Sarkozy: Right on nothing, prescient on everything


By Joe Campbell
March 23rd, 2009

Judah Grunstein in Foreign Policy:

Yet if Sarkozy has been right on almost nothing, he has been prescient on almost everything, guided by the attention-seeker’s instinctive flare for tomorrow’s crisis today. (For instance, his decision to engage Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the time of Lebanon’s presidential impasse in January 2008 later paid off in access to crucial back channels during the Gaza war.) His logic is the logic of the deal, where both fault lines in opinion and emerging consensus create leverage points that maximize France’s influence. His handling of last year’s NATO summit – where he sided with Germany to successfully oppose expansion to Georgia and Ukraine, while pacifying Washington with a much-needed troop increase to the Afghanistan deployment — is a perfect illustration of how he manages to turn France into either the tiebreaker or the consensus sealer.

France’s return to the heart of NATO will certainly not spell the end of France’s independence and autonomy, nor will it prove the alliance’s undoing. But both will be changed, in ways that no one – least of all Sarkozy – can foresee. Rich in symbolism, profound in consequences, unpredictable in effect: The move is typical Sarkozy, for whom it is the deed, and not the outcome, that matters