Sunday, February 23, 2003

Men are from Mars, weasels are from France

For a prime example of Frankish tartuffery, read Régis Debray's sanctimonious screed in today's New York Times Op-Ed page.

Debray writes as a former high official (he was an adviser to French President François Mitterrand) of a former imperial power, and condescends to give readers of the Times a glimmer of hard-won French political wisdom. This wisdom appears to be comprised solely of the insight that the United States is a moralistic nation that cannot look beyond its puritanical values in the conduct of foreign policy. Unlike the Europeans, we do not appreciate the world's inherent pluralism, and we are still enthrall of the "euphoric arrogance" that dares to know right from wrong. Worse, we dare to act accordingly.

Debray claims we are about to precipate a war that is "Osama bin Laden's foundest wish." The refusal to acknowledge this war is already underway is telling as it is typical, but more telling is Debray's confidence that by taking the war to Iraq we will be doing bin Laden's bidding. The obstacles to installing a liberal regime in post-Saddam Iraq may prove insurmountable, but Debray is not employing a 'Clash of Civilizations'- type argument, rather he is implying that the Muslim world will be more tractable to a policy of accommodation, and that the exercise of American power in defending its interests will only make matters worse.

Debray characterizes the aspect of American foreign policy that he has a problem with as arrogance. What he really has a problem with is American power and the confidence to use it. It is the contempt of the powerful that is the solace of the powerless.


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