Thursday, August 17, 2006

France Doesn't Deliver

Despite the fact that the French played a pivotal role in carving out the ceasefire agreement, they fail to deliver when it counts:
France has rebuffed U.N. pleas to make a major contribution to a peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon, setting back international efforts to send a credible military force to the region to police a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah, according to U.N. and French officials.

French President Jacques Chirac instead committed Thursday to send a relatively small military engineering company of 200 soldiers to serve...

France did little to dampen expectations that it would play a far more ambitious peacekeeping role as it joined the United States in fashioning agreement on a resolution authorizing the force...

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, held out hope that France would reconsider. "I'm not sure France has made up its mind," Gillerman said in an interview. "There were a lot of expectations the French would actually lead this thing and a lot of countries are waiting to see what France does."

It was entirely logical to think the French would play a large role in stabilizing southern Lebanon. Afterall, they acted like a superpower in negotiations and looked poised to be a responsible mediator. Chirac's refusal to send a robust force gives the impression that France is nothing more than a paper tiger, unwilling to take any practical risks. Other countries looked to France for leadership, and now they essentially fail the region. Sending a paultry engineering company tells the world that France doesn't merit the status it so often demands.

France has received alot of kudos for standing up to American bullying. However, this fact doesn't detract from my belief that France is almost always mostly bluster, that would rather talk for eternity, instead of achieving any real results. France's latest decision to drop the ball in Lebanon serves as another example that the world can't look to Chirac for any leadership, besides convenient rhetoric. Put up or shut up- this is very disappointing.

Cork2Toronto has a completely different interpretation. I also cross-posted this entry at Daily Kos, which generated a spirited debate.


Anonymous said...

Chirac is a pusillanimous a-hole.
Ben in PA.

Mark Dowling said...

Steve - you're well off here.

The French are reflecting what the Italians (who would contribute up to 3,000) and the Irish are saying - we are readying troops to go but they will not go if they don't have a mandate. [The French have offered 1,700 as long as they aren't under UN command - I wonder why]

France lost 58 soldiers in Lebanon in a single suicide attack in 1983 - think how much the loss of 25 has hurt the Canadian Forces over months of fighting and then imagine more than double in a single attack. They are right to be cautious about their approach to this.

Remember the French negotiated the original draft with the US before the subsequent watering down - if you want to look for a culprit for the watering down of the legislation, look to Moscow.

Steve V said...

"Chirac said that a force of about 1,700 French troops and crew members on warships off the coast would provide logistical support."

Logistical support and an engineering force on the ground? As the article states, many nations are looking to France to show leadership. Everyone knew this would be a dangerous, fragile mission, before the resolution was even adopted (France with intimate knowledge), so I don't buy the changed conditions- the pitfalls were well known. Leadership demands you follow through past the words, or do we leave it to Bangladesh as vanguard?

I'm not into French bashing, but in my mind the international community is failing. France demanded a voice, now show the courage required. This was never going to be easy, clear or predictable- that seems obvious. We agree to disagree :)

Larry Gambone said...

Maybe it isn't so unwise. If the UN actually tries to disarm Hizbollah, it will face the same situation the Israelis did. If European troops attack Hizbollah, their countries of origin will face the same wrath that the US and its client state, Israel face. Not a wise move for France who would like to be a mediator between the US and the Islamic world. I think it is smart politics on the part of the French, enough troops to be seen as trying, not enough to be of any use in a war. France will let the US and Israel hang themselves.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Larry. Why should France trust the States to carry through regarding Lebanon?
In our own land we will witness Harper sending troops to Lebanon (just wait and see if this does not happen) under a queasy and uneasy ceasefire.
Just because "freedom fries" are no longer in favour in Washington doesn't mean that the States forgive or trust the French, and the on again-off again political relationship will end in the deaths of those who put themselves out there i.e., the French.
This is the time when all nations must work together. Not a time where nations use or goad other nations to step into a breach manufactured by opposing sides. Particularly when a certain side cannot be trusted.
"Would you like some poutine with those frites?"
Harper, for all his talk, is sitting in the wings waiting to see which way the wind blows before he favours peace or Lebanon. Though he will likely decree that our troops patrol Lebanon coast for the Israelis.

Mark Dowling said...

anonymous - there are no troops to send, and even if there were, no way of transporting them and supporting them. About four thousand Canadian soldiers are currently leaving or entering Afghanistan right now due to tour rotation. Look how hard it was to commit assets to the civilian evac when the rotation wasn't started yet.

The Meditteranean countries like Italy (3,000), Spain (800 or so) and Turkey (5,000) have the troops and are close to the scene.

Jason Hickman said...

Thanks for the link to Kos, where I found what has to be one of the dumbest manglings of Canadian history in quite some time (sorry I can't post the link for some reason, but scroll on down - you'll see it):

Up until Harper started licking George Bush's bloody claws our military used to dig wells and fix peoples' teeth while trying to keep warring factions from killing each other.

Now, I doubt I'll find too many Harper fans here. But to say that the Canadian military's only role before Harper showed up was to "dig wells and fix peoples' teeth" on peacekeeping missions is not just stupid - it's insulting.

Liberal and Tory governments in the past have sent the military to do much more than clean teeth and dig wells. As surprising as it may be to the halfwit who posted this on Kos, sometimes our armed forces were even charged with killing the enemy of the day. Shocking, I know.

Thankfully, most Libs I know - except the far-left fringe of the Party - don't share this ridiculous view of Canadian military history. Hell, a lot of NDPers wouldn't even be that dumb.

But it really riles me when you get someone postulating that the Canadian military, since 1867, was bascially a cross between the Peace Corps and the United Church before Harper was sworn in.

End of rant :)

Steve V said...


Point taken!