Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Libya, Côte d'Ivoire: Sarkozy's motives under intense scrutiny

Analysts disagree on what drives France's interventions in Afghanistan, Libya and Ivory Coast

The Guardian today has an interesting article looking at the analyses of possible motivation behind France's new-found urgency to intervene around the world:
As French forces take part in three different wars for the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic, President Nicolas Sarkozy is under intense scrutiny at home and abroad over the motives for his foreign military expeditions.
With 4,000 French troops still in Afghanistan, French warplanes having fired the first shots in the western intervention in Libya, and with French tanks moving through the streets of Abidjan at the climax of Ivory Coast's civil war, there is little doubt that France's relationship with the rest of the world is on a new and more assertive footing.

What is less clear is whether the expeditionary surge is the result of a considered plan or a response to circumstances; whether it is driven by geopolitical factors or domestic political considerations.
An important consideration to make is whether any humanitarian intervention can be entirely altruistic—this article makes a refreshing change from the usual examinations of either American or British motives in foreign intervention. Somewhat predictably, opinion is divided:
At home, Sarkozy has been accused of using war for domestic ends. Mustapha Tossa, a French-Moroccan journalist wrote on the news website "This sudden passion of Nicolas Sarkozy for military operations raises numerous questions: over and above the political explanation that suggests the president of the Republic wants everyone to forget the failings in the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, suspicious voices are raised suggesting he wants to use international [affairs] to conquer what he has lost at home."

Jean-Marie Le Guen, a Socialist MP said: "There is a little bit of [George] Bush in Mr Sarkozy", adding that the president had "a habit of using force before politics without truly taking into consideration the current and future political consequences."

Richard Gowan, an analyst at New York University's Centre on International Cooperation argued, however, that rather than hurtling into a third conflict, Sarkozy had been excessively cautious in Ivory Coast.

"I don't think you can say the French approach has been zealous. The French tried to avoid firing a shot," Gowan said. He pointed out that in 2008, Sarkozy overruled his then foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, who wanted to send troops to eastern Congo. This time, Gowan said, the ghosts of the past could not be ignored.

"However much he might be criticised for acting, the consequences for inaction would have been much worse. To be accused of colonialism is one thing. To be accused of a second Rwanda is quite another."

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