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Libya and the return of French diplomatic leadership

With the ongoing NATO intervention in Libya, both the New York Times and The Economist profile France as a leader on the international diplomatic stage. Excerpts are below. Now there is debate about who is leading the effort in Libya, but there is no doubt France is playing one of the leading roles.

What do you think of the Libyan intervention?

NYT excerpts:

Sarkozy Puts France at Vanguard of West’s War Effort
By STEVEN ERLANGER
Published: March 20, 2011

President Nicolas Sarkozy may be down in the opinion polls, but he has put France boldly in the forefront of an allied effort to prevent the decimation of the opposition to Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi…

…Mr. Sarkozy, motivated by French failures to respond quickly to the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and pressed by a new foreign minister and vocal public figures like the writer Bernard-Henri Lévy, came together with Britain to drag Europe and the United States toward a military engagement in the Arab world that key allies like Washington and Berlin never wanted…

…France had “decided to assume its role, its role before history” in stopping Colonel Qaddafi’s “murderous madness,” Mr. Sarkozy said solemnly on Saturday, standing alone before the television cameras and pleasing those here who still have a strong sense of French exceptionalism and moral leadership…

…As for France, with at least 40 aircraft and numerous ships committed, including its nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, the battle in Libya is one of the largest French military operations in years, even though it does not involve any troops, as in Afghanistan…

Economist excerpts:

France’s role in Libya
The welcome return of French diplomacy
Mar 20th 2011, 21:23 by S.P. | PARIS

THE success of yesterday’s Paris summit in securing international backing for the military strikes on Libya marks quite a comeback for French diplomacy. Just two months ago, France was offering another Arab autocrat, in Tunisia, help controlling rebellion. Last week’s farcical miscommunication over France’s recognition of the Libyan rebels pointed to ongoing confusion about who was really running its foreign policy. But President Nicolas Sarkozy’s “summit in support of the Libyan people”, which united European, American and some Arab leaders, was hard to fault. Less than two hours later, French fighter planes were in the sky heading for Libyan airspace, followed by the British and Americans. From left to right, the French political class has applauded…

…As always with diplomacy, and never more so than when it comes to the mercurial Mr Sarkozy, there was also an element of opportunism. The French president is deeply unpopular in the polls, and faces a presidential election next year. He had long been hoping to use foreign affairs to boost his standing, as he did when France held the rotating presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2008.

This time, he used his opportunities wisely. He sensed American hesitation about leading another operation in the Arab world, and turned this to his advantage by putting France in the driving seat alongside the British. Germany’s abstention over the Security Council resolution at first irritated the French, but also handed them an opportunity to take the lead. The strange role of Bernard-Henri Lévy, a left-wing philosopher and media celebrity, who telephoned Mr Sarkozy from Benghazi to urge him to back the rebels, seems to have played a part too. For once, Mr Sarkozy’s personal political interests coincided with national and international ones…

…The atmospherics in Paris have changed almost overnight. Politicians of all stripes, including on the left, have praised France’s action. Even Mr de Villepin, a rival to Mr Sarkozy on the Gaullist right, said that “France has lived up to its ideals.” The French are feeling good about themselves as a country that has done the right thing diplomatically for arguably the first time since ex-President Jacques Chirac and Mr de Villepin declared that they would veto a UN Security Council resolution authorising intervention in Iraq. Whether this lasts is another matter. Although Mr Juppé made it clear that this is not a ground operation, nobody knows how long or how tough it will turn out to be. French public opinion is enjoying a renewed sense of national respect, but has not—yet—been prepared for a long and messy war…

  1. March 22nd, 2011 at 16:31 | #1

    Slaughter of civilians MUST BE STOP! Alas, seems the international effort has not yet stop it 🙁 !

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