Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Chirac in Africa

There is an interesting article by Chris Bickerton on the Spiked website. He argues:

Ever since France threatened to veto a US-led resolution authorising an attack on Iraq almost two years ago, president Jacques Chirac has used any available opportunity to plug his anti-war credentials ...

With the recent events in the Ivory Coast, however, Chirac's luck in foreign policy may be about to run out. The worsening situation in the former French colony exposes France's hypocrisy: while opposing the US intervention in Iraq, it has few qualms about throwing its own weight around in West Africa ...

For the moment Chirac can still enjoy the best of both worlds: standing up to the USA, and throwing his weight around in Francophone Africa. But if French forces find themselves in direct conflict with the Ivorian army, French militarism in West Africa will stand exposed.

As a good Liberal Democrat I hope to see the European Union develop more of a foreign policy, particularly in view of the current American administration's habit of thinking locally and acting globally.

However, there is a tendency among pro-Europeans to assume that an appeal to our common European identity solves any problem. Bickerton's article is a reminder that fellow Europeans can take very different views of foreign policy questions. Britain, for instance, has not reserved the right to intervene militarily in its former colonies to anything like the same extent. It may be that Britain and France will be able to reconcile their contrasting approaches and endorses a common European policy, but there is no guarantee of this. It is not valid to argue that, deep down, we must want the same thing because we are both Europeans.

Ironically, this naive Europeanism resembles nothing so much as old-fashioned nationalism. It reminds you of the way the SNP constantly appeals to a collectivist Scottish political culture to legitimise its policies. (If you point out that there are plenty of Scots who do not share these values, you are likely to be told that they send their children to English schools and are not proper Scots at all.)

It is not that Jacques Chirac is any less European than I am, it's just that I do not like his policies in Africa.

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