Thursday, August 14, 2008

French leadership, American weakness

By Michael J.W. Stickings

While the U.S. has been wallowing in its own Bush-made weakness, France -- and specifically President Nicolas Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner -- has been taking an admirable leadership position in response to the crisis in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Indeed, if there is to be peace between Russia and Georgia -- that is, if Russia's military onslaught is to be repelled, if Russian expansionism is to be opposed -- it will be because statesman like Sarkozy and Kouchner have more to offer than hollow tough talk, which is all that Bush and McCain have, all bark and no bite.

True, the French peace plan announced early yesterday morning basically went nowhere, with the Russians continuing their assault, whether in spite of or as a result of their (willful) (mis)interpretation of the plan, but at least it was something, at least the effort was there, at least it could form the basis of a workable plan, and at least negotiations will continue.


Actually, it's hard to believe that I'm praising Sarkozy like this. And hard to believe that he's turned into such a statesman. After all, I opposed him when he ran for the presidency last year and generally find his conservatism unappealing -- he's not a national frontist or anything, but he's clearly on the right. And yet, he recently brokered talks between Syria and Lebanon, and now he's taking a leadership role in trying to find a peaceful resolution to the Russia-Georgia Conflict. Plus, he likes Obama and seems to be interested in working constructively with the U.S. on a wide range of issues.

At a time when Bush is posturing and threatening and McCain is pandering and grasping (offering his thoughts and prayers and nothing in the way of substance), it's good to know that there are leaders like Sarkozy out there, as surprising as that may be, to fill the void.

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