We've detected an outdated browser.

You may want to consider updating your browser. International Policy Digest requires a modern browser in order to view the website properly.

Click here for information on how to update your browser.

Continue Anyways
François Hollande

Tag Archives | François Hollande

Iraq: War and Remembrance

|
Wikimedia
Wikimedia

Wikimedia

“So far as Syria is concerned, it is France and not Turkey that is the enemy.” – T. E. Lawrence, February 1915

It was a curious comment by the oddball, but unarguably brilliant, British agent and scholar, Thomas Edward Lawrence. The time was World War I, and England and France were locked in a death match with the Triple Alliance, of which Turkey was a prominent member. But it was none-the-less true, and no less now than then. In the Middle East, to paraphrase William Faulkner, history is not the past, it’s the present.

Continue Reading →

The Rise of Europe’s Ultra-Right is the Left’s Fault

|
Wikimedia
Wikimedia

Wikimedia

Europe’s appalling handling of a euro crisis that was always going to happen, given its faulty architectural design, has triggered an electoral result in the recent European Parliament elections that is a clarion warning that Europe is decomposing. And it is decomposing precisely because of the Left’s spectacular failure to intervene both during the construction phase of Europe’s economic and monetary union and, more poignantly, after the latter’s crisis had begun.

Continue Reading →

Hollande, Obama and Monticello: When Empires Forgive

|
President Barack Obama and President François Hollande of France hold a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Feb. 11, 2014. Pete Souza/White House

It is true that French President François Hollande had been in a touch of bother back home – at least in the relationships department.

President Barack Obama and President François Hollande of France hold a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Feb. 11, 2014. Pete Souza/White House

France had been preoccupied with the President’s overactive libido, a petulant figure who was now freed of his First Lady’s presence. French leaders have, in recent years, taken the chance to travel to the New World freed of their spouses or partners – Nicolas Sarkozy did it in 2007 before heading to Washington; and Valérie Trierweiler is conspicuously absent on this visit. That libidinal atmosphere has even rubbed off on one French paparazzo, who claimed that President Barack Obama had also partaken in other affairs of state. On this occasion, the smut searching Pascal Rostain was convinced that Obama and Beyonce Knowles had gotten it on. The Washington Post did not bite, while Le Figaro had a tentative nibble.

The emotional baggage was not, in the state setting, as significant as the statements coming forth from the White House. The official visit has provided a good occasion to reminisce about power – France, faded yet still anxious to pull punches in Africa and the Middle East; the U.S., the gloss removed from its splendour, limping and tilting towards other areas of the globe, notably the Asia Pacific. The continuous theme to this gathering: that mutual trust had been restored between the countries.

Continue Reading →

France’s Nineteenth-Century Foreign Policy Fails in the Twenty-First Century

and |
A French soldier aims his rifle during “Operation Sangaris” as shots are fired in the Central African Republic (CAR). Source: The Huffington Post

Under the pretext of sparing the world another genocide, France deployed 1,600 troops to the Central African Republic (CAR) late last year.

A French soldier aims his rifle during “Operation Sangaris” as shots are fired in the Central African Republic (CAR). Source: The Huffington Post

Since Operation Sangaris was launched, however, the French military has proven powerless to stop the sectarian violence, which took more than a thousand lives in Bangui last month. Now that it is clear that the humanitarian crisis is beyond French control, President Hollande faces the question of whether Paris should have intervened in the CAR, where a significant percentage of the country’s citizens view France’s intervention as a form of 21st century neo-colonialism. France was clearly naïve to believe that deploying fewer than 2,000 troops to a destabilized nation bordering on anarchy and awash with arms would restore stability.

While the first French brigades to enter the CAR last month were greeted as liberators, not all of its citizens welcomed the former colonial ruler’s military presence — thousands of Séléka supporters protested the intervention. Surely French military commanders did not imagine that they would simply waltz in and be greeted with a shower of rose petals. But by the same token, it seems clear that they failed to anticipate such vigorous opposition and were unprepared for what awaited them.

Continue Reading →

From Missile Defense to Chavez’s Death, the 2013 “Are You Serious?” Awards

|
Getty Images/Reuters/Associated Press/lefigaro.fr/DoD Photo
Getty Images/Reuters/Associated Press/lefigaro.fr/DoD Photo

Getty Images/Reuters/Associated Press/lefigaro.fr/DoD Photo

Every year it is important to recognize news stories and newsmakers that fall under the category of “Are you serious?” Here are the awards for 2013 as recognized by Dispatches From The Edge. Creative Solutions Award to the Third Battalion of the 41st U.S. Infantry Division for its innovative solution on how to halt sporadic attacks by the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Zhare District: it blew up a hill that the insurgents used as cover. This tactic could potentially be a major job creator because there are lots of hills in Afghanistan. And after the U.S. Army blows them all up, it can take on those really big things: mountains.

