Friday, May 18, 2007

Bernard Kouchner is France's new Foreign Minister

Toward the end of my my on-line interview about the French election, I discussed rumors that Sarkozy might appoint the Socialist Bernard Kouchner as Foreign Minister and noted that, if this happened, it would mark a sharp symbolic break with the whole style that has dominated French foreign policy under Gaullist and Socialist Presidents alike.

That style has been resolutely anti-idealist, even proudly cynical at times, marked by an exceptionally straightforward, unembarrassed, and single-minded preoccupation with advancing France's "national interests" and international prestige. Kouchner, on the other hand, is a veteran humanitarian and human-rights activist, a founder of Doctors Without Borders, the first UN Commissioner in Kosovo after the 1999 war, a strong proponent of international measures to prevent genocide and other mass atrocities, and one of the few important figures in French politics who supported serious international action against Saddam Hussein & his regime (long-time clients of France).

Well, I see from Norman Geras that Kouchner is, indeed, France's new Foreign Minister. The practical consequences remain to be seen, but there's no question that this is a real coup de théâtre.

(If only Kouchner had been France's Foreign Minister in 2002 ... and Al Gore had been the US President ... well, no point dwelling on might-have-beens.)

--Jeff Weintraub
Norman Geras (Normblog)
May 18, 2007
France's new foreign minister

Nicolas Sarkozy has named his cabinet and it includes Bernard Kouchner:
The new Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, 67, is a Socialist famous for having founded the aid organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
Mr Kouchner's pro-American line should fit in well with Mr Sarkozy's thinking, the BBC's Caroline Wyatt reports. He was one of the few French politicians to support the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, on the grounds that it would topple Saddam Hussein. [JW: That is, he supported it for humanitarian and anti-fascist reasons, rightly or wrongly, not because this was a "pro-American line"].
Here is the profile of Kouchner by Caroline Wyatt:
The humanitarian activist and former Health Minister Bernard Kouchner is widely admired in France, not least for his passionate, often outspoken declarations on human rights and the need to intervene to protect them.

A doctor by training, he co-founded the Nobel prize-winning Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) in 1971 to put his beliefs into action, after working as a young doctor for the Red Cross in Biafra in 1968 during Nigeria's civil war.

Seeing children there starve to death fired in him a lifetime's commitment to the cause of preventing humanitarian crises and bearing witness.
See also the remarks of Kouchner's quoted in this post from December 2005 (scroll down).

Jeff Weintraub is interviewed on the consequences of Sarkozy's election. Towards the end of the interview Jeff also has some things to say about Tony Blair:
If Blair had been running the US instead of Britain, we'd probably all be better off.
Posted by Norm at 12:15 PM |