Checking in with the Sarkozys

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Adam Gopnik files a mini-profile of French President Nicholas Sarkozy in the New Yorker, and while a lot of it is assertion-by-anecdote, he clears up some of the fog that clouds Sarkozy's image in this country. We're told that the new French president is "pro-American" (i.e., will help us invade stuff) and boldly conservative. It's a little more complex:

Some suspect that Sarkozy's secret strength in resolving the French economic "crisis" may be that there is no crisis. Over the past few years, the stock market has hummed along, and the quality of French life remains remarkably high. Every French worker is still guaranteed those five weeks of vacation, and though the thirty-five-hour week is a folly, it is not a scandal. At the same time, Sarkozy has acted aggressively to create what amounts to the first program of affirmative action in high places in France, including choosing a Muslim woman, Rachida Dati, as the minister of justice. Even the philosopher Pascal Bruckner, who predicted the riots in the poor suburbs in 2005 and does not underestimate the intensity of Muslim alienation—the Muslim vote ran overwhelmingly against Sarkozy, and among his fiercest opponents are many Muslims—thinks in retrospect that the riots were more "American" than they might have seemed at first: that they were mostly a cry of excluded people demanding inclusion in the French state, rather than a first intifada of people who wish to remain outside it, or remake it in the image of their own faith. (A poll last year showed that almost as many French Muslims think of themselves as French first and Muslim second as think of themselves as Muslims first and French second.) Sarkozy is said by those who know him to have a distaste for bien pensant clichés of minority appeasement—he feels that tolerance runs two ways—but he believes in inclusion on the American model, and thinks, perhaps too optimistically, that the problem can be dealt with by providing better jobs and more Muslim faces in big roles.

Not quite as simple as Newt Gingrich suggested, and not as transferrable, as he hoped, to the GOP here.

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  1. I was wondering when you folks were going to get around to blogging this.

    I think that it is safe to say that many of those who had various fantasies about Sarkozy are quite ignorant of him and France.

  2. “…that they were mostly a cry of excluded people demanding inclusion in the French state, rather than a first intifada of people who wish to remain outside it,”

    Well d’uh. Even les chiens dans la rue know this. French Muslims are by and large as Muslim as the French Catholics are Catholic. And for every French Muslim who’ll take the Palestinian side in the ME you’ll find ten left wing French white boys who’ll do likewise.

    Stick vast amounts of any creed or nationality in shitty run down suburbs, give them bugger all infrastructure, add a pinch of discrimination and wait 1 or 2 generations to see what happens.

  3. I watched one of the televised presidential debates between Sarkozy and Segolene Royal before the election and I was very impressed by the level of political discourse in France (and the fact that the moderators didn’t accept any bullshit answers).

    Made me wish it was like that here in Canada, or in the US.

  4. The Sarkozy-Gordon Brown-Merkel generation is not unsympathetic to America, but America is not so much the primary issue for them, as it was for Blair and Chirac, in the nineties, when America was powerful beyond words. To a new leadership class, it sometimes seems that America is no longer the human bomb you have to defuse but the nut you walk away from.

    What Brown, Merkel, and Sarkozy all have in common is that they do not want to be defined by their response to America-either unduly faithful, as with Blair, or unduly hostile, as Chirac became. Instead, as Levitte says, they all want to normalize relations with a great power that is no longer the only power. Its military weakness has been exposed in Iraq, its economic weakness by the rise of the euro, and its once great cultural magnetism has been diminished by post-9/11 paranoia and insularity. America has recovered from worse before, and may do so again. But it is also possible that the election of Nicolas Sarkozy may be seen not as the start of a new pro-American moment in Europe but as a marker of the beginning of the post-American era. ?

    choke on that neo-conservatives.

    I grin with maniac glee when I hear that soon America will be a marginalized power and no longer the de-facto policeman of the world. Oh the joy I’ll have when our leaders realize they have to negotiate with the rest of the world like every other nation. Obscurity, embrace us!!!

  5. L_I_T,

    Until the DOD budget declines rather drastically, we don’t have to negotiate a damn thing. We may not be too good at gluing the pieces back together (cough*Iraq*cough), but the US military is still the current reigning heavyweight champ in the “kill people and break stuff” competition.

  6. I grin with maniac glee when I hear that soon America will be a marginalized power and no longer the de-facto policeman of the world.

    Soon? It won’t happen in your children’s children’s lifetime.

  7. Marginalized by who, L-I-T? A Europe caught in a demographic death spiral? A China with nearly more economically and socially marginalized peasants than there are people in North America?

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