OU EST TALLEYRAND?
Of all major world powers, the one supposed to have their finger on the intelligence pulse was former colonizer France, proud of its long-standing ties with its former colonies.
And, so, who got it wrongest?
France. Well, maybe Italy as well.
81% of French people, following France’s clumsiness, see their country’s reputation declining on the world stage, according to a recent report.
The idea that France turned a blind eye to African dictators isn’t fanciful. But true.
With pie on its face, what must France do to restore its credibility?
So, when we need you, where are you Mon Talleyrand?
What would you do?
When the dust settles, Greek protestors go home, Irish bankers resign themselves to their new hair-cuts, the near-financial collapse is yesterday’s news, what would Talleyrand do?
Now that the delicate balance of German-Franco power in the European Union has given way to German hegemony in from the Urals to the Atlantic, what would Talleyrand do?
In his day, Talleyrand would hunt for new coalitions to counterbalance German hegemony.
Historically, Talleyrand would have first hunted in Eastern Europe. Were he to do so today, he would not find fertile candidates. No luck there.
Until the 2011 explosions in Africa and the Middle East, he would have rebuilt alliances amongst its former colonies. No luck there.
Ahh, turning his attention around the globe, one finds Vietnam, the Koreas, Japan, Indonesia, and certainly India and China. Sorry, Mon. Talleyrand. No vacancies. All the above are accounted for.
When desperate, one might even turn attention to the US in pursuit of a special relationship that creeps around the edges of the UK-US special relationship. Ah, France will offer itself as the fulcrum between all that lies to its East to Poland and West to Washington, D.C.
Problem: the persons of Obama and Sarkozy are magnetic opposites. President Sarkozy, having already played out his trump card of returning France to NATO’s family, has no seductive cards left to play.
There’s an expression: “Follow the Money.”
Which is what accountants do, what prosecutors do to nail a crook, politicians to prepare for their next election, school children do when they need change, what gamblers do in Monaco.
What money? The cupboard’s bare. No more credit Mr. Talleyrand.
I’d make a list of places where France is least respected and most respected.
LEAST: The US, Africa, Middle-East, Far West. Well, just about everywhere, excepting:
MOST: Europe. Bingo.
France is most powerful when it (A) unites (e.g. deGaulle) or (B) disrupts (e.g. deGaulle) or (C) unites and disrupts at the same time (e.g. deGaulle).
In desperation, were he soliciting my advice, “Mr Talleyrand, economists use the expression ‘comparative advantage.’ What’s yours? Aside from wine and leather handbags, believe me when I say I’m not putting down wine and handbags but it takes even more wine and more handbags than France can ever sell to fill your empty coffers. Which takes me to France’s comparative advantage which is statecraft. And the biggest state that needs to be crafted is the State of Europe. Think no small thoughts. Find yourself a politician who excels in statecraft, who, in the process of building a unified Europe rebuilds France’s enterprise.”
Sometimes, I would note, it makes most sense to garden in your own back-yard.