Is France going to the dogs?

Sarkozy and Hollande symbolise downfall of France and perhaps even of all of Europe.


2016/12/11 Issue: 85 Page: 6


The Arab Weekly
Khairallah Khairallah



Jacques Chirac was the last real president of France. Since he left the Elysée Palace in 2007, France has lost what remained of its prestige both locally and internationally. France has lost a great deal of its aura and greatness.

During Chirac’s presidency, France played a leading role in helping Lebanon regain its balance at a time when Iran was trying to gain custody of the country following the withdrawal of Syrian troops two-and-a-half months after the assassination of Rafik Hariri.

It is going to be difficult for France to regain its prestige. Nicolas Sarkozy’s foreign policy choices were catastrophic. He tried to rehabilitate Syrian President Bashar Assad and invited him to Paris. France’s foreign policy choices under Sarkozy had nothing to do with principles even though French leaders were well aware of the situation in Syria. It was an opportunistic policy and nothing more and we can find proof of that in the many money scandals, including the one with Libya, that have tarnished Sarkozy’s presidency.

No French president with a hint of common sense would dare invite Assad to the celebrations of French National Day after Hariri’s assassination. Not only did Sarkozy do that, he also decided to maintain relations with the Assad regime in the hope of removing it from Iran’s circle of influence.

Chirac at least had some principles. He knew that the Syrian regime was guilty at the least of covering up for the killing of Hariri and that the main objective behind the heinous crime was for the Syrian regime to gain control of Lebanon. The repercussions of Hariri’s assassination are still felt today.

With Sarkozy, France was open for all kinds of shady businesses. For him, everything could be bought or sold. Since Sarkozy’s term as president, France has been slipping downward to reach rock bottom during François Hollande’s term, who did not dare run for a second one. This is a rare event in France’s history.

To discover who this man who gained power by pretending to be a socialist really was, all we have to do is read Valérie Trierweiler’s entertaining book about her ex-companion and his time at the Elysée. France’s socialist president looks down on the poor and calls them “toothless”. Hollande had left his first companion, Ségolène Royal, for this woman and he has had four children with her. She writes that the socialist president likes to eat only in top-rated, high-end restaurants.

Sarkozy and Hollande symbolise the downfall of France and perhaps even of all of Europe. With the exception of Germany, Europe is no longer important at an international level. Germany is powerful economically but very careful in its foreign policy. One can see the reflection of this policy in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s avoidance to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin and his expansionist plans in Syria.

Conditions in Europe are going to worsen. François Fillon will most likely replace Hollande. He is unfortunately without charisma and has nothing to do with France’s republican principles. He is one of those who were deceived into believing that the Syrian regime was fighting terrorism instead of killing its own people. Should Marine Le Pen win the coming elections, France will really go to the pits.

The time of charismatic leaders in Europe is gone. The Syrian crisis has revealed how insignificant France has become. Even in Britain, the last Brexit poll has shown how ordinary this once-great country has become.

During the eight years of US President Barack Obama’s administration, Europe and NATO no longer occupied a central role in US foreign policy. Obama allowed Putin to ridicule NATO and run wild. He destabilised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and pushed him in the arms of Iran and Russia.

For the first time since the second world war, there is no longer a common European- American security. One wonders if Obama really has done all of that and cut down France’s role in the world. It is as if the real winner of the cold war was Putin. And, of course, Iran is free to expand where it wants with no questions asked.


Khairallah Khairallah is a Lebanese writer.


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