France rejecting arrogance?

President Sarkozy just keeps getting better and better. I rub my eyes in disbelief as I read of the latest in a series of extraordinarily sensible acts in his young presidency. David R. Sands writes in the Washington Times:

In a report commissioned by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, former Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine urged a new "modesty" in the country's economic and foreign policy, saying that France somehow had acquired an international reputation for arrogance.

"As surprising as it might seem, just as our country is emerging from a long period of self-doubt and underestimates itself as a 'middle power,' France continues to be perceived as 'arrogant' in a great part of the world," Mr. Vedrine concluded.

Mr. Vedrine noted that the arrogance charge, "anchored in old behaviors and history," is used by France's rivals to contain her foreign policy.

But, the former top diplomat acknowledged that "this perception is widespread even taking that into account."

Mr. Vedrine, a leftist who first dubbed the United States a "hyperpower" during his five years as foreign minister ending in 2002, was tabbed by Mr. Sarkozy in July to take a long look at French policy challenges in the age of globalization.

The 60-page report, released yesterday, said France must end its "sterile distrust" of open markets and globalization, and should undertake a "dynamic offensive" to shape the world economy to play to the country's strengths. [....]

"While we are sincere when we say it, is it really necessary to recall without ceasing that France is the 'birthplace of human rights'?" The United States and Britain have just as good a claim, he noted.

"A little more modesty would be in conformity with reality and would not weaken us at all in our concrete efforts to improve human rights," Mr. Vedrine wrote, adding, "Our capacity to listen [to others] is insufficient."
Note that Sarkozy and Vedrine do not embrace completely free markets, and couch their foreign policy arguments in terms of maximizing French influence by being more realistic about the real situation it faces. Both of these stances are politically pragmatic and reflect a determination to maintain French standing in a world dominated by the Anglosphere. Perhaps France would do better to go with a completely free market approach, but there is no tradition of such an approach in France, whose economic history is one of dirigisme dating earlier than the Industrial Revolution.

A French economic conservative put it to me this way recently, regarding state support for Airbus:

"Of course we have to support Airbus. What else do we have?"

All of those leftist phonies who threatened to move to France if Bush were elected or re-elected have been saved by their own hypocrisy. Sarkozy, if he can stay in office long enough, may succeed in transforming and re-invigorating a country that should be one of our closest allies. We must never forget that France played a key role in the success of our Revolution, that it gave us the Statue of Liberty, and that many, many French people harbor deep affection for us. The anti-American arrogance of France has always been mostly a product of the leftist elites.

Hat tip: Ed Lasky
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