Sunday, March 18, 2007
On Friday, the French PM Dominique de Villepin visited Harvard University, invited by the political science professor Stanley Hoffmann. Four years ago, that same Frenchman spoke to the United Nations in New York about the dangers of a US invasion of Iraq. A major American newspaper said that, over recent years, everything has changed except Bush's conviction that he can win the war in Iraq. Something else that has not changed during the last four years is France's conviction that this terrible and costly fiasco is not a war that can be won. By terrorists, maybe, but certainly not by Bush.
In the realms of international diplomacy, no politically-correct head of state or his ministers would ever refer to their foreign counterparts by means of derogatory personal remarks or judgments. The representatives of the Republic express themselves with a quality known in French as réserve. Besides, they avoid any remarks that might be interpreted as interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. For those reasons, it would be unthinkable for Jacques Chirac or Dominique de Villepin to react in the way as Australian PM John Howard when he recently blasted the US presidential candidate Barack Obama. But the fact that no French leaders refer to Bush explicitly as an idiot doesn't prevent onlookers from reading between the lines and guessing that this is what they think. One has the impression that nobody in France is keen to talk to Bush any more, or even talk about him. He seems to have become a kind of international nonentity, and people are simply waiting for him to go away, or be chased away.
Getting back to Dominique de Villepin, it's hard to guess what he's going to do with himself after the departure of Chirac in a month or so, because this man has never been an elected politician, and it would be funny seeing a former PM striving to pick up votes in a provincial electorate. During his American visit, somebody asked him whether he felt like becoming an expatriate... maybe in the USA. "No, " replied de Villepin curtly, "I'm too French."