France

France Warned of Neo-Conservative Influence and the Folly of Intervention

France's foreign affairs minister in the run up to the Iraq War warns his country of its present intervention in Mali

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je ne pense pas

As noted on Reason 24/7, Dominique de Villepin, who was France's foreign minister from 2002 to 2004 (and later the prime minister), warned of the folly of France's ongoing military intervention in Mali in an op-ed published over the weekend. Villepin, of course, was one of the most outspoken opponents of America's invasion of Iraq, becoming the face of what Donald Rumsfeld termed "Old Europe" in the run up to that war. While Villepin may have set the tone of principled non-intervention, later revelations showed that official French opposition to the war may have been based on a much narrower self-interest, namely the lucratively corrupt Oil-for-Food program. Regardless, outside of opposition to the Iraq War, France is hardly a non-interventionist country, especially when it comes to Africa, a continent on which France operated as a colonial power until the latter part of the 20th century.

Nevertheless, in his op-ed Villepin asks: "How has the neo-conservative virus been able to infect our outlook?" He sees in the French intervention in Mali shades of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. "We will be fighting blind without any reason for actually going to war," he writes, pointing out that keeping the Islamists from running rough-shod over the southern portion of the country, helping Mali's army recapture the north and hunting down elements of Al-Qaeda are all "completely separate war aims." Perhaps most importantly, Villepin applied the principle of blowback, writing that "these wars are a cog. Each creates the conditions for the next." Sort of how the French-backed Western intervention in Libya caused the current crisis in Mali. You can read the op-ed in the original French here.

P.S. If you had Saturday in your office pool on when France would ask the U.S. for help in its foray into Mali, you won.