Words That Help Give the Bush Doctrine Cover

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Words That Help Give the Bush Doctrine Cover

Earlier this week, amid his talks with Condi Rice, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier met with Washington Post editors and reporters, and responded to their questions. Today's Post offers excerpts of Barnier's remarks.

(A quick disclaimer: Some idioms and concepts don't translate so cleanly from French to English so the best I can do here is to rely on the Post's translation of Barnier's comments.)

Barnier discussing European negotiations with Iran:
"... It's a fragile, difficult negotiation for France. My sense is the political and diplomatic option that we have pursued is better than all other alternative options .... Our main purpose is to get an objective guarantee that the Iranian nuclear program will be exclusively focused on and destined to civilian use. But we haven't gotten there yet. And we need to take whatever time is necessary. As long as there is no setback then in a sense we are moving forward. Whatever the language, whatever the so-called threats, for the time being we are moving ahead.
The disconcerting phrase here is "we need to take whatever time is necessary." Trying diplomacy first to deal with tense situations makes sense. But just as the Bush doctrine is too bent on military intervention, the French doctrine seems to represent the other extreme. Barnier doesn't seems to grasp that time is important. Endless talks that go nowhere may only buy the Iranians time to secretly restart nuclear activities, enrich uranium, etc.

And this is Barnier discussing the situation in Darfur:
"Our position or attitude is that we be very responsive, speedily responsive to any requests coming in from the African Union. . . . They need the logistics, they need the planning, the transport, the sanitation, the health care. We have to be ready for that. Is it NATO, is it the European Union? We've got to come up with a speedy and pragmatic response to that. . . . And we will endorse practical solutions. And we need to do more."
Okay, here's the shorthand. Barnier says that France's position is to be "speedily responsive" and "to do more" to relieve the suffering in Darfur, but he admits that France and its allies can't even agree on the right vehicle through which to act "speedily" ("Is it NATO, is it European Union?")

It's pretty damn late in the game to be posing rhetorical questions like this. There's a lot of blame to go around, but the French have been arguably worse on Darfur than the U.S.

Barnier's remarks make it a little easier to understand why multilateralism has become so discredited in the U.S.

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