France Looks to Get Back into the Kitchen

sarkozy111408.jpgThis is an excerpt from an interview with the French Mid-East scholar Gilles Kepel:

Q. What is your advice for the next president of the United States? A. After Iraq, it is clear that American military might is no longer a sufficient gateway to power. America has to work with its allies. That is one of the great lessons of a post-neocon world. A few years ago, Condoleezza Rice said that in the Middle East, the Americans will do the cooking and the Europeans can do the dishes. Can you imagine the national shame for the French, who are so keen on gastronomy, to have America — the nation of McDonald’s — insist that they will do the cooking? That was hard to swallow. But in all seriousness, Europe needs to get back in the kitchen. America can’t do it alone anymore.

But the Middle East isn’t the only place where France sees an opening for global leadership. Today we have this lovely piece in the FT of Nicholas Sarkozy boasting about how he “soothed Putin’s rage.” Among other comments (including an anecdote about how Putin wanted to hang the Georgian president “by his balls”), the French suggest that the EU needs to be represented by a heavyweight political figure rather than the rotating system of presidents. Looks like someone is getting back into the kitchen…

According to Mr Levitte, when Mr Sarkozy flew to Moscow on August 12 for emergency talks with Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, and Mr Putin a few days after the conflict began, Mr Putin told him: “I want to hang Saakashvili by the balls.”“Hang him?” a startled Mr Sarkozy interjected.“Why not,” Mr Putin replied. “The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein.”“But do you want to end up like [George W.] Bush?” Mr Sarkozy asked.Mr Putin apparently paused, and said: “Ah, there you have a point.” (…)Speaking as he received a prize for “political courage”, Mr Sarkozy said: “When on August 8 it was necessary to go to Moscow and to Tbilisi, who was it that stood up for human rights? Was it the president of the United States who said, ‘This is unacceptable’? Or was it France that maintained dialogue with Mr Putin, Mr Medvedev and Mr Saakashvili?”According to French officials, the other lesson the president has drawn from his confrontation with Mr Putin and Mr Medvedev is the need for the EU to be represented by a heavyweight political figure as president, rather than continuing the present system of rotating presidencies.