The Sarkozy Option

PARIS – From the Caucasus in August 2008 to the Middle East in January 2009, is France under President Nicolas Sarkozy attempting to incarnate what might be called “the West by default,” making maximum use of the window of opportunity opened by America’s presidential transition?

Or is Sarkozy simply trying to capitalize on his global visibility to reinforce his popularity at home, where a majority of French citizens continue to support their hyperactive president’s diplomatic leadership? Despite his failed bid to orchestrate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, was he not right to try?

For the French, Sarkozy’s determination to act, despite the odds, seems far superior to the passive cynicism of those who preach abstention or satisfy themselves with empty words.

Beyond its impact on the Middle East, Sarkozy’s failed but brave attempt to act as a go-between constitutes an interesting window into the foreign-policy methods and ambitions of today’s France. For the essential question about Sarko-diplomacy is whether it reflects a well-defined strategy, based on a clear vision of the world, or merely expresses a shrewd and pragmatic activism that applies a keen domestic political instinct to the field of foreign affairs?