The Kouchner Conversion

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner made his name as a champion of "humanitarian intervention" by outside states to stop grave human rights violations by tyrannical governments. Kouchner has retreated radically from that position since Nicolas Sarkozy appointed him to the government, underscoring how vain a hope humanitarian intervention always was.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s appointment of Bernard Kouchner as France’s foreign minister was a brilliant political stroke. Having beaten his Socialist rival, Ségolène Royal, Sarkozy decided to compound the Socialists’ crisis by appointing to his government several political figures long associated with the center-left. Sarkozy persuaded two women from immigrant backgrounds, Rama Yade and the well-known feminist activist Fadela Amara, to accept sub-cabinet positions, while Kouchner has been the most popular political figure in France for the past several years.

Kouchner’s popularity is a curious phenomenon. Although he has been in politics for decades, he has not held a government post since serving as deputy health minister under former Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. Yet, whether through the force of his intellect and talent, as he and his supporters say, or his genius at self-promotion, as many of his detractors contend, Kouchner succeeded in remaining at center stage no matter who was France’s president or prime minister.

But the hour was growing late. Kouchner, the co-founder of the relief group Doctors Without Borders, who later split with the organization to found a second humanitarian organization, Doctors of the World, and who ran Kosovo as a United Nations protectorate after NATO’s war with Serbia in 1999, is now 67. Realistically, Sarkozy’s invitation was probably his last chance to play a major political and international role.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in;
  1. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

    Angela Merkel’s Endgame?

    The collapse of coalition negotiations has left German Chancellor Angela Merkel facing a stark choice between forming a minority government or calling for a new election. But would a minority government necessarily be as bad as Germans have traditionally thought?

  2. Trump Trade speech Bill Pugliano/Getty Images .

    Preparing for the Trump Trade Wars

    In the first 11 months of his presidency, Donald Trump has failed to back up his words – or tweets – with action on a variety of fronts. But the rest of the world's governments, and particularly those in Asia and Europe, would be mistaken to assume that he won't follow through on his promised "America First" trade agenda.

  3. A GrabBike rider uses his mobile phone Bay Ismoyo/Getty Images

    The Platform Economy

    While developed countries in Europe, North America, and Asia are rapidly aging, emerging economies are predominantly youthful. Nigerian, Indonesian, and Vietnamese young people will shape global work trends at an increasingly rapid pace, bringing to bear their experience in dynamic informal markets on a tech-enabled gig economy.

  4. Trump Mario Tama/Getty Images

    Profiles in Discouragement

    One day, the United States will turn the page on Donald Trump. But, as Americans prepare to observe their Thanksgiving holiday, they should reflect that their country's culture and global standing will never recover fully from the wounds that his presidency is inflicting on them.

  5. Mugabe kisses Grace JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images

    How Women Shape Coups

    In Zimbabwe, as in all coups, much behind-the-scenes plotting continues to take place in the aftermath of the military's overthrow of President Robert Mugabe. But who the eventual winners and losers are may depend, among other things, on the gender of the plotters.

  6. Oil barrels Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Getty Images

    The Abnormality of Oil

    At the 2017 Abu Dhabi Petroleum Exhibition and Conference, the consensus among industry executives was that oil prices will still be around $60 per barrel in November 2018. But there is evidence to suggest that the uptick in global growth and developments in Saudi Arabia will push the price as high as $80 in the meantime.

  7. Israeli soldier Menahem Kahana/Getty Images

    The Saudi Prince’s Dangerous War Games

    Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is working hard to consolidate power and establish his country as the Middle East’s only hegemon. But his efforts – which include an attempt to trigger a war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon – increasingly look like the work of an immature gambler.