Runner up in this category is Col. Thomas W. Collins, for his inventive solution on how to explain a sharp rise in Taliban attacks in 2013. The U.S. military published a detailed bar graph indicating insurgent attacks had declined by 7 percent, but, when the figure was challenged by the media, the Army switched to the mushroom strategy. “We’re just not giving out statistics anymore,” Col. Collins told the Associated Press. Independent sources indicate that attacks were up 40 percent over last year, with the battlegrounds shifting from the south of Afghanistan to the east and north.

Continue Reading →

Genocide in the Central African Republic

and |
CAR rebels in Northeastern region of Central African Republic. Source: UNOCHA

Militants from the Central African Republic invaded the eastern Cameroonian village of Biti last month, attacking military installations, looting local shops, and further eroding hope that the CAR’s ongoing chaos can remain confined within its own borders.

CAR rebels in Northeastern region of Central African Republic. Source: UNOCHA

The chaos in the CAR has potential to negatively impact its neighboring states further, especially given the region’s ongoing conflicts and instability. Last month UN and French officials warned of looming genocide in this poverty-stricken, landlocked nation. Can the international community prevent it from happening?

Nearly nine months ago Western-backed CAR President Bozizé fell to a loose coalition of rebels — Séléka (“Alliance”). Michel Djotodia, Séléka’s leader and the CAR’s subsequent self-declared president, announced its dissolution in September as a result accusations that the coalition committed widespread atrocities following the coup. Since then, violence has continued unabated: Sectarian clashes, executions, torture, conscription of child soldiers, and sexual violence have increased in recent months. While the national death toll is unknown because the rural areas remain too dangerous for international workers to access, approximately 10 percent of the population is now believed to be displaced, and nearly a fifth are food insecure.

Continue Reading →

European Migration and the Rise of the Far Right

|
Immigration patterns within Europe put a strain on neighboring states.  Photo: ALAMY

Five years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, its reverberations are still being felt throughout the world. GDP in many wealthy countries remains well below its pre-crisis peak, and in Europe the global financial crisis has morphed into the Euro crisis.

Immigration patterns within Europe put a strain on neighboring states. Photo: ALAMY

The downturn has been most pronounced along Europe’s southern coast, as countries wrestle with record unemployment rates, drastically reduced social services, and severe fiscal dislocation. Anti-government protests in southern Europe responding to the austerity measures imposed by the troika – the European Commission, the International Fund and the European Central Bank – have highlighted the deteriorating economic situation in the Mediterranean and underscored disparities in labor markets between core euro zone countries (e.g. Germany and Austria), and the periphery (e.g. Spain and Greece). However, the fiscal contagion has not been confined to the edges of the Europe.

Indeed, the financial fallout in northern Europe has given rise to political turmoil there, too, and far-right parties have gained popular support by espousing anti-immigrant sentiments and promising to staunch the flow of migrant workers across their borders. As anti-immigrant and anti-EU parties have increased in popularity, heated rhetoric previously reserved for non-European immigrants is now directed at legal migrants from within the EU. As a result, one of the EU’s most cherished founding ideas – the right to migrate to live and work throughout the EU- is coming under greater scrutiny.

Continue Reading →

Al-Shabaab claims Responsibility for Nairobi Westgate Kenya Attack

|
Bodies are seen after a shooting spree at Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, September 21, 2013.  Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

A senior figure in the Somali militant group al-Shabaab has told the BBC it carried out a deadly attack on a shopping centre in neighbouring Kenya.

Bodies are seen after a shooting spree at Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, September 21, 2013. Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

The gunmen have been cornered but an unknown number of hostages are still trapped inside Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall, officials say. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said 39 people had been killed, including some of his family, and 150 were injured. Al-Shabaab said the attack was in response to Kenyan troops in Somalia. There are about 4,000 Kenyan troops in the south of Somalia, where they have been fighting the militants since 2011. On its Twitter feed, al-Shabaab - which has links to al-Qaeda - said it was behind what it called the “Westgate spectacle.”

