April 30, 2007
French Election a
Chance at Reconciliation with America
While they are supposed to be among America’s primary traditional
allies, the French, over the last few years, have been anything but.
Instead of standing strongly by the United States on Iraq, Iran and so
on, France has acted like the sibling who demeans you in public instead
of sorting out differences at home.
While an argument could be made that the French have been M.I.A. since
World War I, they at least have not been there for us in the last few
years. Heck, they have not been there for themselves. From the 2005
riots that exposed not so obscure weaknesses in France’s ability to
integrate its immigrants, to an exhausted economy further debilitated by
high taxes, severe regulations and other socialist policies, the French
have engineered their own descent from greatness to mediocrity.
That said, however, it is not too late for France to make amends. We can
overlook the disastrous foreign policy they have conducted in the last
few years. We can forgive their failure to aid us in the ousting of
Saddam’s regime, with which many top French elements had questionably
cozy relationships. We are ready to jump-start a global
counter-radicalism campaign with them, if indeed they make themselves
available for one.
France has the resources and the ideology necessary for such a campaign.
What they still need, however, is to obtain the type of leadership of
which they have been deprived for decades. For a country where one of
the top two presidential candidates declares her refusal to shake
President Bush’s hand without criticizing him first, serious questions
arise about the hope for effective leadership. And when condom
distribution is a campaign tactic used by the country’s conservative
party, there is normally little hope for that side as well to generate
solid leaders in the mold of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
This time around, however, there is a chance for France to redeem
itself. France’s Union pour un Mouvement Populaire has gotten its
act together after a poor 12 years of President Chirac to present France
– and the world – with a promising leader, Nicolas Sarkozy. After an
impressive performance in the first round of presidential elections,
Sarkozy now faces Socialist Candidate Ségolène Royal in the runoff. And
the stakes are as high as ever.
This election is not just about France. It is about Franco-American
relations, about the global war on terror and about the impact of
France’s rapidly changing demographics on Europe and the world. It is
imperative that relations between Paris and Washington improve
drastically and soon. This is where Sarkozy comes in. His pleasantly
surprising willingness to openly and proudly express his admiration of
the United States in front of French audiences is truly a refreshing
sign of his wish to improve trans-Atlantic relations. For once, we might
see a French president who will not work to subvert America’s image as a
way to distract his constituency from France’s own problems.
Further, Sarkozy’s audacious reaction to the 2005 riots was not lost on
anybody. Instead of sweeping serious societal problems under the rug by
pampering the poor and the unabsorbed, his plan to modify immigration
policies and crack down on crime while simultaneously improving the
poor’s lot through a solidified economy represents much needed change in
France. His intention to cut taxes, deregulate and remove French society
from its narrow track of socialism should finally give France a
resurgent economy and lower unemployment rates.
According to a public opinion poll published last week, 44% of the
French think badly of themselves (compared with only 38% of Americans
who think badly of the French). After what they have put their own
country and the world through in recent years, such numbers are not
surprising. These negative perceptions, however, have an excellent
chance of changing.
France can be an economically powerful country again, it can
develop sustainable internal stability and it certainly can rebuild a
strong alliance with America. Most importantly, it has a chance at
regaining our respect. America has extended its hand to the people of
France. Let us hope that on May 6, the French respond with a friendly,
strong and hopeful hand. Let us hope it is the hand of Nicolas Sarkozy.
© 2007 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
Click here to talk to our writers and
editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.
To e-mail feedback about this column,
click here. If you enjoy this writer's
work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry
This is Column # PI050.
Request permission to publish here.