closest to in all European countries. To take the test, go here (on peut le prendre en français et d’autres langues européennes aussi).

Here are the parties in selected European countries that the EU Profiler informs me I am closet to:

France: PRG followed by PS (my Politest result was the other way around)
UK (England): Liberal Democrats
Germany: SPD
Italy: Sinistra Ecologia Libertà (don’t know a thing about them)
Spain: Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds (huh?) followed by PSOE
Greece: PASOK (ugh)
Poland: SLD-UP
Turkey: Özgürlük ve Dayanışma Partisi (don’t know them but they sound sympathique)

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The Brussels Business

Bruxelles-business

For those interested in the EU, today’s New York Times has a must read article on the “Lobbying bonanza as firms try to influence European Union.” American public relations and law firms are heavily involved, and importing Washington/K Street practices to Brussels—and with all that that implies in terms of $$$ and legalized corruption.

On this precise subject, there is an excellent, must see 1½ hour documentary, ‘The Brussels Business‘, that has aired on television in Europe over the past year. It may be watched in its entirety on YouTube here. La version française peut être regardée sur la site web d’ARTE ici ou sur YouTube ici.

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Alain Frachon, éditorialiste et chroniqueur du Monde, a eu une bonne analyse il y a dix jours de la puissance américaine—ou plutôt, de son absence—dans le Moyen Orient. Un passage clé

Barack Obama, le contraire d’un homme à la gâchette facile, s’apprête à sanctionner par la force l’emploi de l’arme chimique en Syrie. Au Proche-Orient, l’épisode renforcera dans leurs convictions tous ceux – ils sont nombreux – qui diabolisent l’Amérique : quoi qu’il arrive, coupable de tous les malheurs de la région !

Elle tirerait les fils des tragédies en cours. Cheftaine du monde occidental, elle manipulerait, corromprait, intimiderait ou séduirait les uns et les autres avec toujours le même sinistre et noir désir : priver les Arabes de la maîtrise de leur destin.

L’Amérique en éternelle puissance suzeraine du Proche-Orient ? C’est un mythe, une légende. Mais ils sont plus partagés que jamais.

Exemples. La presse du Caire accuse les Etats-Unis d’avoir propulsé les Frères musulmans au pouvoir pour mieux asservir l’Egypte – les éditorialistes ne précisent pas comment. La propagande de Damas affirme que Bachar Al-Assad est victime d’un complot américano-israélo-djihadiste – Washington, Al-Qaida et Israël coalisés pour en finir avec le seul régime qui tienne tête aux Occidentaux. Sur le Net, une rumeur incrimine l’hypocrisie prétendue de Barack Obama : le président américain, voyez-vous, n’attendait qu’un prétexte, celui de l’attaque chimique du 21 août, pour intervenir en Syrie…

La légende de la surpuissance des Etats-Unis – et de son président – ne s’embarrasse pas des faits. Elle les ignore. Elle est l’une des formes d’une maladie que l’Organisation mondiale de la santé (OMS) a oublié de traiter dans la région : la “complotite”.

La complotite : un dérangement psychologique, voire une maladie mentale. Je l’ai dit depuis longtemps.

Un passage sur l’Egypte

De même que la capacité des Etats-Unis à exercer une influence sur la situation en Egypte s’est avérée largement “surestimée”. A plusieurs reprises, les Américains ont mis en garde Mohamed Morsi contre sa dérive autoritaire, sectaire et suicidaire. Sans succès. Passé le coup d’Etat du 3 juillet, ils ont supplié le nouveau “patron” de l’Egypte, le général Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi, de ne pas aller à l’affrontement avec les Frères musulmans. Là encore, sans le moindre succès.

Aucune des pressions exercées par Washington n’a intimidé les généraux égyptiens. Pas même la menace esquissée, et restée en suspens, d’une interruption de l’aide militaire de 1,3 milliard de dollars accordée chaque année au Caire depuis 1979.

Le texte entier de la chronique se trouve ici.

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Tahrir Square, Cairo, July 7 2013 (photo: Khaled Desouki/Getty Images)

Tahrir Square, Cairo, July 7 2013 (photo: Khaled Desouki/Getty Images)

[update below]

A US intervention, that is. If it indeed happens, which is now looking uncertain in view of the current vote count in Congress. On verra. But if it does happen, what will be the reaction in the Arab world? On this, Marc Lynch has an important article in FP. Money quote

Despite the intense efforts by these Gulf states [Saudi Arabia, UAE] over the past two years to build public support for the Syrian opposition, Arab public opinion remains sharply divided over what to do about Syria and broadly hostile to American military intervention regardless of views on other issues. The one thing which seems to unite this fragmented and intensely divided Arab public is a rejection of American meddling. Forgetting Iraq may be one of the 10 Beltway Commandments, but Arabs have not agreed to move on. Arab leaders may harp on American “credibility” and the costs of not acting, but those sentiments likely do not extend far beyond regime circles. It is exceedingly difficult to find any trust in American intentions or positive views of America’s role in the region — and hard to imagine how U.S. military strikes would change those views for the better. As former Al Jazeera boss (and strong supporter of NATO’s Libya intervention) Wadah Khanfar put it, “this strong desire to eradicate the regime will never be translated into support for American military intervention.”

