Monday, December 10, 2007
Waking Up With Fleas
The arrival in Paris today of Libya's Muammar Khaddafi has brought into sharp relief just how Nicolas Sarkozy's emphasis on results can sometimes call into question his judgment about the company he keeps. The visit is part and parcel of the deal that Sarkozy struck to get Khaddafi to release the Bulgarian nurses back in July.
Unfortunately for Sarkozy, Khaddafi is not exactly what you might call discrete as far as state visits go. He arrives with an entourage of roughly four hundred, and will install his Bedouin tent in the garden of the official residence provided by the French government. While Elysee has made sure to downgrade the protocol from that of an official state visit (a cabinet Minister will greet Khaddafi at the airport, for instance, instead of the Prime Minister or President), Khaddafi will meet twice with President Sarkozy to sign the contracts agreed upon at the time of Sarkozy's visit to Libya following the release of the Bulgarian nurses.
Little was said about Sarkozy's willingness to collaborate with Hugo Chavez for the release of Ingrid Betancourt, for obvious reasons. Sarkozy's congratulatory phonecall to Vladimir Putin last week in the aftermath of the latter's "election" victory sparked some pointed criticisms, but only from some anonymous backbenchers.
By contrast, Khaddafi's visit has brought out the heavy artillery, with centrist opposition leader Francois Bayrou calling it an example of how France's foreign policy has been reduced to "checkbook" diplomacy. But perhaps the most violent criticism came from Rama Yade, Sarkozy's very own Secretary of State for Human Rights:
"I don't think we can be satisfied with a declaration of virginity from Colonel Khaddafi. It's like in a love affair, it's the proof that counts," she tossed out, adding that "to find ourselves with Human Rights Day on one hand and Khaddafi on the tarmac of Orly on the other, that's a problem." She went on to cite the disappeared, those condemned to death, or still more, the families of the victims of Lockerbie.
She repeated that "France has an identity, values, prinicples," and is not "just a commercial scale"...adding that "France isn't a doormat that a leader can just come wipe his bloodstained feet on..."
"I haven't said anything until now, since we do have to encourage economic growth. But after a while, I've got to put on the habit" of Secretary of State for Human Rights. (Translated from the French.)
Yade was quickly brought to order by Prime Minister Francois Fillon followed by a convocation to Elysee, but not before Bernard Kouchner supported her right to speak out on a question that concerns her ministerial portfolio. Kouchner rejected the suggestion of a realpolitik, which he described as a "violent, Germanic word". Instead, he made sure to point out that the treatment now enjoyed by Khaddafi reflected the latter's willingness to rehabilitate himself and re-integrate the world order, a not so subtle invitation to Iran to follow his lead and renounce their nuclear ambitions.