- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 9, 2001

Now I know what happened to the Pravda cartoonists who used to earn a crust turning out images of bloodthirsty Uncle Sam. Some of them appear to have moved west and landed a job at Le Monde, France's journal of record.
Le Monde is an admirable newspaper in many ways. The foreign coverage is extraordinarily detailed, the domestic pages free of the celebrity-chat that passes for news in most countries, the cultural pages always aim high. Sometimes the atmosphere can be intolerably stuffy, yet you are never in any doubt that you are reading a quality newspaper.
But in common with much of Europe's news media, Le Monde is suffering from a severe case of anti-Americanism at the moment. It is all George Bush's fault, of course. Having upset all right-thinking people by winning last November's election, the new occupant of the White House has compounded the offense by not following received wisdom on Kyoto, missile defence and a dozen other issues.
And since many of the solidly bourgeois folk who make the decisions in the French media still have a touch of the radical, stone-throwing "soixante-huitard" about them, they have found it all too easy to slip into their old, anti-imperialist habits. Europe, good; United States bad. So when Le Monde ran a story recently about the possibility of judicial inquiries into Henry Kissinger's policies on Chile and Argentina in the 1970s, out came all the stock symbols of the Cold War. In the cartoon illustrating the story, the blandly smiling face of Dr. Kissinger turns out to be a mask; underneath lurks the snarling face of a demon with blood-stained fangs and a stars-and-stripes hat jammed on his head.
Oh, and in case, we missed the message, he is holding a cigar marked with a dollar bill on its band. Even Joseph Stalin's propaganda team might have found that last touch a shade obvious. An extreme example, perhaps, but typical of the general tone of the paper. And Le Monde is not alone. Across the mainstream press in France — as in Britain — the gulf dividing Europe from America has never seemed wider. Not surprisingly, my American friends are in the mood to retaliate with groans of "Why did we bother to fight the last war?" Or, "If they hate us so much, why did they build a Disneyland here?"
Worse still, the conversation turns to the age-old complaints about the Frenchman's traditional aversion to deodorants. Natural allies glower at each other in mutual incomprehension. For those of us who happen to admire both countries, it is all a little depressing.
There is a reminder of how substantial the differences in political culture are in "Lionel", a new biography of the French prime minister, Lionel Jospin, the Socialists' likely candidate in next year's presidential elections. Mr. Jospin today cultivates the image of a graying, dispassionate "e/narque", a typically capable product of the elite Ecole Nationale d'Administration. But that is only half the story. The book's author Claude Askolovitch reminds us that Mr. Jospin began his political journey not just on the left but on the far shores of Trotskyism; his loyalities originally lay with a militant group calling itself the Organisation Communiste Internationaliste.
In the 1970s he infiltrated Francois Mitterand's Socialist Party, but eventually found his adopted home more congenial. Even so, the final break with his mentors came late in the day: Mr. Jospin was well into his 40s when he broke free once and for all. As Mr. Askolovitch reminds us, "e/narques" and Trotskyites are two self-styled elites who believe that their understanding of society gives them the right to look down on common humanity from a real height: "Les e/narques ont l'Etat. Les trotskistes ont l'Histoire." ("Enarques have the State. Trotskyites have History.")
Barring an act of God, Mr. Jospin will make his own mark on history in January when he leads France into the age of the euro. On New Year's Day the franc will disappear from daily life, to be replaced by the bland new EU banknotes. Many Parisian shops already display prices in both currencies; euro chequebooks and credit cards are in circulation. (The government aims to have 70 percent of cheque and credit card payments made in euros by the end of this year. July's figure stood at a mere 1.9 percent) The French themselves seem resigned to losing their national currency; the dominant concern so far seems to be that unscrupulous shops and businesses will take advantage of the confusion over currency rates to raise their prices.
Among the governing classes, Euro-idealism still exerts its hold, for better and for worse. As the Oxford academic Larry Siedentop observes in his absorbing new study, "Democracy in Europe," America has much to gain from the existence of a new Europe united around a common democratic constitution.
An authority on Tocqueville, Mr. Siedentop understands exactly how much both continents have to learn from each other. What he fears above all is that European integration is turning into an ill-considered rush toward a unitary super-state. As he explains, Europe's leaders have elevated crude economic questions above all others, pursuing dreams of creating a new power bloc while neglecting its political and civic foundations.
Mr. Siedentop depicts the French as both the heroes and the villains of the piece. Heroes, because their politicians and their enarques possess the vision, courage and self-belief to champion a united Europe; as he puts it, the French have the most to offer Europe simply because they believe in Europe as a cultural and moral undertaking. Villains, because the age-old tradition of "etatisme" means they are slow to adopt open, democratic mechanisms:
"When abandoning their previous preference for a "Europe des patries," a Europe of nation-states, in favour of 'ever closer political union', the French political class or elite fell back on its own culture, the culture created by the unreformed model of the French state. It fell back on a culture which traditionally fostered bureaucratic power, prizing knowledge, efficiency and consistency above democratic accountability or consent.
"The paradox, then, is that Europe since the mid-1980s has been propelled toward a federal state by a national political class which does not really admire or pursue the values intrinsic to federalism — the formal dispersal of authority and power, checks and balances, and maximizing popular participation in the political process."
Mr. Siedentop concludes that federalism is ultimately the correct goal, but now is not the right time. From next January, the French, along with everyone else in Europe, will have a clearer idea of how great a gamble they have taken.

Clive Davis writes for the Times and Sunday Times of London.



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