October 17, 2003

The Gaul of some people

I've been pretty hard on the simple-minded French bashing that was so popular in some quarters during the run-up to the Iraq war. But this graph, buried in a longer story about several countries' appropriately undiplomatic condemnations of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's outrageously antisemitic remarks at yesterday's Organization of the Islamic Conference, is fairly, uh, eye-catching:

At their own summit in Brussels, Belgium, European Union leaders had drafted a harsh statement condemning Mahathir's remarks, but French President Jacques Chirac blocked it from becoming a part of a final declaration, saying it had no place there. Instead, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi criticized Mahathir at his closing news conference.

No place there?

Maybe I'll have to try some of those freedom fries after all.

Posted by Jack O'Toole on October 17, 2003 12:11 PM

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french diplomacy is in a league of its own.
(1) Chirac didn't object to the remark, (2) he did not defend it AFAWK, he made it (3) a question of protocol
Note the outcome: the criticism was delivered, France gets to look good in Mahathir's eyes.
The latter may turn out beneficial in the long run. Now, certainly, having it both ways is _very_ French and arguably bad style. OTOH, as long as the criticism is delivered in some form or other, I see little harm done by leaving open a backdoor.

Posted by: markus on October 17, 2003 05:47 PM

I used to live in Malaysia and know the background here. Chirac and Mahathir have been kindred souls for well over five years. They both believe that it is terrible to live in a world that is dominated by America. They both suffer from delusions of national -- and personal -- grandeur. They both believe that their countries -- and they personally -- should be treated as great world leaders. But it is the evil Americans -- and not their own pretensions -- that prevent this from happening.

Mahathir spends at least two weeks vacation in France every year. He says that he is now studying French.

So while Mahathir, in his most racist moments, likes to criticize the West and the 'white men,' as he calls them, he always gives France a pass.

Posted by: John on October 17, 2003 08:42 PM

....and who knows what the French give Mahathir, if you catch my drift.....?

Posted by: John on October 17, 2003 09:12 PM

John, your first contribution was very interesting and enlightening, but your second was too cryptic for me. Could you be more specific?

Posted by: markus on October 17, 2003 10:05 PM

Turns out Chirac didn't do it: http://www.markarkleiman.com/archives/_/2003/10/chirac_and_mahathir_update_and_retraction.php

Posted by: Mithras on October 27, 2003 10:23 PM