Monday, May 14, 2012

Neo-Atlanticism? Gaullo-Mitterrandism?

Le Monde chooses to describe the choice of foreign minister facing François Hollande as a choice between "neo-Atlanticism," championed by Moscovici, and "Gaullo-Mitterrandism," represented by Fabius. This alternative hardly does justice to the array of challenges that French foreign policy faces today. It harks back to a bipolar world in which the primary choice was whether to side with the West or stake out an "independent" position. The virtuosity with which one oscillated between these positions defined one's mastery of diplomatic statecraft.

Today's world is, first of all, multipolar and, second of all, far more in flux. The BRICs have become key players in the global economy. Africa is growing apace, even if its influence has yet to match its economic potential. Eastern Europe has managed its transition to capitalism better in most cases than its transition to democracy. Competition over raw materials including energy will loom large in the years to come. And America's focus has shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

For all these reasons, Le Monde's opposition seems to me too narrowly conceived. That said, I see little reason why Fabius should get the nod. He supported the No in 2005, he is no friend of Hollande's, and he served him badly in the campaign with his poor performance in debate against Sarkozy. He is a man of the past. Moscovici, on the other hand, may be too much of a smoothie: long on glibness, short on substance.

Perhaps there are other options, but Hollande does have a debt to Moscovici, who ran his successful campaign, at least nominally. Behind the scenes he may have demonstrated a competence not visible to outsiders. So he may be the choice after all, but not, I think, because he represents a "neo-Atlanticist" option. At this point I think Hollande's main goal should be to demonstrate his boldness, forcefulness, and independence--not only of the US but of the forces within his own party. So perhaps he has a more imaginative nomination in mind, someone from outside the ranks of the elephants. We'll soon know.

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