I haven’t done a round-up on French news for a while, so here it is:
The Economist says The glory days are passing.
France debates the need to move beyond its traditional spheres of influence
Lebanon may be France’s most visible military commitment [with 1,700 troops], but it is far from being its biggest. All told the country has about 18,000 soldiers abroad, some 13,000 of them involved in operations (the rest are stationed there). Decades after decolonisation, these troops are still heavily concentrated in Francophone Africa.
The biggest French contingent, of nearly 3,500 soldiers—more than twice the size of the Lebanon force—is stuck in Côte d’Ivoire, with which relations have been tense ever since nine French soldiers were killed in an attack on their base two years ago. Another 1,000 soldiers are part of the European Union peacekeeping force in Congo. A further 1,200 in Chad risk having to face down a rebel uprising there, as well as the prospect of hostilities from militias based in the Central African Republic and Sudan. Besides these, nearly 5,000 soldiers are spread between permanent bases in Djibouti, Senegal and Gabon.
France has not limited its troops to ex-colonies. It is the third-biggest financial contributor to NATO. It still has 1,800 troops in Kosovo, and another 1,100 in Afghanistan, where it commands the NATO operation in the central region and also contributes to a special-forces counter-terrorism venture. But French military engagements are still skewed towards battered bits of Africa. In the 21st century is this the most efficient way to deploy France’s military might to project its voice and to defend its interests?
That is one question in African minds, who are saying that France Trying to Cover Up Its Role in Genocide, and acusing French troops of rape, when they trained and armed government troops and Hutu militia in Rwanda.
Nidra Poller has a great background article on Segolene Royal,
Despite artificial doubts about competition from PM Dominique de Villepin and Defense Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, it looks like Nicholas Sarkozy will be the UMP presidential candidate. A stern Interior Minister running against a nice lady?
He wants to kick out illegal immigrants; she wants to listen to their plight and succor their ills.
He wants to try minors guilty of heinous crimes as adults; she wants to listen to youths and bring them into the folds of a gentler, more supportive society (though she is advocating a rather un-Socialist tough on crime policy).
He wants job flexibility; she wants more welfare, higher minimums, more protection, lower profits, more cushions.
And on top of it all, she is a she.
This is such a big extra that the anti-Sarkozy wing of the UMP started pushing Alliot-Marie. Perhaps they don’t exactly know how to talk up the eternal feminine, perhaps it was just a coincidence, but they got her into the news by having her threaten to shoot down Israeli reconnaissance planes flying over French UNIFIL troops. Alliot-Marie has more class in her chiffon scarf than Royal from head to toe, but it didn’t fly and she has coupled her maybe candidacy with a promised commitment to Sarkozy if it turns out he is the winning number.
Segolene’s coming to the USA. I fully expect that Obama will arrange for a photo-op.
Meanwhile, No Pasaran has a photo of the latest political poster from the despicable Front National.
Glory days? Not.
(technorati tags France)