Sunday, July 20, 2008


French Viewed by America This Week

France and the French are back in the American press this week in a pleasant assortment of articles. Remarkably, in the same week that a comic strip insulted the French , we also saw:

All of these showed positive images of the French, at least to a degree. I'm not likely to pay the prices noted in the first article for a bourgeois burger, and I don't dance Tecktonik™. But I'm told that people do dance Tecktonik™ as they walk down the street in Lille (aided, I suspect, by their mp3 "baladeurs").

I disagree with Roger Cohen when he writes of Sarkozy in the third article, But this man is a tonic to his country and the most important European leader of his time.--fever, not tonic, and we haven't yet seen the end of "his time"--but I won't argue with his next points:
In the space of a year, he has transformed France’s relations with the United States, Israel, its North African neighbors and NATO. On the domestic front, he has got a Socialist leader to confess he’s also a liberal, a word long so taboo to the French left because of its free-market associations that embracing it was worse than admitting incest.

Let’s take international matters first. Sarkozy’s Mediterranean Union summit — a kind of Club Med Bastille Day bash — had its share of vapid ostentation, but was significant for several reasons.

It got the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, in the same room, drew the latter out of isolation and signaled a new European awareness of how its identity has become inseparable from societies across the “mother sea” that have sent so many of their Muslim sons and daughters northward.

True, Sarkozy showed courage in calling that gathering. But surely Henri Guaino, the "eminence grise" who wrote it into Sarkozy's presidential victory speech in May 2007 (and who read Edgar Morin) should get some of the credit.Even if it isn't turning out the way he dreamed. Mr. Cohen, please note that the "Mediterranean Union" has been recast as the "Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean," an extension of the Barcelona process launched in 1995.

P.S. I've certainly missed, forgotten or otherwise omitted some other, less pleasant news and opinion.

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