In his TV address, Mr. Kenyatta said security forces were “in the process of neutralising the attackers and securing the mall.” He went on: “We shall hunt down the perpetrators wherever they run to. We shall get to them and we shall punish them for this heinous crime.” He said he had “personally lost family members in the Westgate attack.” As night fell in Nairobi, two contingents of army special forces troops are reported to have moved inside the mall. A police officer inside the shopping centre told Reuters that the remaining gunmen were barricaded inside a Nakumatt supermarket, one of Kenya’s biggest chains.

Continue Reading →

Punitive Strikes: “Russian Roulette” with Unintended Consequences

|
President Barack Obama holds a press conference with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, at Rosenbad in Stockholm, Sept. 4, 2013. Frank Augstein/AP

Can it be assumed that Western governments are sincere that deterring the Syrian regime from using chemical weapons without overthrowing it is their main goal?

President Barack Obama holds a press conference with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, at Rosenbad in Stockholm, Sept. 4, 2013. Frank Augstein/AP

“France is ready to punish those who took the infamous decision to gas innocent people” in Syria, French President Francois Hollande asserted recently. Can anyone be certain that a “punitive” operation will not end up in an inter-state war which could engulf the larger region? A decision of this magnitude poses three major problems. The first is the legality of any “punitive” operation under international law. In the absence of a consensus in the United Nations Security Council, it seems that any military intervention will be undertaken most certainly without a UN mandate and be considered illegal under international law. It follows that the legal justification for intervention would more closely resemble the one used prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq than the 2011 intervention in Libya.

For want of UN support, the Americans and French emphasize the legitimacy of such an intervention and try to form the widest possible international coalition. Since the German and British governments have already opted out of being part of any such military intervention, the Arab League’s principled support and the participation of Arab or Muslim countries appears now an essential condition to provide a legal basis, at least for outside consumption. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are providing military and financial support to the “rebels,” could participate in a coalition, as could Turkey. However, these countries are too deeply involved in the Syrian crisis to lend credibility to such a coalition and, in fact, their direct participation could further inflame the crisis.

Continue Reading →

Chuck Hagel: U.S. Ready to Launch Syria Strike

|
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testifies before the House Armed Services Committee with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

American forces are “ready” to launch strikes on Syria if President Barack Obama chooses to order an attack, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testifies before the House Armed Services Committee with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

“We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfil and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take,” Hagel told the BBC. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said there is “undeniable” proof that Syria used chemical weapons. The UK Parliament is to be recalled on Thursday to discuss possible responses. Prime Minister David Cameron, who has cut short his holiday and returned to London, said MPs would vote on a “clear motion.” The crisis follows last Wednesday’s suspected chemical attack which reportedly killed more than 300 people.

French President Francois Hollande said France was “ready to punish” whoever was behind the attack, and had decided to increase military support for Syria’s main opposition. BBC diplomatic correspondent James Robbins says the US, UK and France will now have the larger task of building as wide a coalition as possible to support limited military action. Meanwhile the Arab League said it held Syrian President Bashar al-Assad responsible for the attacks and called for UN action.

Continue Reading →

Mali’s Road Ahead

|
Mali's new president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, garnered 78 percent of the vote

Mali’s second-round presidential election runoff on August 11 ended without major incident. The ministry for territorial administration on Monday reported that the voter turnout was 46 percent, slightly less than voter participation in the first-round.

Mali’s new president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, garnered 78 percent of the vote

Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the former prime minister from 1994 to 2000, was the winner garnering 78 percent of the vote. Supporters chanting IBK, Mr. Keita’s nickname, danced in the streets of Bamako the capital, in celebration. IBK is a venerable, tough-minded politician; part of the old guard that controlled Mali’s governing process since the early 1990’s.

Mr. Keita’s success was in large part due to support from a number of powerful Islamic imams, whose followers exceeded a million voters in the heavily populated south, which made a big difference in the outcome. IBK’s picture was plastered on billboards all over Bamako; reportedly the campaign was better organized than his challenger Soumaila Cisse, a former finance minister.

Continue Reading →

Hollande’s Confidence in Mali’s Elections

|
French President François Hollande

French President François Hollande last week expressed confidence that Mali’s elections will be held in July despite the West African nation’s shaky security.

French President François Hollande

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which controls Mali’s northern town of Kidal, has not agreed to a cease-fire ahead of the July 28 elections. The Tuareg and Arab populations in the north want independence from the government, which is based in the southern, black-majority region.

