taking another lesson from the french

Our long time allies, in this day is added to the long list of former friends, the french have not surprisingly been turned away by the near idiotic foreign policies of the Bush Administration. However, yet again we stand to learn a lesson from the French. The newly elected leader of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, is setting a shining example of a how to build a foreign policy with meaning. Even as the leader of a former colonial power, he is showing the US how to have a policy in the African continent that is not all words. A policy that is not bent on capitalist gains and military conquest in the name of fighting terrorism.

All this as President Bush is attacked at the UN General Assembly for being a hypocrite of upholding human rights and promoting democracy. Bush is railed for furthering the ‘industry of death’ with his wars and ‘arms race.’ I hope that the calls of a new arms race are inflated, but world leaders make a valid point that Bush, who is supposed to represent freedom and equality for all as President of the USA, has come to represent a harbringer of death and a squanderer of basic freedom. President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who by no means has a clean record, called out Bush saying that he had, “much to atone for and little to lecture us on.” While Mugabe is not a great leader by any stretch of the imagination, he does make a good point and thankfully was not afraid to call Bush out on his hypocrisy.

Bush’s lack of a foreign policy is challenged as France builds with positive steps. Sarkozy, elected in May, promised to “rupture” every issue. This rupture has been made very clear in ending the corrupt dealings with former African colonies. In his campaign Sarkozy called for a “healthier relationship” with Africa. When he traveled to the continent in July he called for a “partnership of equal nations.” While he goes along with the typical pitfall of referring to Africa as a monolithic mass, he has made great strides to create this health relationship and build the partnership of equals. He has not limited his Africa focus to former colonies and welcomes the interest of the US and China in Africa, saying that it was a good thing. I am not so sure how I agree with that statement, but maybe he can lend some advice.

From the BBC News article:

“This policy – derogatively called “Francafrique” and epitomised by Mr Sarkozy’s immediate predecessors Francois Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac – was in many ways an extension of colonial rule. Personal links between French and African leaders bound Paris to friendly regimes which were given protection in exchange for political allegiance, votes at the UN, and deals with French firms that were lucrative for all concerned.”

Many are not so sure that Sarkozy will act the way he speaks and a secret arms deal in Tripoli, Libya reminded many of the African policies old ways. However others take Sarkozy’s words seriously. Unlike past presidents and policies, Sarkozy has no personal connections in Africa. This had made past presidents reluctant to call out corruption or to work on an equal footing with their African counterparts. France definitely has a shift in their African policy. Over the past decade France withdrew peacekeeping troops from Africa and cut aid to failing economies. Now France is supplying over half the troops for a UN-EU peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic. France has a military base in Chad. The president of Chad, Idriss Deby, was reluctant to allow the UN force, but agreed when France became involved. Sarkozy has also taken a strong stance on the genocide in Darfur and called world leaders to step up.

Sarkozy is all about using diplomacy to get things done and it seems that this policy is working for France. He does not need to call an executive war and send in the troops when things don’t go the way he wants. Our foreign policy could take a lesson from this new french president, his diplomatic policies, and his efforts to build a better partnership with African governments and the world. France would be a great ally to have back after the Oval office is wiped clean.

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