The musings, and threats, of a French poseur

Trunk, I’ve finally read the piece you posted this morning in which the Washington Post’s David Ignatius recounts his interview with “the elegant Monsieur de Villepin,” the French foreign minister. If one looks past de Villepin’s attempts to turn a pretty phrase, I think one finds him threatening to stop cooperating in the war on terrorism if the U.S. uses military force to overthrow Saddam Hussein. That’s how I read the statement that an attack will shatter the hard-won international consensus to fight terrorism and the statement that “America can’t [fight terrorism] alone.” The threat is mostly idle, I suspect. France has a security interest of its own in fighting terrorism. The only way it would abandon the fight is if its support for Saddam Hussein causes terrorists to take France off the list of target countries. France undoubtedly is hoping for this, but it can’t assume that this hope will be realized. However, the very fact that France would threaten to stop cooperating with the U.S. in the fight against terrorism demonstrates that France is no longer a friend or ally of our country. Thus, Ignatius’ claim that, by taking military action against Saddam, we are parting company with a “friend” is refuted by his own account of the de Villepin interview.
Ignatius refutes his premise even more comprehensively when he states that France is experiencing a foreign policy success in leading the fight against U.S. policy. In what sense is France succeeding? It won’t prevent the overthrow of Saddam. It won’t enhance the status or influence of its precious U.N. It may succeed in diminishing America’s popularity in Europe but, again, if this constitutes success for the French (and it does), then clearly France is no friend or ally.
Ignatius, like generations of Americans of his ilk, seems bedazzled by the intellectual pretentions of a suave European. Note the nauseating paragraph in which Ignatius fawns over de Villepin’s art collection, 1,000-page “elegy” to poetry, and marathon running. But, apart from his threats, if de Villepin made a coherent argument during the interview, Ignatius neglected to report it. De Villepin condescendingly tells America, “one must be coherent, one must be logical, one must have sang-froid.” Yet the logical de Villepin considers it an argument against attacking Saddam that if North Korea offered us the same inspection regime we have in Iraq it would be “fantastic.” If North Korea offered us the time of day it would be fantastic because, having developed a nuclear capacity, North Korea can thumb its nose at us with apparent impugnity. Since Iraq hasn’t yet developed that capacity, we are still in a position to disarm, not merely inspect, it. But only through the use of force.

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