Malians are concerned that the National Reconciliation Commission lacks progress. Negotiations with the MNLA are in jeopardy as they push for independence in northern Mali. For a reconciliation, “the only option for the MNLA is a cease-fire and laying down their arms,” a condition imposed by interim President Dioncounda Traore. Several weeks ago, Mr. Traore attempted to visit Kidal to speak with citizens, but MNLA Tuareg rebels did not allow him to enter the town.

Continue Reading →

Using Labels: The ‘Terror’ Act of Woolwich

|
London police keeping watch in Woolwich. Flowers can be seen behind them left by well-wishers. Source: uk.msn

London police keeping watch in Woolwich. Flowers can be seen behind them left by well-wishers. Source: uk.msn

It is an object study. Two men in a car, which is driven into another man. The attacked individual is then hacked to death by a meat cleaver or kitchen implement in broad daylight. There may be several instruments used. There are religious chants – or at least the sort popular opinion might expect. The individuals then ask bystanders to take photos and shots. This is their day. It should be preserved for history. Police then arrive and shoot the two men, one of them critically. Eyewitnesses claim that one of the individuals was carrying a firearm.

All of this has amounted to a “terror” attack. It took place in the south-east London area of Woolwich yesterday. Police were called to the scene of the incident on John Wilson Street at 2.20 p.m. But London has been witness to violent crimes before, as it will continue to be. The descriptions of this event have propelled an event of terrible violence into another category: one of terrorism. Yet hardly anything has actually been said to warrant the term. Then again, as Cicero claimed in his second oration against Verres, O tempora! O mores!

While the misuse of political terminology has become standard, tolerated fare in the twenty-four hour news cycle, it is worth looking at these unfolding events again to heed how terms of security can be misused. The “framing” of an event can have significant implications for policy. It doesn’t require the ponderings of cognitive linguist George Lakoff to remind us how effective those tactics can be. Don’t call it tax evasion. Call it tax minimisation. Don’t call it a criminal act - call it a “terrorist act” before all the facts are known. The agenda is dictated in advance.

Continue Reading →

Mali Elections may be in Trouble if France Leaves

|
A Swedish instructor watches as Malian soldiers practice arming their weapons in the village of Koulikoro, outside Bamako, Mali. Source: The Washington Times

In January, French President Francois Hollande responded to interim Malian President Dioncounda Traore’s urgent request for military help to keep Islamists from advancing to the capital, Bamako.

A Swedish instructor watches as Malian soldiers practice arming their weapons in the village of Koulikoro, outside Bamako, Mali. Source: The Washington Times

Since then, the coalition of French and African troops have driven Islamist extremists affiliated with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa from the northern towns of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal although sporadic suicide bombings have continued.

On April 11, Malian Prime Minister Diango Sissoko visited Gao, the highest-ranking government leader to do so since the French incursion in January. His mission was to thank Malian troops and reassure the 60,000 residents that elections to form a national government would go forward in July. The plan includes restoring a government presence in the town and more security. When the Islamists took over northern Mali in March 2012, government officials fled, leaving village leaders to fend for themselves. Malian government leaders fear their army cannot resist the Islamists alone. Mr. Sissoko said that French troops need to stay, at least until stability is achieved.

Continue Reading →

Mali’s Future depends on Successful Elections

|
A local resident passing a mosque in Timbuktu in 2007.  Photo: Emilio Labrador

Mali’s upcoming July elections will be a defining moment — to unify the country, re-establish democratic institutions and restore the West African country’s territorial integrity.

A local resident passing a mosque in Timbuktu in 2007. Photo: Emilio Labrador

On Saturday, President Dioncounda Traore took the first step in the election process by announcing the formation of a Dialogue and Reconciliation Commission. “This puts the elections back on track,” said Mayor Yeah Samake of Ouelessebougou, a village near the capital, Bamako, and a leading presidential candidate. Mayor Mahamadou Toure of Bourem Sidi-Amar, a village near the northern town of Timbuktu, said, “Politically, we are moving forward.” He noted Mr. Traore’s nomination of Mohamed Salia Sokona, a former defense minister and Malian ambassador to France, to lead the commission.

The commission’s first vice chairman will be Toure Oumou Traore, a leading women’s rights advocate who heads the Association for Women’s Organizations in Mali and a member of the dominant Songhoi ethnic group in northern Mali. The second vice chairman will be customs officer Meti ag Mohamed Rhissa, a member of the minority Tuareg ethnic group. The goal of the commission, which will include 30 community members, is to start a dialogue between the different parties to achieve national unity — leading to free, fair and transparent elections.

Continue Reading →