Friday, February 23, 2007

US think tank warns of Royal foreign policy

The conservative US think tank The Heritage Foundation has a quite insightful analysis of Segolene Royal's foreign policy views and how that would bode for future Franco-American relations. In terms of the United States, the analysis is scathing:

It is difficult to imagine a Royal presidency being anything other than a recipe for tense transatlantic relations. Royal's damaging international trips, matched with her failure to mend fences in Washington, are a realistic indication of what a Washington-Paris axis would look like under a Royal presidency.

(...) The French Socialists are pushing an agenda in Europe that represents a strategic threat to the United States. The Royal vision for the European Union would make Brussels a rival to America, rather than a partner.

(...) as a committed Socialist and darling of the Left, Royal would steer a status quo course for French politics that would continue the disintegration of the Franco-American relationship and put even more distance between the Elysée Palace and the White House.

The writer does fall into slightly into the trap of hyperbole. There is no doubt that the beginning of a Royal presidency would not heal relations with Washington, but the possibility of a Democrat in the Oval Office in several years, plus Royal's apparent pragmitism with regards to key Washington issues like Israel and Iran, could eventually lead to some thawing.

The author may also be a bit guilty of pessimism. In late October she wrote a similar analysis of Nicolas Sarkozy, but still concluded on a rather uninspiring note:

...the United States should not expect an immediate sea change in French foreign policy if Sarkozy comes to power. He will face opposition from powerful vested interests in the French political establishment that will resist fundamental changes in Paris’s approach toward Washington. Sarkozy is also likely to stick to the trusted model of the Franco-German alliance and will push for more, not less, centralization of political power in Europe.

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Demosthenes said...

I have a hard time thinking about much coming out of the Heritage Foundation as being insightful.

Also reading this article of theirs it's full of crude analysis, that's frequently off the mark.

Sure, she's going to come off as Anti-American to a group that does equate America with George Bush and his style of politics. But I do think that her statement of "I do not mix up Bush's America with the American people...The American people are our friends." is the right one. Right now she does not need to be diplomatically delicate, she needs to win the hearts and minds of her people.

Now, it's too bad that she's a rank amateur campaigner, with a bungling campaign staff. Also, the idea that she's Gaullist is a bit of a stretch. Also the Heritage Foundation's thoughts on her EU-ism lack much insight, I think.

Boz said...

Perhaps insightful was the wrong word. What I meant is that this is the first semi-thorough analysis of what Franco-American relations could look like under a Royal presidency that I have seen.

If you take Royal by her word (which the analysis does) it appears that Royal is not at all interested in thawing trans-Atlantic relations, and instead fits into the traditional mode of thinking that a strong Europe can "balance" a hyper-US. As I said in the post, some of Royal's more unique foreign policy perspectives, plus the fact that there very may well be a Democrat in the oval office, may lead to warmer relations in the future; but for the time being, I do not see Royal or Bush attempting any reconciliation.

The EU bit is interesting. Ironically, the US has always encouraged a strong EU so that we would have a stronger Western partner, while France has always encouraged a strong EU in order to balance the US. In fact, a strong EU would likely do a mix of both, so Royal and the Heritage Foundation are just at two extremes of the same spectrum.


Demosthenes said...

The Heritage Foundation in no way likes the idea of a united Europe, though you're right to point out that the United States has traditionally been in favour of European integration. Much of that however, I think, is because Washington wants to have one phone mumber to call.
But I think that the Bush Admin. has veered from this traditional stance. They've been able to play the Europeans off against one another quite effectively.

As far as Ségolène's EU-credentials, from what I read, she's trying hard not to say anything on the matter. As such, it's difficult to draw too many conclusions about what she wants.

Furthermore, with the whole EU Constitution referendum débacle (which the HF cheered), it does not seem likely to me that the EU is going to be doing much integrating anytime soon.

As to the balance of power issue, this may indeed be what's in Ségolène's head. That might be evidence that her thinking on foreign policy is about as sophisticated as her thinking on economic policy.

Boz said...

"As to the balance of power issue, this may indeed be what's in Ségolène's head. That might be evidence that her thinking on foreign policy is about as sophisticated as her thinking on economic policy."

For France's sake lets hope not ; )

Demosthenes said...

Well, how would it really be a change? France has always attempted to balance against the United States to some degree. However, when it comes really down to it, France and the United States are still, of course, allies. But being an ally doesn't mean that France has to follow the United States like a poodle. Here's where the HF, and their ilk go so very wrong - "It's our way of the highway." That's bunk!

From a theoretical point of view, notions of 'balance of power', as you probably know, come from the Realist paradigm, and the French have always been quite comfortable thinkin in Realist terms.

Boz said...

I guess what bothers me about the "balance of power" thing is the language itself. The US "balanced" the Soviet Union, as in these were two states who used their power to curtail that of the other, and maintained a relative global stability. Allies do balance each other in a similar sense, but because their interests usually align, it's called "compromise." For better or worse, even subtle usage of words takes a prominent place in diplomacy, so a more conciliatory change in French parlance could actually go some way in amending real world tensions.

I agree that the Heritage Foundation is deluding itself in thinking of a united Europe as a "strategic threat" or that France must become Tony Blair's Britain, but there are many positions inbetween a Blair and a de Gaulle.

Demosthenes said...

This, of course, begs the question: what is ‘a de Gaulle’? If ‘a de Gaulle’ is a French Président that strengthens European integration, and the creation of a European superstate, then Charles de Gaulle was not ‘a de Gaulle’.

I know that calling French politicians ‘Gaullist’ is pretty popular, but assigning that label to Sarkozy or Royal is really absurd. At that point, it really becomes the ‘Freedom Fries’ analysis which the Heritage Foundation and cheap journalists hunting for adjectives are known for.

Besides, rapprochement is all fine and dandy, but it has to come from two sides. I don’t see it happening from the United States ‘till 2009, and it is questionable even then.