France Coming Around

So who are these people?  Every conservative loves poking fun at the cowardly, dismal French, but new French President, Nicolas Sarkozy seems to have turned around French foreign policy.  France no longer seems dedicated to a foreign policy built around antagonizing the US – they are actually starting to appear constructive.  Two items stuck out today.

First, Mssr. Sarkozy gave a major foreign policy speech in which he labeled a nuclear Iran as unacceptable.  He even held out the possibility that Western nations must be prepared to act militarily against Iran if the mullahs don’t abandon their pursuit of nukes. 

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday a diplomatic push by the world’s powers to rein in Tehran’s nuclear program was the only alternative to “an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran.”

But Sarkozy didn’t stop there.  He went further by slamming Russia’s resurgent imperialism.

Sarkozy criticized Russia for its dealings on the international stage. “Russia is imposing its return on the world scene by using its assets, notably oil and gas, with a certain brutality,” he said.

“When one is a great power, one should not be brutal.”

Energy disputes between Russia and neighbors such as Belarus and Ukraine have raised doubts in Europe about Moscow’s reliability as a gas exporter. It supplies Europe, via its neighbors, with around a quarter of its gas demands.

That’s certainly a far cry from the cynical, fruitless pronouncements that we were accustomed to hearing from his predecessor, Jacques Chirac.  And while Sarkozy reserved the right to disagree with America on the international stage, he has certainly had warm words for us folks across the Atlantic.  He chose the US as his first major vacation destination of his presidency – even taking time for lunch with President Bush in Maine during his stay.

Second, consider the visit to Iraq by Sarkozy’s foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner.  While his recent statements included a few backhanded slaps at what France regards as US mistakes, even Kouchner made remarks that were also a far cry from the days of Chirac.

France can help by working with the United Nations and the European Union in the cause of peace. France supports the international initiatives taken in recent months to set in motion a political and international process to address the crisis. The United Nations took a step in the right direction on Aug. 10 when it approved Resolution 1770 calling for the organization to take a broader role in Iraq. We must now work to make that move effective.

Whereas Chirac was willing to turn his back on the Iraqis out of disdain for President Bush, the new French administration has decided to take an active role in the nation despite its disagreement with the US over their invasion of Iraq.  Kouchner says –

 In my conversations there, I perceived a deep need among many Iraqis for recognition and for new ties with France and Europe. The Iraqis have been isolated for too long and feel abandoned by the international community. After years of debating the American presence in Iraq, the time has come for us to turn our attention to the Iraqis themselves.

Exactly.  And even though the rhetoric out of Paris is not exactly the type of cheerleading that we received from Tony Blair and other coalition members, it represent a step in the right direction by the French.  After years of bitter isolationism and attempts to undermine US efforts on the world stage by Chirac, France is starting to make some sense.  These guys are almost starting to seem cute and cuddly again.