TCS Daily

French Duplomacy

By Nidra Poller - August 11, 2006 12:00 AM

Franco-American co-sponsorship of a UN Resolution aimed at a cessation of hostilities in Lebanon was hastily, or hopefully, interpreted as a sign of newfound harmony. That entente is beginning to look like a fragile bridge stretched across a widening chasm. This comes as no surprise to observers on the ground, here in France, attentive to the real thrust of official declarations and unofficial opinion-making channeled through the media. From the very start, the nature of the conflict and the conditions for a diplomatic solution have been framed -- for domestic consumption -- in the terms that France is now trying to impose on its American partner.

The American diplomatic team may have thought the resolution hammered out with its French counterpart was an honest compromise ready to be put to the vote. French officials now say it was nothing more than a basis for further discussion. Terms and conditions they could not impose on the first (or first 50) go-rounds are presented as ultimatums. President Jacques Chirac, who briefly interrupted his summer vacation to meet with select cabinet members, announced that France will present its own cease fire resolution if the Americans refuse the new conditions.

The attempted co-sponsorship might have been an opportunity for France to assume a long-coveted honest broker role in the Middle East. France's privileged relations with Lebanon and the expectation that French troops would play a decisive role in the multinational intervention force weighed heavily in the equation. Interviewed on state-owned France 3 television earlier this week, Foreign Affairs Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy situated France's role in the conflict geometrically, at the pivotal midpoint between Lebanon and the Arab League, as well as Israel and the United States. Asked if French troops would participate in the multinational force, he replied, "pourquoi pas" [why not]? The verbal equivalent of a Gallic shrug. While the rest of the world seemed to think a UN vote was imminent Douste-Blazy told the local audience that he intends to "enrich" the draft proposal with demands formulated by Lebanon and the Arab League.

If we are to verify the claim of French diplomacy to stand at the midpoint, it would be useful to examine the endpoints. Israel & the United States are pushing for unconditional liberation of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers, a decisive military victory over Hezbollah, implementation of UN Resolution 1559, notably disarmament of Hezbollah and assertion of Lebanese sovereignty all the way to the Israeli-Lebanese border. Though Israel and the US have reluctantly accepted the idea of a multinational force under UN command, it would be fair to assume that they are hoping it will never happen. In a wider perspective, Israel and the United States see the Hezbollah attack as an initial foray in Iran's war against the West or, more precisely, its jihad against the infidels.

Where do Lebanon and the Arab League stand?

Lebanese PM Fuad Siniora states their position clearly in a Washington Post op-ed ("End this tragedy now" 9 August). Siniora, blaming the crisis exclusively on Israel, recalls his seven-point solution, including an exchange of prisoners, an immediate cease fire and withdrawal of Israeli troops, evacuation of the Farms of Sheb'aa, deployment of a beefed-up UN force concomitantly with Lebanese army troops, implementation of the Taif accords... These terms, which accredit Hezbollah's pretext for attacking Israel and satisfy Hezbollah's up-front demands, have been echoed in countless declarations by French officials for domestic consumption over the past four weeks. Now France is insisting they be integrated into the UN resolution.

Rising above these specific points, Siniora gives a panoramic vision of the conflict: Israeli occupation of Lebanese territories is the cause of this war; Israel is a pariah state that slaughters civilians and disrespects international law. Forcing Israel to withdraw will be a step toward a "final solution [sic] of the wider Arab-Israeli conflict, which has plagued our region for 60 years." No political solution is possible as long as Israel continues to occupy Arab land in Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank and the Syrian Golan Heights, and wages war on the innocent in Lebanon and Palestine.

According to this logic, Hezbollah can't be disarmed until the international community imposes that final solution to the problem of Israel's presence in the Middle East.

This is why French diplomacy, from the start and to this day, is irreconcilable with the American position on the conflict. Hezbollah intends to destroy Israel, Israel is determined to destroy Hezbollah. What does it mean to stand at midpoint between these two ambitions? In his solemn unilateralist speech, Chirac said that anything short of immediate cease fire would be "immoral." Reduced to the absurd, this would mean that the moral position is to let Israel half destroy Hezbollah and Hezbollah half destroy Israel.

By stepping into the co-pilot's seat, France lent its UN Security Council veto to Lebanon and, consequently, to Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran. But this is not the spring of 2003, France is not trying to block a US military intervention in Iraq or at least brand it as an illegal war. The issue is a ceasefire, and even if Israel and the United States could be convinced all down the line there is no guarantee that Hezbollah and its Iranian masters would accept anything short of total surrender to dhimmitude. The failure to draft and pass a UN cease-fire resolution will not be a victory for French diplomacy; it will mark the failure of midpoint morality. The war will go on to its logical military conclusion. Sooner or later everyone will have to take sides.

Nidra Poller is a writer living in Paris. 



They are weasels.
the french always have been, always will be.

I have yet to understand WHY the USA picked the French for this process. They don't like us. They could screw up a one-car funeral. And that idiot de Villipan (sp?), their foreign minister, has actually said that France believes Iran to be a "stabilizing" factor in the Middle East. Bigger joke: Sending French troops in as a peace-keeping force. It was French troops as a UN peace-keeping force that bolted in Rwanda at the first shots --- and left hundreds of thousands to die. If we're lucky, they'll send the Foreign Legion, which has more non-French than French members.

How many Frencgmen does it take to defend Paris? Don't know. It's never been tried.

You miss the point
Delay benefits whom?

The US and France argue about the shape of tables and Israel just moves forward with militarily disassembling Hezbollah. The UN is not fatally discredited, Iran and Syria can do nothing, and if the French make some gallic hay while the sun shines, I'll grin and bear it.

France is useful...
... when you want the appearance of progress towards peace without any real movement whatsoever. Why *not* France? They are perfect for the task at hand.

Chirac can be the pivot man in an Arab League circle jerk.

Exactly because of what kgkphd said. Still, the french are worms, not weasels; weasels have a backbone.

It stinks to be french
I remember my last visit to Paris (job related of course) . 2 things struck me.

[1] the overwhelming aroma of urine in the alleys
[2] the overwhelming sight of dog ***** on the sidewalks (even the dogs avoid french alleys I guess)

With that background, it is no wonder to me that anything french stinks or looks like a pile of $hit.


Worms! And smell like them, too.

Worms smell better, kind of earthy; the French just stink!!

Charles Martel was the last French leader to have a clue
Charles Martel was the last French leader to have a clue about how to deal with Muslims.

France has gone down hill ever since.

Is that why we...
Want to flip them the BIRD??

oh, punny...

But are they even worth that small effort?

No Subject
Don't forget, Napoleon also had to deal with those guys. In one incident N. captured some thousands of guys near Haifa, i think it was. He was feeling good that day and agree to release the prisoners if they promised not to fight against him again. A short time later, up the coast near Jaffa, i think, he won another big battle against muslims and who did he find amongst the vanquised? You guessed it, the same guys who promised not to fight against him. Here's my tcs quizz....who knows what Napoleon did with those prisoners. Warning....Roy Bean...better keep out of this one, cus you're really not going to like the answer. Corolary question, did those guys ever fight against napoleon a third time?

Made an example of them
One in which they did not live to fight another day; all of them!!!

That's right, he put them all to the sword for their perfidy. I forget if it was 4 or 40k. Too bad the israelis couldn't have done the same now with the hizb.

Wasn't pretty, but it got the job done
The Israeli's big mistake was not attacking on the ground after a day or two of bombing, leflets and shelling. Not casting blame, just a hindsight observation.


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