No doubt by now you've heard about French Socialist Party presidential hopeful Segolene Royal mouthing off about her sympathy for Quebec sovereignty. While French politicians interfering in Canadian political affairs (or those of anybody, more on that in a bit) is nothing new, it is still a galling (de Gaulling?) act whenever it happens. Canadians were more than a little miffed over the "Vive le Quebec libre!" business of a generation ago, and this little outburst may be that act reincarnate for the current generation. Many of you who are here will know of the scorn and contempt I have for the French political class. That doesn't extend to the entire population; indeed, a French citizen is largely responsible for the success of the Montreal Canadiens this season. Moreover, I do regard Stephane Dion as a decent human being.
However, I'm of the mentality that Canada, much like its good neighbour to the south, should take every opportunity to embarrass and humiliate France. They are no allies of ours, or of freedom. Yes they may have a contingent in Afghanistan, but it is a paltry contribution relative to the work of the Canadian Forces, and their guys don't even leave their bases in the safer parts of Afghanistan at night. French elan simply is not what it used to be, and even that is not saying a whole lot given the history of the 20th century.
You see, France would prefer to coddle dictators and enjoy large-scale elaborate UN kickback schemes than act alongside its NATO partners in meaningful missions to improve humanity's lot. In the process, they'll meddle in the affairs of countries such as Poland, telling them to shut up and stay out of diplomatic and military discussions in the middle of a major crisis. Thankfully, Poland learned the lesson of what happened the last time the French sold them down the river, and ignored Paris's commands in 2003. Of course, the last time the French adopted a policy of "no liability at all" for major world events, they ended up going to war anyways, and being overrun within 6 weeks. If it weren't for the very countries they scorned in 2002-03, they'd still be colluding with the Germans to thwart the United Stat--oh, whoops, never mind. A country that clings to visions of past glory as if that is enough to give it points in today's era regularly demonstrates its moral and political bankruptcy. Their efforts to protect Saddam's regime and keep the cash flowing in, in the face of incontrovertible evidence of the regime's despicable human rights atrocities, proved fruitless when the threat of their veto was ignored. Their claims of Operation Iraqi Freedom lacking legitimacy were hollow and the revelation of French complicity in the oil-for-food scandal only highlighted the country's irrelevance and Janus-like nature.
I realize that we live in an era where sovereignty is conditional. However, Canada's integrity as a nation-state has been challenged twice, and defeated twice. For a decrepit power such as France to seek to interject itself into Canadian affairs is laughable and contemptible. Stephen Harper's swift condemnation of the French Socialist leader was a stroke of brilliance, and if it is to be criticized, it should be only for not going far enough. Harper should dis-invite the next president of France, particularly if it is Royal, to the celebrations surrounding the 400 year anniversary of the founding of Quebec. If France does not respect Canadian unity, we are under no obligation to invite them to our parties, especially if they've already snubbed past invitations.
State of the Union 2007
Switching gears to a country I respect, tonight is the 2007 edition of the State of the Union Address by George W. Bush. In the past, the SOTU has served as a major venue for Bush to establish strong positions for the United States. Nobody will ever forget the 2002 edition and the establishment of the "axis of evil," and the 2003 version made it abundantly clear that the United States was prepared to do what was necessary to remove the threat of Saddam Hussein, regardless of French impotent intransigence.
However, this year's SOTU is not shaping up to be particularly eventful. The advance press mentions little in the realm of foreign policy, and the most quoted headline involves the President seeking to convince Americans to consume less gas. That's not the kind of thing that will get a disenchanted public motivated to rally around the President. I don't know if it's executive fatigue or what all, but it's clear that Bush has lost the initiative and resoluteness that defined the early years of his presidency. The announcement of a renewed push towards resolving the Israeli-Palestinian issue indicates that he's ready to go into legacy mode. Likely, it will end up the same way as Clinton's legacy-building efforts, even without the insurmountable obstacle that was Yasser Arafat. Bush needs to announce something innovative and creative to get the initiative back on side, before it really is too late. One could argue that we're already irrevocably past that point, and have been since Katrina, but with almost two full years left, there is still plenty of time for Bush to turn things around and get his Administration back in the driver's seat.