By JAMES POULOS [Orange County Register] — President Obama has studiously ignored the obvious – year upon year upon year – when it comes to France’s critical role in staving off disaster in Europe. To be sure, the White House is well aware that sometimes the most important work in foreign policy takes place all but silently, behind the scenes. But, repeating a pattern that has all but demolished its credibility in the realm of leadership, the administration has simply opted out of shaping public and elite opinion around the centrality of U.S.-French relations to a clear, coherent and now more than urgent mission: to defeat international jihad and ensure European peace and security.
The Islamic State – and, doubtless, its tacit allies and enablers – seems to understand perfectly that, if the spirit of France is broken, and the muscle of France paralyzed, Europe’s soul and Europe’s strength will also be fatally sapped. No other significant power can step into a France-sized hole in Europe. Germany is reeling from the combined burdens of Mideast migrants, EU economics and deeply ingrained resistance to dominance from Berlin. Britain, on the verge of cutting the EU loose, is too weak to lead the Continent, and not European enough besides. Spain? Italy? Belgium? Poland? There is nowhere else to turn … except, in a realization that should send shudders through the foreign policy establishment, Russia.
Ironically enough, French-speaking Secretary of State John Kerry has become something of a poster boy for the limits of the administration’s global strategy. If only, in addition to its measure of Francophones, the president’s foreign policy team included some genuine Francophiles.