Ça y est, we have the first political casualty of l’aprés DSK. No big loss for the French political class. I viewed Georges Tron with a jaundiced eye since I first heard about him, as I do with anyone in Dominique de Villepin’s inner circle (even formerly in that circle, like Tron; I am not a fan of Villepin, to put it mildly). It looks like France is indeed witnessing its “Anita Hill moment.” Tant mieux. Not a moment too soon.
In case anyone didn’t see it, the NY Times had a good discussion on Friday on the DSK affair, with six defense lawyers and legal analysts weighing in. All the contributions are worth reading.
One article not worth reading is Paul Berman’s in TNR the other day, entitled “DSK and the Coming Collapse of U.S.-French Relations” on TNR’s web site. A total crock of bulldust. In the article we learn, among other things, that “skeptical [French] populations will cock an ear to Strauss-Kahn’s champions in the French press. The champions will turn out to be some of the most talented writers alive”… What on earth is Berman talking about?! Apart from maybe BHL, who in the French press is “championing” DSK right now? And “some of the most talented writers alive”? Oh Jesus, GMAB! Berman then gives us a quick tour of the roots of French anti-Americanism—which has become some kind of immutable “cultural tradition”—, taking us back to the 1830s and the Andrew Jackson administration… WTF does this have to do with anything?! What essentialist drivel. He concludes with this doozy: “The ocean-liner of American justice and the ice floes of French conspiracy theories are already bobbing in one another’s direction, and nothing is to be done about it, and, oh dear, has anyone figured out what to do next, post-collision?”
Oh dear is right. Has anyone told Mr. Berman that he
is a complete idiot has a faulty understanding of France and contemporary French politics? I sort of liked Berman in the ’90s, after reading his book on the 1968 generation and essay on Joschka Fischer (though my friend Adam Shatz, for whom I have the utmost esteem—intellectually and otherwise—, gave the ’68 book a less-than-stellar review). Since then, it’s been all downhill for Berman. There was, of course, the Iraq war and his liberal hawkism—to which I was not totally hostile, I should say; I could have gone along with a campaign of regime change in Iraq if I’d been sure it wouldn’t involve dropping bombs, killing lots of people, generating millions of refugees, costing a trillion dollars, wreaking general havoc and destruction, shattering lives, etc, etc. But I was quite certain in early ’03 that all this was going to happen. Berman: nah. Then there’s his obsessive campaign against the innocuous, overrated Tariq Ramadan—overrated both as an intellect and in terms of his putative influence—and which he extended to Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash, who had the temerity to critique, ever so mildly, the equally overrated—intellectually and in most other respects—Aayan Hirsi Ali, provoking a silly guéguerre that only intellectuals who take themselves way too seriously can engage in. The fact is, Berman lacks the competence to be discoursing on Islam, Sayyid Qutb, Hassan al-Banna, Ba’athism, and the like (likewise with Timothy Garton Ash, BTW, who has otherwise been so brilliant when writing about eastern and central Europe, but rather less brilliant when punditizing on Muslims and Islam). Intellectuals and other talking heads should stick to subjects they know well, and avoid pontificating on those they know less well. In Berman’s case, this clearly includes France.