Some commentary from Canada...
Matt Gurney: Why can't America be tough, like France?
Full Comment brings you a regular dose of international punditry at its finest. Today, French officials are apparently furious with the Obama administration for not being willing to stand up to a brutal, dangerous Middle Eastern ruler who recently returned to power through a stolen election. The French are ready to throw their weight around and force the western world's will on Iran, but are being held back by the anti-war multi-lateralists in the wimpy United States. Wait...what?
As bizarre as it sounds, there actually are people out there saying that France is now more willing to take a hard line with Iran than America is. Who are these wild, crazed conspiracy theorists? The Wall Street Journal . "[Zarkozy] had been 'frustrated' for months about Mr. Obama's reluctance to confront Iran, a senior French government official told us, and saw an opportunity to change momentum. But the Administration told the French that it didn't want to 'spoil the image of success' for Mr. Obama's debut at the U.N. and his homily calling for a world without nuclear weapons, according to the Paris daily Le Monde.
"...'We are right to talk about the future,' Mr. Sarkozy said, referring to the U.S. resolution on strengthening arms control treaties. 'But the present comes before the future, and the present includes two major nuclear crises,' i.e., Iran and North Korea. 'We live in the real world, not in a virtual one.' No prize for guessing into which world the Frenchman puts Mr. Obama."
Sarkozy can put Obama into whatever world he wants. I just want someone to tell me what the hell is going on in my world. What sort of parallel universe did I just cross over to? The French government pushing for a strong stand against an ideologically driven genocidal madman? French politicians barely care about these sorts of things when they happen in France. Freedom fries will never taste the same again. Turnabout is fair play, too -- I guess we're going to have to take something American and name it after something French. How about this: "The victim was shot five times with a semi-automatic five-week vacation."
The Wall Street Journal editorialists aren't the only ones trying to come to grips with this not-so-brave new world (outside of France). Writing for the New York Post , Michael Goodwin isn't particularly pleased with America's course of action, even if he does doubt that France will actually go to war:
" President Obama 's team is busy dropping hints he will not use military force, even as a last resort. As Iran went on a provocative missile-firing binge last weekend, Defense Secretary Robert Gates downplayed the effectiveness of an American attack, saying at best, it would buy time. Then there's Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. In what initially seemed a gaffe, but now looks like our policy, she said in July the United States would extend its defense umbrella to neutralize Iran 'once they have a nuclear weapon.'"
It's sort of like that old cliche about fixing the barn door after the horses get out, except in this version, Tel Aviv evaporates.
Not everyone thinks the new kinder, gentler, less invasion-y United States is a bad thing, though. The Los Angeles Times editorialists feels that the current plan is just swell: " On the right, critics attack the president's attempts to negotiate directly with the regime and urge him to talk tougher, yet few reveal what that's supposed to accomplish. Eight years of that strategy under President George W. Bush not only failed to resolve the nuclear crisis but strengthened President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad...On the left, Obama has been accused of not being accommodating enough, with some urging the president to offer Tehran various incentives with no strings attached, as President Nixon did when he opened diplomatic relations with China in the 1970s. This ignores the nature of Iran's revolutionary regime, which defines itself by its opposition to the U.S...We still think diplomacy can succeed, and that carrots and sticks, applied in the right balance to the right countries and combined with a resurgent Iranian opposition movement, can head off the prospect of a nuclear-armed Tehran. But in case they don't, the world needs a contingency plan for containing the atomic mullahs."
Who needs a contingency plan when you have France on your side?
A pleasant drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, the San Francisco Chronicle editorialists also have high hopes. "The odds tilt heavily against Tehran. It provoked a diplomatic uproar by admitting to a hidden nuclear-enrichment facility on a military base. By most descriptions, the plant is ideally suited to produce weapons-grade plutonium, not the lower-level material suited for Iran's professed aim of producing nuclear power. The revelation has unified a core of Western leaders, led by President Obama and the heads of Britain, France and Germany. The disclosure will be at the top of the agenda at the Geneva meeting, the first between Iran and the United States in 30 years."
Prediction for the meeting:
West: "Give up your nuclear program."
West: "Okay, how about if we impose some half-hearted, impossible-to-enforce sanctions on goods that China will keep selling you, anyway?"
West: "Well......darn. Hmm. Let's break for lunch."
This is only going to end one way, and it ain't going to be around a Geneva conference table. The only thing really yet to be decided is who pulls the trigger first: fanatical Ahmadinejad, hawkish Netanyahu, or that infamous warmonger, Sarkozy the Terrible.
Matt Gurney is a member of the National Post editorial board.
Read more: http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2009/10/01/matt-gurney-why-can-t-america-be-tough-like-france.aspx#ixzz0ShktC4Ea