Tag: Sarkozy

Does the Arab Spring show how strategic narratives work?

Nobody has come close to explaining how strategic narratives work in international relations, despite the term being banded about. Monroe Price wrote a great article in the Huffington Post yesterday that moves the debate forward. As I have already writtenstrategic narratives are state-led projections of a sequence of events and identities, a tool through which political leaders try to give meaning to past, present and future in a way that justifies what they want to do. Getting others at home or abroad to accept or align with your narrative is a way to influence their behaviour. But like soft power, we have not yet demonstrated how strategic narratives work. We are documenting how great powers project narratives about the direction of the international system and their identities within that. We see the investments in public diplomacy and norm-promotion. We have not yet demonstrated that these projections have altered the behaviour of other states or publics. Does the Arab Spring show these narratives at work?

Many leaders in the West and protestors taking part in the Arab Spring promoted a narrative about the spread of freedom, often conflating this with the hope and vigour of youth and emancipatory potential of social media. Of course this narrative may be bogus, as Jean-Marie Guéhenno argues in yesterday’s New York Times. However, the key point Price makes is that narratives set expectations, regardless of their veracity. Narratives defined what NOME leaders were expected to do: step aside! We can see the power of narratives by seeing what happens to those who defy them. Mubarak and Saif Gaddafi both gave speeches where they were expected to align with the narrative. The narrative set the context and expectation for how they should behave. But they did the opposite of what was expected. Price writes:

From a perspective of “strategic narratives,” Mubarak and young Gaddafi were speaking as players in an episode, set by key actors, international and domestic, who had the expectation that their wishes as to the playing out of the drama would be fulfilled. Their speeches did not match the sufficiently accepted script, in the case of Mubarak, or the incomplete outlines of one, as in the case of young Gaddafi.
Who has successfully promoted an overarching narrative? Obama, Cameron, Sarkozy? Where did the ‘Arab Spring’ narrative come from? How does an overarching narrative play out in each country? What room does it leave for individual governments and public to create their own destinies? In the next year, building up to a debate at the International Studies Association (ISA) convention in San Diego in April, we will be exploring this. 
Cross posted from: https://newpolcom.rhul.ac.uk/npcu-blog/ 

What the hell is going on in Europe?

So I spend a few years writing a book on American foreign policy and stop paying attention to European politics, only to return and find the whole thing in chaos. I am finding three developments going on in Europe fascinating (if despicable and disgusting).

First, the Financial Times recently ran a story on Sarokozy’s plan to launch a debate in France on the importance of secularism, which is really just a way to pick on Muslims and draw votes from the National Front, who have been doing very well lately under the leadership of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s daughter. (As an aside, how much of a right-wing badass can you be with the first name Jean-Marie?). OK, this is cynical but it is also really interesting for anyone who knows anything about French history. Secularism was one of the, if not the, central political and social cleavage in France for a long, long time, tied up in divide between revolutionary and counterrevolutionary forces. And of course there was the Dreyfus affair. But this time it is right that is pushing for more secularism, an issue which has historically belonged to the left. Of course this is not really genuine. It is a way of picking on Muslims and trying to force them to assimilate. It is the intolerance of tolerance. But it shows you how in France, secularism is so firmly established that PTJ might call it a “rhetorical commonplace,” and it can be picked up and twisted in new ways.

In other countries the question of how forgiving we are of other cultures that do not necessarily embrace Western values, the tolerance of intolerance, seems to be a real one. And it makes for curious alignments of left and right, like happened in the Netherlands with the Pim Fortuyn movement. I can imagine being on the left and taking a strident line against forcing women to wear headscarves. But I can just as easily imagine thinking it is none of our business if we are truly living up to our democratic principles. In fact I am thinking both of those things right now.

Second, how can it be that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is still in office when he is ON TRIAL for PAYING FOR SEX from an UNDERAGE girl? Seriously?! Isn’t just one of these things enough to get canned? It is one thing to say, “Oh, the Europeans are forgiving of politicians and their mistresses, they’re just not as puritanical as Americans” and quite another to account for how this guy can stay on. Don’t get me wrong, I am not morally appalled. (Well, the underage thing is a bit much.) But really I just want to understand how he manages this politically. Someone who really understands Italian politics please explain this to me. As for the bigger picture, I really want someone to write a book or an article on scandals and when or whether politicians resign. Just recently they kicked out the German defense minister for plagiarism. There was a grass-roots national revolt. For plagiarism! This is an academic gold mine. Someone has to figure out what Larry Craig and Berlusconi have in common. Do they like public humiliation?

Third, what on earth is the German government doing? I don’t know if I have every seen German foreign policy so badly managed. Well, this side of the Third Reich, I mean. Not only are they not providing some token support for the NATO mission in Libya, but they are making a fuss about it. These are the normally loyal Christian Democrats, not the anti war Greens and SPD, who are a bit fed up with more military interventions. The CDU was more supportive of the Iraq War than this, which was much more controversial in Germany. I don’t think it is ideological. I am sure they don’t like Qaddafi, and they have no real problem with force. There is a UN mandate. It just seems like craven domestic political pandering, which is marking their entire foreign policy, and domestic policy too. Everytime there is a deal on a new financial mechanism to bail out future euro members, the Germans renege after forcing the discussion in the first place.

Well, I have to go. I have to go find an underage girl to pay to write my next book. Seriously?!


