Monday, March 12, 2007

Sarkozy on Foreign Policy

Some words from Nicolas Sarkozy about foreign policy were on the evening radio bulletins the Wednesday before last. Strangely, the words he spoke about Iraq were on the 17:00(GMT) bulletin, but absent from the one at 18:00 (Radio France International, 28 Feb). This is from Le Monde's report:
"En Irak, ma conviction est que la solution ne peut être que politique", a déclaré M. Sarkozy. "Il faut réinventer un pacte entre Irakiens qui assurerait à chaque communauté, à chaque segment – et Dieu sait s'ils sont nombreux – de la société irakienne, à chaque Irakien un accès équitable aux institutions et aux ressources de ce pays", a-t-il ajouté. "Ce pacte isolerait les terroristes". S'agissant du retrait des troupes étrangères du pays, Nicolas Sarkozy a signalé "deux écueils [reefs or rocks] à éviter" : un retrait précipité, "qui entraînerait le chaos", et l'absence de toute perspective de retrait, "à laquelle les Irakiens réagiraient par plus de violences et qui ferait le jeu des terroristes". ('Nicolas Sarkozy précise ses propositions de politique étrangère'; my emphasis)
If you want, you can also see what he has to say about other issues.

From the later France Inter bulletin it also appeared that he would put emphasis on principles such as human rights rather than having a policy based on personal relationships. A rupture then, perhaps from Chirac's policy.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


As those who watch TV (or listen to the radio) in the UK will know from the trailers, our old friend, Adam Curtis, is back tonight. Rather predictably making it 'Documentary of the week', the Radio Times says:
If most factual TV is bangers and mash, this is thick-cut, rare steak. Adam Curtis's previous, visionary series The Power of Nightmares analysed radical Islam and the fear of terrorism. Here he takes on an even bigger idea: freedom. [..I]t's [..] quite brilliant TV.
Karl French in the FT also describes 'Power of Nightmares' as 'dazzling'.

There is an everyday kind of myth creation. Take for example the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. This is quite generally referred to now as an attack by Israel on Lebanon (for example, Michael Cockerell in 'Blair: the inside story, Part 3' states that Blair was isolated in supporting Israel's attack), ignoring the fact that it was a response by Israel to Hezbollah's agression. This is a fairly straightforward illustration, but it shows how a sort of "official version" of history can be quickly established, regardless of facts that were generally accepted at the time.

There is, however, a slightly more subtle point to be made about the events of last summer. Much of international opinion at the time focused on the "disproportionate" nature of Israel's response and called for an immediate ceasefire. But now this is largely forgotten and people look back on what is seen as a "defeat" for Israel or a "victory" for Hezbollah. In fact, though there are substantial criticisms that can be made of its military campaign, Israel gained significantly from the ceasefire that was eventually concluded, which it might not have done had it agreed to an earlier ceasefire.

As I said, that is the everyday kind of myth building. But then somebody like Curtis comes along and, by an even more outrageous selection of facts, projects a more far-ranging theory and everybody says, "Oh, so that's how it all hangs together. Except that it doesn't.

I wonder if Curtis's new series will mention Lebanon 2006. We shall see. But I doubt whether I will be bothered to take it apart in the same detail as I did the last one.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Good morning, Kabul!

On Friday morning last week I (that is, this weblog) had my first visit from Afghanistan, from Kabul. This really cheered me up. They were doing a Google search for Shukria Barekzai.

Other countries from which I've had just one visit: Uzbekistan (wish I'd looked at the details of that one), Taiwan, Monaco, Colombia, Czech Republic, Serbia and Montenegro, Congo (The Democratic Republic of the), Cote D'Ivoire, Nepal, Iceland, Antigua and Barbuda, Ukraine, El Salvador, Europe (sic), Thailand, Kuwait, Albania, Venezuela, Jordan, Burkina Faso, Hungary, Croatia, Bermuda, Mozambique, Indonesia, Sudan, Uruguay, Slovenia, Belize.
1 Mar - I have emerged from a period of being extremely busy and went into e-mail: 160 in my inbox, not to mention the spam. I even ran out of MP3 things to listen to, due to not having enough time to download anything. I hope to be able to post a little more frequently from now on.

PS: when I actually get round to posting this, I find I am still a week behind the game. Oh well.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Brief notes:  North Korea

13 Feb  — Following the apparent breakthrough on restraining North Korea's nuclear development,  John Bolton is a "sad man" (interview on C4 News).  Really, there aren't many "neo-cons" left in the Bush administration.  Apart from Cheney. 

Hazel Smith of Warwick University summed it up just about right,  citing 3 factors:  the current moderation on the part of the US administration;  China's deep annoyance about North Korea's test last year;  and counter-intuitively,  she says,  North Korea and the US are not ideological enemies - in comparison to Iran (BBC Radio 4,  The World Tonight,  again 13 Feb).