One may object that there was practically no opposition on the “Arab street” to the intervention in Libya, though to which one may counter that Libya was an exception in view of the universal hatred of Qadhafi across the Arab world, by regimes and peoples alike. And the Libya intervention had a clear—if not explicitly stated—objective and by which success could be measured—regime change—, and that could be accomplished by physically terminating the ra’is. Syria is different, obviously, as regime change is not the US goal—and could not be achieved even if it were—and the probability of a successful intervention, however “success” is defined, is minimal at best. And the US, which is already in a minority internationally on the question, is sure to be vilified ever more in the Arab world. So an eventual Syria intervention really is looking like a fool’s errand.

And then there’s the attitude of the US military, which will carry out the eventual intervention bien entendu. On this, Robert H. Scales, a retired Army major-general and former commandant of the U.S. Army War College, has an op-ed in WaPo, “A war the Pentagon doesn’t want.”

Also worth reading in WaPo is a post by Max Fisher on “A terrorism expert’s Twitter rant about how we get Syrian rebels all wrong.” The expert, who is no dummy, is Charles Lister, head Middle East analyst at IHS Jane’s Terrorism & Insurgency Centre. His bottom line: Syria is “immensely complex” and one must not forget this.

Columbia University’s Richard Betts has an article on the Foreign Affairs website—its most viewed at the moment—on “Pick[ing] your poison: America has many options in Syria, none are good.”

Continuing his campaign for a US intervention, Hussein Ibish has written an “Open letter to Congress on Syria,” in which he argues that “US credibility, not only in the Middle East, but globally, requires military action in Syria.” Peut-être.

Finally, I must link to this tribune in Le Monde of a week ago by the great Syrian intellectual Sadiq Jalal al-Azm, “Il faut une bonne fois pour toutes mettre fin à la dynastie Al-Assad en Syrie.” To my knowledge, al-Azm has never been exiled from Syria. Until now. With views like this, he probably won’t be going home anytime soon.

UPDATE: Marc Lynch posted on FP the other day “A Syria reading list,” offering “a selection of some of the most useful books [emphasis his] for making sense of what’s happening in Syria now and what might be coming.” Very useful. Lynch writes that

The very best book for all this is probably Patrick Seale’s sadly out of print The Struggle for Syria: a definitive, highly readable account of an earlier era of regional proxy wars over Syria. I’m shocked that it doesn’t seem to be available at an affordable price, but get your hands on it if you can.

I entirely agree. It’s a great book. I’ve read it twice—and touted it in a post last year.

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© The Economist

© The Economist

That’s what Patrick Cockburn says it is, in an absolute must read piece in The Independent. The lede: “History teaches us that limited Western intervention can only inflame this complex war and will do nothing to bring peace.”

In a somewhat similar vein, Ignace Leverrier, in a post on his “Un œil sur la Syrie” blog on Le Monde’s website, says “Non aux frappes symboliques et de bonne conscience. Oui aux frappes utiles en Syrie.” Pour l’info, Ignace Leverrier is the nom de plume of a French ex-diplomat with extensive experience in the Arab world (and who is an arabisant).

Also en français, geopolitical commentator Bernard Guetta—whom I like, even if I don’t have to agree with him 100% of the time—informed his France Inter audience this morning (which included me) that “La messe syrienne n’est pas forcément dite.”

And if one didn’t see it, Vali Nasr had an op-ed in yesterday’s NYT—and with which Bernard Guetta would certainly agree—on “Forcing Obama’s hand in Syria.”

À suivre.

