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Parlez vous doubletalk?

Yesterday, the New York Times ran an extended interview with French prez Jacques Chirac, primarily about his views on Iraq. Daniel Drezner shreds the inconsistencies in Chirac's comments, providing a handy little quiz which Chirac has flunked.

Drezner leaves out one other bizarre set of statements, though. The interview is filled with Chirac's comments about how Iraq needs its own sovereignty, as soon as possible if not sooner. Then he explains why:

A: No. It’s psychological; it is a political act, to tell the Iraqis. “Your destiny” is in your hands. Now we shall help, but you are responsible. You are not under the authority of a governor who is Christian and foreign. That’s a lot, isn’t it.”
Ah. He doesn't want someone who is "Christian and foreign." (He emphasizes this elsewhere in the interview.) So Iraqis running their own country is very important, right? Well, not exactly...
Q: And even help to eventually resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict. Do you share this vision of the invasion of Iraq as a new dynamic for this region, something positive and peaceful?

A: I’d like to think so, but frankly, I don’t believe so. I think it’s…

Q: Perhaps you think the opposite?

A: In fact, yes. This has been traumatic for this region and culture. [Duh. That was the idea. - DN] And I think it could have negative consequences. Let me use an example I often give to President Bush. We are told that Iraq will become democratic. Very well. This is a huge ambition. This democracy will take the form of elections. This is usually the case in other democracies. So naturally elections will as a rule give power to the majority. In Iraq the majority is Shiite. But are the Shiites in this analysis the real symbol of tomorrow’s democracy? It is not so obvious. So is possibly something a little shaky about this argument?

So, in short, Chirac embraces Iraqi "sovereignty" but not "responsibility" -- or is it "responsibility" but not "sovereignty"? -- and only as long as the people aren't actually sovereign.

It's impossible to read the interview as a whole without coming to the conclusion that, all claims to the contrary, the US and France do not share the same values. Yes, Chirac provides lip service to the idea that it's good that Saddam Hussein is gone -- but he doesn't sound very enthusiastic about it, and he sounds even less enthusiastic about Iraqi democracy. It seems that the ideal middle eastern state, to Chirac, is a kinder, gentler Arab dictatorship. Then you have the "symbolic" sovereignty without having to worry about the messy actual sovereignty.


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Comments (1)

David, I think you forgot part of your post there. I am curious what you meant to say.


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