It was fitting that Secretary Rice visited France last. French obstructionism has been a significant thorn in the side of the Bush administration. Completing a successful trip, Rice ends her first diplomatic tour in France. While there was plenty of substance in the press remarks between Dr. Rice and French Foreign Affairs Minister Michel Barnier, Mr. Barnier's introduction was far more telling. Let us deconstruct where France finds itself in a post-Iraqi election world dominated by the Americans.
Minister Barnier: Welcome to each one of you, ladies and gentlemen, and after this meeting that Condoleezza Rice has just had with the head of state, Jacques Chirac, the coincidence of our timetables what we have, in fact, with Condi Rice been traveling more or less along the same routes. She spent the night in Rome. I spent the night in Gaza and all roads lead, almost, I would say, to Paris, which is where we meet again tonight. And I am extremely pleased, Dear Condi, to welcome you here on behalf of the French Government after meeting with the president of the French Republic.
Could one imagine Rice saying that all roads lead to Washington, D.C. or to New York? It is the French sense of loss of their status in the world that would lead Minister Barnier to make such a silly comparison to "all roads leading to Rome". While it was said to be funny, I am sure, it comes off arrogant.
Minister Barnier: In this house, where so many important things have occurred, even in this room that we call the clock room -- you can see it here -- because it's in this very room, and I often say it -- on that photograph you can see Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet in front of that mantelpiece. And they were the first to launch the quest to create the European Community with the heart and steel -- community and they got six European countries to mutualize their efforts and resources so as to get together, stronger together.
Mr. Barnier, rather than looking forward to what France has done, can only look back to what France has achieved by being a part of the creation of the European Community, which has become the European Union with 25 members. This is where France is placing its future hope, as a counterbalance to US hegemony. Yet his comments are rooted in what France was and not what it is today.
Minister Barnier: Your being here is one of those important events for the Quai D'Orsay. Your movements have been long expected in your important function that you've taken over after the reelection of President George Bush.
"Your movements have been long expected" is odd. Movements are usually part of a game, such as chess, to be anticipated and countered.
Our two countries, Dear Condi, are the most ancient allies, the one for the other. Even more, we have never been at war. Never. And I often quote this phrase of a compatriot, who, after the Second World War was telling you, you, the Americans, we have helped you in your birth some time ago. You helped us not to die.
Would PM Tony Blair state that the US and the UK are "ancient allies"? No, because it is understood by actions. The French have to look back to 1776 at the birth of the United States to demonstrate support, and this was done to counter the British, not from some altruistic motive. While it is a touching line, it alone, nor with the rest of Mr. Barnier's words, does anything to address the deep diplomatic divide.
France not only disagreed with the United States over Iraq, but fought hard to thwart US intentions while supporting and possibly profiting from a notoriously evil regime.
France, aligning itself first with Germany, now must find itself even more isolated in a larger Europe that has seen the desire of the Iraqi people to determine their own destiny and not take direction and platitudes from the Quai D'Orsay.