Ardeur for Libya Now Cool

What’s up now with the French and Libya? Nicolas Sarkozy’s government was the first to recognize the rebels’ National Transitional Council as the country’s valid government, and also led the way both in urging NATO military intervention last March and in actually conducting the very first bombing raids. But now Prime Minister François Fillon is saying “[a] political solution in Libya is more indispensable than ever” while Foreign Minister Alain Juppé claims to have word that Qaddafi is ready to head into exile.

Le Monde provides a perspective, in an unsigned article (Libya, a political objective now uncertain for L’Elysée). Put simply, it’s something akin to buyer’s remorse. France was looking forward to a glorious “big brother” role with the assistance it provided the rebels, one that would go far towards erasing – so officials hoped – her rather ugly colonial history in the area. Most of all, though, this was supposed to be short and sweet, something – in the words of Juppé back in March – that was to “be calculated in days or weeks – certainly not in months.”

Well, now it is months later, and the fighting is still going on. The rebels do seem to be making some sort of progress, yet it still seems doubtful that they can take full control before the onset of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan on 1 August complicates their efforts considerably.

According to the article, Sarkozy had a somewhat earlier date in mind for a rebel victory: 14 July, or Bastille Day, just two days away, when the usual parade of military hardware down the Champs Elysées could be spiffed up considerably on the wave of a cut-and-dried successful military campaign. But that certainly will not happen, and meanwhile Le Monde reports how the French president recently changed his mind from a trip across the Mediterranean to go visit the rebels’ self-styled Libyan Republic and opted to visit actual French troops in Afghanistan instead.

At least Sarkozy has just confronted the issue of submitting his military operations to approval of the legislature rather better than Barack Obama has done, and indeed has gained renewed votes of support for Libya actions from the Assemblée and the Senate, when there were fears that this was not certain. But the fighting goes on, and perhaps it should not be so surprising that the French should start lowering their standards for how they think it should end, as long as it does so quickly.

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