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[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below] [4th update below] [5th update below]

Paris-based grand reporter Christopher Dickey has an “Open letter to President Obama” in TDB that has been making the rounds (on my FB timeline and email inbox), in which he cautions the president that “Syria is not our war.” The lede: “Assad has learned from history that what doesn’t kill him will make him stronger. President Obama, you need to understand that lesson too.” Dickey then enumerates the many US military interventions—limited and not—that have ended in fiasco or engendered perverse consequences, though covers his rear in acknowledging the few that have yielded positive results (e.g. Bosnia, Kosovo), but which he says were exceptions to the rule. There’s a certain amount of fallacious reasoning here, as the fact that Lebanon 1982-84, Libya 1986 etc etc didn’t work out as the US had intended does not ipso facto mean that such will be the case in Syria next week (or even later today, who knows). Every case is specific. There is no hard and fast rule. Iraq 1991 and Afghanistan 2001—”good” interventions in my book—were not Iraq 2003 (bad). And the West militarily intervening in Syria in 2011-12 (bad idea, I insisted) was not the same as Libya 2011 or Mali 2013 (good). And the latter two have worked out okay so far (oh, of course Libya is still a mess—how could it not be?—but the psychotic Qadhafi regime is gone, and for that alone the intervention was worth it).

But Syria 2013 may be different from 2011-12. I don’t know. I’ve been totally opposed to intervening there—and this is at least the 337th time I’ve said it—but, as I argued two days ago, the latest chemical attack may have changed the equation, that now something may have to be done, though I have no idea what that something should be. It has become tedious and boring to say that there are no good options in Syria and that a Western military strike—which will necessarily be limited—may not only not work but make things worse (not to mention go horribly wrong, by accidentally killing a lot of civilians). But the argument of Bernard Guetta (to which I linked on Thursday) and others that the costs of inaction may now outweigh those of a limited military strike—and with all its risks and uncertainties—is not one I can dismiss.

In regard to an eventual intervention, there are three issues that need to be laid to rest. One has to do with international law. David Rieff in TNR the other day asserted that a US intervention, in the absence of a UNSC resolution, would be “illegal.” Legality, shmegality. Or, to borrow from David Ben Gurion, um-shmum! Seriously, who gives a caca about the United Nations Security Council?! It is, of course, nice to have the green light from the UNSC when intervening militarily somewhere—to have the benediction of the “international community” (i.e. to have Russia and China in one’s corner)—but it hardly matters one way or the other, in that no state is going to forswear military intervention outside its borders in the face of a UNSC veto, nor will there be any legal consequences for that state if it does what it does against the wishes of the UNSC. And does anyone (in America or Europe) seriously argue that the US (and France etc) should have its action thwarted by a Russian or Chinese veto?

Secondly, on US congressional approval. I’m not going to get into a legalistic-type argument here—and US law, unlike international, is an important consideration for a president—except to assert that a president should not need prior congressional authorization for a limited military operation somewhere, particularly if it doesn’t involve ground forces. Generally speaking, Congress—or parliament elsewhere—should be consulted if the US (or UK, France, etc) plans a limited operation but must not have a veto (as was the case in the British House of Commons yesterday). On this matter—of foreign policy—, I am a longtime believer in the supremacy of the executive over the legislative.

For more on these issues, see U of Chicago Law School prof Eric Posner’s piece in Slate, “The U.S. has no legal basis to intervene in Syria: But of course that won’t stop us.” And on the British vote, see Alex Massie’s commentary in The Spectator, “On Syria, parliament has voted to have no policy at all.”

Thirdly, the question of public opinion. Those arguing against an intervention in Syria have been citing polls showing large majorities of Americans opposed to the idea. Likewise in France and the UK. It’s only normal that public opinion would be reticent on this score (there is no rhyme or reason for any middle American or citoyen lambda in France to favor bombing Syria). But presidents (or prime ministers) cannot be guided by polls when making such decisions. And while the public in its majority may have the right instincts on military interventions, it doesn’t always (e.g. polls in 2003-04 showed majorities supporting the Bush administration’s action in Iraq). A president (or PM) has to do what he thinks in the national interest, not what some polls tells him.

UPDATE: Fred Kaplan at Slate weighs in on “Obama’s gamble,” arguing that his “seeking congressional approval for his Syria strike was risky and right.”

2nd UPDATE: David Rothkopf at FP has an analysis—which I do not necessarily share in its entirety—of “The gamble,” in which he enumerates the “five big consequences of the president’s call to let Congress decide about America’s Syrian intervention.”

3rd UPDATE: On the French position, Hubert Védrine has a must read interview in the JDD, in which he asserts, entre autres, that “La pire des solutions à ce stade serait d’adresser un signal d’impunité au régime syrien, mais aussi à d’autres puissances et d’autres groupes dangereux.”

4th UPDATE: For more on the French position, see Yochi Dreazen’s piece in FP, “Paris Match,” in which he describes “how France became America’s favorite—and sometimes only—shooting buddy.”

5th UPDATE: Steven A. Cook, whose analyses I respect, has an op-ed in WaPo explaining why he no longer supports intervention in Syria.

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