Sarkozy—France and Germany Decoupled
“The excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: unstable as water.” That’s how the true patriarch of the French, the biblical Jacob, described his firstborn son, Reuben, progenitor of the ancient Israelite tribe that became the nation of France.
The history of France over the past century is a picture-postcard of that description of the French.
Icons to the excellence of dignity and the excellence of power in France abound. The city of Paris is renowned internationally for the quality of cultural excellence it exudes in its architecture, the presentation of the fine arts, its exceptional culinary standards, and the finesse of its diplomatic institutions. It is not by accident that France is the seat of haute couture, has set the standards for the wine industry globally for centuries, is the measure by which chefs all over the world judge themselves, and has the best finishing schools in the world for the children of the rich and famous. These standards of excellence in achievement are but the natural outcome of the attributes of the inherent character bound up in the genes and chromosomes of the descendants of Reuben.
For generations the standards of diplomacy, as originally adopted by the aristocracy in their official exchanges during the times of the dynastic rule of kings and queens in Europe, was set by France. Charles de Gaulle was perhaps the last practitioner of these standards at the highest levels of diplomacy in the 20th century. His political approach to all things French, especially France’s foreign relations, carved out a unique epoch in post-war international relations.
The term Gaullism was coined initially during World War ii to describe the political movement supporting General de Gaulle as leader of the French government in exile. The term became synonymous with the unique brand of politics pursued by the wartime leader of the “free French” in post-war politics, especially in the decade that followed the signing of the Treaty of Rome which created today’s European Union. That decade saw the Franco-German relationship firmly embedded as the bulwark of the European Community political machine, with France the most vocal partner.
Essentially, Charles de Gaulle’s political platform was based on his grand vision of returning France to its former glory days as a world power. This meant France had to first become a major European power. De Gaulle’s grand design was for France to be the hub of a Europe that would challenge the two superpowers that dominated the latter part of the 20th century—the U.S. and ussr. In pursuit of this goal, de Gaulle saw the necessity to tie France to its old enemy, Germany, in a partnership that would lead a united states of Europe into the forefront of global politics, economics, technical achievement and military power. But it was France, not Germany, that he saw as controlling the partnership. To this end he developed the force de frappe, becoming the only nuclear power among the free democracies of Europe.
In his attempt at achieving these goals, de Gaulle deliberately alienated the U.S. and Britain in many of his foreign-policy maneuvers. Perhaps both America and Britain will breathe a mild sigh of relief as the last practitioner of Gaullism, so long a thorn in the foreign-policy flesh of Anglo-America, now fades from the scene. President Jacques Chirac has ended his political career, paving the way for last weekend’s electoral success by Nicolas Sarkozy, who will now succeed Chirac as president of France.
So what changes will this evolution from the old guard of the right to the new yield in French politics, and what impact will this have on France’s domestic and foreign relations?
Here’s where “the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power,” which has embellished the most glittering achievements of France’s two millennia of history, begins to merge with the national tendency to be as “unstable as water.”
One thing we can forecast. The transition from the Chirac to the Sarkozy administration will be volatile. France is in for a period of political disquiet and disruption that will profoundly influence its standing in the European Union and quickly lead to the fracturing of the 50-year-old Franco-German partnership in Europe. This will leave one dominant player on the European scene: Germany!
The evolution of Germany from its state as the vanquished enemy of freedom 62 years ago to its return, once again, as the most dominant nation within Europe has been a constant theme of this magazine since its humble launching 17 years ago. Herbert Armstrong, during his half-century as editor and publisher of the Plain Truth, the widely circulated news magazine that mentored the Trumpet, forecast this outcome during the entire period of his publishing life, from the time that Germany lay in ashes at the end of the war to the time that he died almost four years prior the fall of the Berlin Wall. And now, it is all finally happening—and fast!
Given Sarkozy’s strong public stand against the violence demonstrated by elements among the nearly 6 million Islamic populace within France, that fiery riots will return to Islamic ghettos within Paris suburbs is a given. That the largely left-wing student population will take Sarkozy’s election as the signal to show its disapproval we must also take for granted. Whether this will mean a repeat of anything like the 1968 campus riots remains to be seen. However, the volatility of the current tensions in France should definitely not be underestimated; nor should their inevitable effects that will ripple right across Europe, especially northward to Berlin.
Germany is already on the receiving end of hardened rhetoric from President Putin’s reviving Russia. Notwithstanding the present euphoria being given much publicity about the revival of the long moribund German economy, German labor is still way overpriced, and the German economy still unbalanced as it depends excessively upon selling its high-priced exports in competition against those produced within cheaper international labor markets, in particular, China and Southeast Asia. Excessive immigration, with its attendant social problems, remains a key challenge to the German government. In addition to this basket of political concerns, Germany plainly needs alternative energy suppliers to offset overdependence on Russian supplies. Now, Germany is freed from the restraining influence that the Gaullist linkage imposed upon its international relations, free to finally pursue its own uniquely Germanic course in meeting these challenges.
Solving most of the above problems will demand considerable expertise in the foreign policy arena. At this, Chancellor Merkel has appeared, to this point, quite adept. As Germany approaches the final weeks of its current period in the rotational presidency of the EU, with Chirac now gone from the scene, look for Berlin to finish its term in a position of strength. The upcoming G8 summit, with Germany in both the EU and the G8 presidency chairs, will be a clear opportunity for Germany to feel its oats in respect of decoupling from the historical Franco-German tandem that has led the EU to this point.
Unlike the past 50 years, the EU will now, and increasingly, begin to speak with one voice. And that voice will clearly be German!