Monday, July 14, 2008

Blue, blues

My second-favorite computing company has made a graphic effort to remind us that today is the 14th of July, Bastille Day.

Symbolically, this year's celebrations are dominated by the color blue. For the first time, soldiers of the UN Blue Beret peacekeeping force will be marching in this morning's military parade in the City of Light.

As the defense minister Bernard Kouchner just remarked, today's 14th of July will be considered exceptionally, in the future, as "the day after the 13th of July 2008". What he's saying, jokingly, is that statesmen were preoccupied yesterday by the summit meeting to promulgate the concept of the Union for the Mediterranean.

Finally, there's the blue of the flag of the European Union, of which France has just been assigned the presidency.

Alongside all this bright blue, however, there's a wave of military blues in France today. To call a spade a spade, between Nicolas Sarkozy and the French armies, the current relationship is as cold as an unfired cannon. Something seems to have gone tremendously wrong between the supreme commander and his troops. For many reasons (which are too detailed to be examined here, even if I were capable of doing so... which I'm not), the French armies seem to have lost confidence in their chief, and he in turn no longer knows how to charm his soldiers. This distrust came to a head in the context of the shooting drama of 29 June 2008 at Carcassonne, when a soldier accidentally fired real bullets into a crowd at a military festival, wounding seventeen innocent spectators. Many military representatives consider that Nicolas Sarkozy failed to handle the aftermath of that tragic affair in a just manner. A journalist claimed that feelings between the president and military personnel have sunken to the lowest level since the notorious putsch of French generals in Algeria against Charles de Gaulle on 21 April 1961. To put it mildly, on this Bastille Day, that's a sobering observation.

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