5.08.2007

Chirac's legacy

Worse than Neville Chamberlain, not as evil as the despots he coddled. Jacques Chirac will go down as a Vichy Frenchman born into the wrong era.

Anne Applebaum at Slate nails it:
During a visit to the Ivory Coast, Chirac once called "multi-partyism" a "kind of luxury," which his host, president-for-life FĂ©lix Houphouet-Boigny, could clearly not afford. During a visit to Tunisia, he proclaimed that, since "the most important human rights are the rights to be fed, to have health, to be educated, and to be housed," Tunisia's human rights record is "very advanced"—never mind the police who beat up dissidents. "Africa is not ready for democracy," he told a group of African leaders in the early 1990s.

On Saddam Hussein: "You are my personal friend. Let me assure you of my esteem, consideration, and bond."

On Eastern Europe supporting the United States in the United Nations: "It is not really responsible behavior. It is not well-brought-up behavior. They missed a good opportunity to shut up."

On Iran's nuclear program: "Having one or perhaps a second bomb a little later, well, that's not very dangerous." Theoretically, Chirac was supposed to be negotiating with Iran to give up its nuclear program at the time.

On hearing a French businessman address a European summit in English, "deeply shocked," he stormed out of the room.

As I say, it's a very important legacy: One of consistent scorn for the Anglo-American world in general and the English language in particular, of suspicion of Central Europe and profound disinterest in the wave of democratic transformation that swept the world in the 1980s and 1990s, of preference for the Arab and African dictators who had been, and remained, clients of France. In his later years, Chirac constantly searched, in almost all international conflicts, for novel ways of opposing the United States. All along, he did his best to protect France from the rapidly changing global economy.

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