The French bug me.
For several decades, they have accepted American protection while pursuing policies which often undercut us (such as their obsession with trying to lock the US into pacts or organizations in which they can veto American actions). The latest and most glaring was their attempt to prevent the US-led coalition from overthrowing Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
Given all the nastiness that has been going on in the Ivory Coast and the obvious bad blood between Washington and Paris right now, there was certainly an opportunity for Bush to undercut Chirac (based on the principles of
'payback is hell' anti-colonialism and national self-determination). But, as Jim Hoaglan reports, George decided to help Jacques out:
As details emerge of a month of riots, racial and religious clashes, and a targeted air raid that killed nine French soldiers and an American aid worker, it becomes evident that Ivory Coast's president, Laurent Gbagbo, may have been betting that he could manipulate badly strained French-American relations to his advantage in an example of trickle-down instability.
He worked to build links to President Bush as both became involved in open conflicts with French President Jacques Chirac during the past 18 months. Under growing political and economic challenge at home, Gbagbo whipped up resentment of the residual French colonial presence in the world's largest cocoa producer.
Gbagbo may have assumed that the Iraq crisis had soured big-power relations so thoroughly that the United States would eagerly succeed France as Ivory Coast's foreign protector. It is hard to see what else would have emboldened Gbagbo to the point of ordering his East European mercenary pilots to attack French peacekeepers on Nov. 6.
As much as it may shock some of its detractors, Bush's foreign policy team can actually walk and chew gum at the same time. Or, in this case, Washing let good policy rather than petty vengeance dictate its actions:
Gbagbo's hopes for U.S. protection were first dimmed when Bush supported Chirac's demand for U.N. sanctions and then totally dashed by a lengthy and tough telephone conversation he had with Secretary of State Colin Powell, according to U.S., French and African officials.
Any temptation to repay Paris in kind for opposing the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was put aside in Washington, where it was quickly understood that payback policies would undermine regional security in West Africa and beyond.
With all the new love between Washington and Paris, I think we can expect the the French to reciprocate and send peace keepers to Kirkuk...
...or maybe not.