Friends of America and individual freedom in France can't be heartened by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s first-ever address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25. To this reader, his message was ambiguous if not downright devious. Ever since his election last May, Mr. Sarkozy has generally been described, particularly in the United States but also somewhat disparagingly in France, as a “conservative” and as “pro-American." Given the low ebb that relations between France and the United States reached in the wake of the U.S.-led military intervention in Iraq, Mr. Sarkozy’s personal admiration for America boded well not only for forthcoming efforts to reform French society and the French economy along necessarily free-market lines, but also for the future of the friendship between our two nations -- and by extension, for the security and stability of a world resolutely standing up to terrorist nihilism.
Alas! Heard or read through the typically French prism of aeons of Marxist brainwashing, decades of comprehensively anti-American indoctrination, and years of warnings against globalization (read: Anglo-Saxon capitalistic attempts to rule the world, ruthlessly crushing foreign cultures in the process), Mr. Sarkozy’s speech in New York clearly and objectively dashed many of the hopes his election had tantalizingly raised. Will France at long last go through some sort of redeeming cultural, political, economic, diplomatic, military and psychological revolution. It seems less likely now.
Take Marxism. It was Sarkozy at the UN, not Karl Marx in Das Kapital, who complained that “never before have there been so many instances of rents, channeling profits to big corporations”. He also focused attention on the plight of “the poor and those who are exploited who might one day rise up against the injustice they have been suffering.” When did you ever hear a true conservative use words like “rents”, “exploitation”, and “social justice” to promote and protect individual freedom?
Take globalization. Sarkozy insisted “in France’s behalf that there will be no peace in the world without respect for diversity, without respect for national identities, without respect – I dare use the word – for religions and religious beliefs, without respect for cultures.” Innocuous clichés? Not quite. Bear in mind that not so long ago France tried to ban English words from the French language and that legally-binding quotas still require French TV stations to show a set number of French-made programs per week.
Finally, take anti-Americanism. True, Sarkozy did not rant against American arrogance or imperialism. However he reaffirmed decades of French mistrust of American might when he invoked the seamless unity of the UN as a counterweight to “those who would project power and strength.” Wasn’t former Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin back in 2003 actually ominously invoking just such unity as a counterweight to “those trying to project power and strength” in defense of the 17 UN resolutions that had been defiantly flouted by Saddam Hussein?
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Mr. Sarkozy should once again have added this caveat to French détente with the United States: “France is faithful to her friends and to the values she shares with them. But France also says that such faithfulness does not mean submission. France will not be cooped up in faithfulness of that sort.” And much more unnervingly he went on to warn that “if the clash of civilizations is to be avoided, then peoples throughout the world should not be made to think the same way.” What was the guy actually implying there? That America is to blame for terrorism as well?
The truly conservative mind finally boggles at Mr. Sarkozy’s crassly ignorant and downright dangerous “appeal to the UN to take charge of a fairer distribution of profits (…) and to see to the moralization of financial capitalism.” What was he advocating there? A return to Soviet-style central planning?
The conservative mind also reels at his deliberate use of the phrase New Deal in his calls for a new world order. He counterintuitively stated that “the world needs a new state of mind” and that “a New Deal, an environmental and economic New Deal, is necessary worldwide.”
That is the appalling message France sent to the world from the UN last month. On the basis of President Sarkozy’s speech there, I implore my American conservative friends to abstain from selectively focusing on parts of Mr. Sarkozy’s speeches that purportedly vindicate American foreign policy or the American way of life.
America is its own vindication. Mr. Sarkozy’s potentially totalitarian relativism is un-American.
Note: “Paoli” is the pen name, or should we say nom de plume, of our French correspondent, a close student of European politics and a well-wisher to us Americans. He informs us the original Pasquale Paoli, 1725-1807, was the George Washington of Corsica.