Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Children in a playground

Little Jacky Chirac has been teasing little Tony Blair (but they made up afterwards, or so little Jacky said). He went: ne-ne-ne-ne-ne, your big friend Georgie doesn’t really like you at all.

How else can we interpret Chirac’s pre-visit statements to the Times and the Guardian, in which he said that Blair got nothing from Bush in return for his support in Iraq. What exactly was he supposed to get? What did he want? As we have already pointed out, Blair’s “shopping list” when he went to Washington was not very long and completely unimaginative. The truth is Mr Blair does not precisely know what he wants from his friendship with President Bush.

Is it so unreasonable to think that Prime Minister Blair might have supported President Bush over the war against terrorism because it is in both countries’ interest to fight that war?

President Chirac has sorrowfully announced that Saddam Hussein’s great victory was that he managed to drive a wedge between the various European countries. An interesting way of interpreting irreconcilable differences in outlook and an odd way of referring to Saddam’s preferred method of ensuring support for his regime through the food-for-oil funds. (Or, perhaps, that was not quite what President Chirac meant.)

Once again we heard the call for a “multipolar world”, whatever that may mean, where Europe is as strong as America. Two questions: what is that strong Europe intending to achieve and how is it going to be as strong as America without either spending money on its armed forces or ensuring that its economy functions reasonably well? To these, no doubt, President Chirac would answer that we need to build up the structures of a strong state, even if we do not have the reality and agree on a “European”, that is, French foreign policy.

There is something seriously wrong with the way both Blair and Chirac think about foreign policy. As far as anyone can tell, Blair has no real idea of what he wants to achieve or what Britain’s national interests are beyond being some kind of a bridge between America and Europe. As my colleague has pointed out, the chasm may well be unbridgeable as far as some of the European countries are concerned and as for the others, the bridge is unnecessary. Even Joschka Fischer may decide that he will be nice to President Bush in order to get his support for that elusive permanent German seat on the UN Security Council.

Chirac, on the other hand, sees the world entirely divided into those who are pro-American and those who are anti with anyone who is anti being a friend of his, of France and, by extension, of the EU. He clearly has no thought or care for western liberal ideas or the western alliance; he has no particular principles and thinks no-one else should have either; but he is not necessarily concerned with France’s national interests either, beyond the very short-term aim of scoring a point or two off the Americans.

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