Thursday, February 19, 2015

Times article on FN

Some interesting reportage here.

After the attacks in Paris, [Steeve] Briois [FN mayor of Hénin-Beaumont and party #2] personally reached out to the mosque to let its members know that he stood with them and to invite them to a rally in town. The Socialist community refused to attend the mayor’s rally — the Socialists held their own ­— but many Muslims did.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Minority Government: Valls Invokes 49-3 to Secure Passage of the Loi Macron

Manuel Valls announced today that he would resort to Article 49-3 of the French Constitution because the Loi Macron had failed to attract enough support from the ostensible majority to pass. France is now ruled by a minority government, and the hopes of a new beginning raised by the election of Hollande in 2012 are officially dead, along with the always illusory "spirit of January 11." The irony of the situation is that the government has come to this sad pass over the anemic Loi Macron--a watered-down version of the Attali Commission report that has since been further watered down by a month of parliamentary horse trading. Yet despite all this furious backpedaling and bargaining, the left of the left still cannot swallow the modest Macron reforms, while the right will vote against the law, which contains nothing it hasn't supported in the past, solely to embarrass the government. The Valls government is now in a position of utter incoherence, reduced to waiting for something to turn up and without a semblance of unity regarding further reforms.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Linguistic Derangement: Dumas, Valls, Islamo-Fascism, "Jewish influence"

The recent terror attacks--first in Paris, now in Copenhagen--have heated French political rhetoric to the point where the language is melting, one word flows into another, and it's hard to tell where amalgame ends and impermissible excess begins. Prime Minister Valls, pulling out all stops to express France's "love" for its Jews and the "wound" it has suffered from the recent events, declared his opposition to "Islamo-Fascism," a term he no doubt meant to underscore the gravity of the threat and his commitment to maintain the heightened level of security he initiated after the January attacks. Then Roland Dumas, who served as foreign minister under Mitterrand (and was later involved in the "putain de la République" scandal), took issue with the term--which would have been permissible, since its contribution to understanding Islamist radicalism is debatable--but then could not prevent himself from alleging that Valls was "probably under Jewish influence" (apparently because his wife is Jewish). Dumas is carrying an old grudge from when Valls accused him of favoring the Palestinian side in the Israel-Palestine conflict. This very ugly exchange will unfortunately be another distraction, diverting the government's attention from where it needs to be focused. Deplorable.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Facts about the Muslim Population in Europe

Useful information from Pew. Did you know, for instance, that 72% of the French have a positive view of Muslims, higher than in any other European country? Germany and Britain are next. And it so happens that France, Germany, and Britain are, in that order, the countries with the largest proportion of Muslims in their population. But Italy, the next country on the list in terms of percentage of Muslims in the population, has the lowest favorable view (just 28%).

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Minsk Accord

I can't remember where I read that Édouard Daladier, upon returning from Munich after signing the Munich Accord with Hitler and seeing his plane met by cheering crowds hailing the preservation of "peace," turned to an aide and said, "Quels imbéciles!" I doubt that François Hollande will be met by cheering crowds when he returns from Minsk, but he is no doubt as lucid as Daladier about the agreement he and Angela Merkel have just reached with Vladimir Putin.

At Harvard last week, I heard the French ambassador, Gérard Araud, denounce armchair warriors (perhaps he was thinking of John McCain?) who are willing to "die to the last Ukrainian" for a cause about which the adversary cares much more deeply, and in which he has a much greater interest, than one's own side. I have no wish to join the McCains of this world, and I am not prepared to die, or see my sons die, "for Donetsk," even knowing in retrospect that to "die for Danzig" or the Sudetenland would have been the right choice.

Still, and despite all the differences that make the analogy with 1938 suspect, and despite the slipperiness of all historical analogy in such matters, I can't help feeling that this isn't the end, that Putin will not stop with the Donbass any more than he stopped with Crimea (where I did believe, mistakenly, he would stop). His method, now well-honed, has been working only too well, and has made him remarkably popular at home (where the US is now seen as "the enemy" by nearly 80 percent of Russians).

Hollande would therefore be well-advised to avoid trumpeting victory, as Sarkozy did after he returned from another face-off with Putin over Georgia. I recognize the justice of all the arguments that say Ukraine is different, a substantial fraction of its population wants to be Russian, speaks Russian, and wants no part of the EU, for example. I think the EU and NATO made a mistake with their overtures to Ukraine, which is economically unprepared for EU membership and for which a NATO presence would be as militarily unpalatable to the Russians as Soviet missiles in Cuba were to the United States. The integration of Ukraine with Russia in the Soviet era was strong, and indeed, even today, the Russian ambassador to the US is Ukrainian by birth.

All that said, Europe has not seen this kind of naked military aggression in a very long time. It is unsettling to witness its return in a period of deep economic crisis and tension within the European Union.

Finally, we do not yet know what the US reaction to the European accord will be. It is hard to imagine the US going through with its threat to arm the Ukrainians, who must now refuse any such aid or break the agreement with Russia. But the impossibility of acting will only embolden McCain and his allies to scream louder than ever: for the American va-t-en-guerre, the fact that there is no question of his advice being acted on only increases the temptation to ever-greater ferocity. The war cries of the impotent are as effective a remedy for what ails them as injections of testosterone.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Two UMP municipal councilors join the FN in Marseille

In Marseille, where police today faced automatic weapons fire in a housing project, two municipal councilors who had been members of the UMP have gone over to the Front National. One of them, Karim Herzallah, said that he was tired of being the UMP's "arabe de service." This explanation hardly makes his decision to join the enemy less surprising, however.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Doubs or Die

The PS eked out a victory in the Doubs, 51.4 to 48.6. Participation was up over the first round, and the FN candidate received a substantial share of the UMP vote. So the worst was avoided, but the signs remain alarming for both the PS and the UMP. A prospective FN victory no longer frightens voters as in the past.

