The American World Turned Upside Down

It is dangerous to believe that the world has found in Libya the solution that it was seeking in today’s increasingly chaotic post-American order. Neither France nor Britain – not to mention the EU, which is more divided than ever when it comes to military interventions – can be seen as substitutes for the US.

PARIS – From Washington, the enthusiasm of the French for intervention in Libya is seen with a mixture of relief and puzzlement. The Americans do not want the job and are happy that someone else does. Indeed, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s willingness to intervene (alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron) helped close a dangerous gap between the world of “values,” which would call for direct American intervention against Muammar el-Qaddafi, and the world of “interest,” which impelled President Barack Obama to restraint.

America’s strategy seems to be to squeeze Qaddafi’s regime out of power through a combination of financial, economic, and even “psychological” pressure aimed at isolating the Colonel from his sources of support within his own inner circle. That is a wise approach, one that may ultimately work. But it will likely take a lot of time to produce results.

While Americans are relieved by France’s display of determination, they cannot refrain from expressing a sense of bemusement: Do the French really know what they are up against? What has happened to them? We know what war means, but they seem to have forgotten!

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