Thursday, November 28, 2013

Strident neocon, lame Socialist

ON PAPER, he is one of the most powerful leaders in the Western world. Under the French constitution President François Hollande can dispatch troops abroad, as he is about to do in the Central African Republic (CAR), conduct foreign affairs as he pleases, and dissolve parliament as he sees fit. Moreover, his Socialist Party controls all levels of government, from the senate down to a majority of local councils. In diplomacy, Mr Hollande has indeed turned out to be as decisive in his exercise of power as the constitution allows. Yet, on the domestic front, he behaves with ever-shrinking authority.

In January an unexpectedly hawkish Mr Hollande dispatched 4,500 French soldiers and fighter jets to Mali, to push back an incursion in the north by rebels linked to the local branch of al-Qaeda; 2,800 French troops are still on the ground there. More recently, Mr Hollande had his jets on alert, ready to strike targets in Syria, before America’s president halted matters by deciding to consult Congress first. France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, then took a tougher line in the latest negotiations with Iran than the Americans did, insisting on pushing for further concessions and delaying the final deal.

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