Meanwhile, Alain Juppé was jeered at a UMP party meeting after calling for a broad center-right coalition. And PS leader J.-C. Cambadélis warned his party that what it really needs to fear is not the old guard of the UMP--Sarkozy and Juppé--but the younger generation of Le Maires and Wauquiezs, who "think like Buisson [Sarko's disgraced far-right strategist] but present themselves like Juppé." He may have a point.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hollande and "l'esprit du 11 janvier"

François Hollande held his fifth news conference this morning in grand pomp sous les ors de la République. His most important announcement was that he and Chancellor Merkel would fly to Kiev this afternoon and then on to Moscow. But he also wanted to perpetuate what people have begun to call "l'esprit du 11 janvier," the burst of national unity and republican fraternity that broke out on the Sunday after the recent terror attacks.

And Hollande's rhetoric was in full republican spate. He hit all the cardinal points of the republican catechism: the schools are the key to the "reconquête" of France's minorities, a singularly ill-chosen word:
François Hollande est revenu sur la priorité de son quinquennat : l'école. C'est, a-t-il dit, « la meilleure arme pour la reconquête ».
 He also reaffirmed his belief in the naked public square and opposition to any recognition of "communities" within the nation, almost channeling Clermont-Tonnerre's "everything to the Jews as individuals, nothing to the Jews as a nation":
François Hollande a déclaré que nul ne doit se sentir « ségrégé ». Alors que son premier ministre Manuel Valls avait suscité de la polémique en usant du terme « apartheid » pour dénoncer le cloisonnement de quartiers pauvres, le chef de l'Etat a déclaré : « Moi je ne reconnais pas les communautés. Je dis que tout citoyen de la République a les mêmes droits et les mêmes devoirs ».
« La République reconnaît tous ses enfants, où qu'ils soient nés et où qu'ils vivent », a-t-il martelé. Elle « a le devoir de faire que chacun de ses enfants, de ses citoyens puisse réussir sa vie et ne pas avoir le sentiment qu'il est ségrégé, séparé, discriminé, écarté, mis de côté, parce qu'il vivrait dans le même ensemble, le même quartier » et que « son seul destin serait de le quitter ».
Well, it's one thing to tell people they "shouldn't" feel "segregated," quite another to arrange things so they don't. Hollande's statement thus marks a sharp step back from Manuel Valls forthright declaration that France was a de facto "apartheid" society--another word choice that has drawn criticism but that at least had the virtue of concentrating the mind, whereas Hollande's republican pablum suggests that a little jiggering of the school curriculum here and there will make everything fine again.

My disagreement with this view will emerge in a forum to be published soon by the Boston Review.

French Ambassador at Harvard Today

France After the Terrorist Attacks in Paris

Gérard Araud, France's Ambassador to the United States, will be giving a perspective on how the recent terrorist attacks in Paris have affected the French government and society.

Gérard Araud Ambassador of France to the United States

Introduction by Arthur Goldhammer Affiliate, CES

Sponsors: Contemporary Europe

Throughout his life-long career in diplomacy, Gérard Araud has held such high-ranking positions as Permanent Representative at the United Nations (2009-2014), Director General for Political Affairs and Security (2006-2009), Ambassador of France to Israel (2003-2006) and Deputy Permanent Representative at NATO (1995-2000).

Busch Hall, 27 Kirkland St., 3:30-5 PM. I believe this event will also be streamed on video via the CES Web site.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Ni-ni, ou-ou, non mais, yé-yé, gnangnan: Où sommes-nous, d'où venons-nous, où allons-nous chez l'UMP?

The UMP has a serious problem on its hands: What to do about the second round of the District 4 by-election in the Doubs, in which the UMP candidate has been eliminated, leaving the PS to face the FN alone? Sarkozy for once retracted his jutting jaw and went all soft in the knees: No to the FN, but after that you're on your own. Juppé, seeing an opportunity to shore up his position as the "centrist" alternative to Sarko, stood droit dans ses bottes and proclaimed forthrightly that if he had a vote in the Doubs, he'd vote for the Socialist to bar the FN's way. Staunch resolution--except in the past he'd made the opposite choice. When this was pointed out on France2 news last night, Juppé was undaunted: the facts have changed, he said, the FN is much stronger now than it used to be. In other words, in the past he had to demonstrate his steadfast opposition to "socialo-commmunism," but now he needed to bolster his anti-racist credentials (he didn't fail to point out that the FN candidate had declared her belief in the supposedly self-evident fact that some races are superior to others).

There is a certain comic element to this ballet of pre-positioning, in that in this day and age of course the whole concept of "republican discipline" is a bit passé. Party loyalty is weak, voters do not depend on their party stalwarts for their information, and most will have their own preferences between the FN, the PS, and abstention and will make up their own minds accordingly. But la consigne de vote is one of the great rituals of French politics, almost as silly as the "endorsements" by defeated candidates in US presidential primaries, so it goes on year after year, a great tradition, as gullet-warming as a good pot au feu.