Run from Civilization

The very foundations of Western civilization are under attack in France–President Nicolas Sarkozy likes to jog.

From today’s Washington Post Style Page:

On the primary state television channel, France 2, Alain Finkielkraut, a leading French intellectual, recently demanded that Sarkozy give up his “undignified” exercise. Not only did he imply that exposing the boss’s naked knees is something that never would have occurred in the time of Mitterrand, much less Louis XIV, Finkielkraut claimed strolling is the proper activity of the thinking person, from Socrates to the poet Arthur Rimbaud.

“Western civilization, in its best sense, was born with the promenade,” said Finkielkraut. “Walking is a sensitive, spiritual act. Jogging is management of the body. The jogger says I am in control. It has nothing to do with meditation.”

Do your part to save Western Civilization–take a stroll.

Its quite serious. Western Civilization, built on a set of rhetorical commonplaces that articulate the ideas undergirding our contemporary democratic values and institutions (and a cannon) owes its very existence to the promenade. To Jog is to threaten the core identity of not only the French state, but the entire Western Alliance.

Or, maybe, its yet another way for the French to express their annoyance at all things American:

Sarkozy has fueled a French suspicion that running is for self-centered individualists like Americans, reports Charles Bremner, Paris correspondent for the Times of London.

“Patrick Mignon, a sports sociologist, noted that French intellectuals had always held sport in contempt, while totalitarian regimes cultivated physical fitness,” Bremner writes.

“Jogging is of course about performance and individualism, values that are traditionally ascribed to the right,” Odile Baudrier, editor of V02 magazine, a sports publication, told Libération.

If your president is into physical fitness and likes to run, he’s might be an anti-intellectual, self-centered individualist running a totalitarian regime…

This leads us to the only logical conclusion: Joggers, like strikeouts, are fascist. Do your part to save democracy in the West and take a walk.


Three: Charm, Crowd, or Magic Number?

Two major events this weekend, both deserving of comment in this space. Each totally unrelated to the other, but that’s the beauty of the Blog milieu.

First, in France, Sarkozy wins (or, if your French is not up to par, ici). I should be excited, or disappointed, but really, all I can muster is an emphatic “Eh.”

Second, in New York, Rodger Clemens is back. That should make at least one member of this blog (named PTJ) giddy with excitement, tingling from his head to his toes, dreaming of October baseball in the Bronx. Again, Eh.

And yet, there’s always something interesting and notable in each story, which is why I paid attention to both despite my disinterest. Explain that one…

For Sarkozy, I’m a bit surprised the French elected someone vowing to bring the worst elements of Anglo-American globalization and capitalism–to curtail strikes, the horror!–to France won so convincingly over a candidate emphasizing the sanctity of the 35 hour work week and lifetime employment. He’s also rather pro-American, which, if you recall, was once enough to lose you an election in Europe a few years back. But, he was the exciting candidate and Royal, as the CW now goes, never caught fire as a candidate.

Also interesting, and relevant for Hillary Clinton’s presidential run was this bit in the IHT report:

Royal had repeatedly appealed to the women of France to vote for her in a show of female solidarity. But Sarkozy, a conservative who made his reputation as a hard-line minister of the interior, got the majority of the women’s vote, according to Ipsos, an international polling company.

Perhaps the ‘women’s vote’ is more complicated than just assuming that they’ll vote for the woman in the race.

In other news, yes, Clemens is back, and hope springs eternal for every Yankee fan out there. Surely The Boss would bust out his checkbook to fix the Bronx Bombers and right the Yankee Clipper ship. (oh, and am I the only one who is not happy that they abandon the Columbus Clippers as the AAA team? I have fond memories of trying to do a Ferris Bueller and ditch out of school for a Clippers game my senior year. Columbus Clippers, ring your bell, yes we had cowbells we rung…)

Cashman strikes fast, and you get a dramatic announcement from the owners box, at the Stadium, by The Rocket himself, that he’s un-retiring for the 3rd time to become a Yankee.

Now, if they do make it to the playoffs, yes, he’ll have his fairytale ending as the savior of the great franchise.

But, I don’t think it will be all that great for him in NY this time. Yes, he’s like the greatest living and active pitcher in the game. Yes, sure-fire hall of famer. Yes, he was brilliant last year. Yes, the Yankees actually have an offense, so he’ll win some games.

But, consider this: Clemens is old. He’s 44, which is 3 months older than Jamie Moyer. That’s very old, in baseball terms. At some point, age will catch him. The nice thing about this argument is that I can keep making it and eventually be right.

More to the point, he’s only a 5+ inning pitcher at this point, so he still needs the bullpen to cover 3+ innings of work each start. Sure, there’s Mariano, but he’s become mortal this year, and the Yankees bullpen is seriously overworked as it is and thin in this vital middle relief area.

And, he’s now playing in the AL, not the NL, and the AL East, not the NL Central. He goes from one of the worst, lightest hitting divisions in baseball to the best. There’s no pitcher to pad his K numbers, instead there are DH’s like David Ortiz and Travis “Pronk” Hafner, two of the best hitters in the game. He’ll be facing offenses like the Red Sox, the Devil Rays (pitching, not hitting is their problem), and the white-hot AL Central teams.

Yeah, he’s good, but I’m so hoping not enough for the Yankees to make it to the post season.

And enough already with the comebacks. Three’s a crowd, not a charm.


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