Substitute the words "America" for "France" in this story and ask yourself how the New York Times might react. The Wall Street Journal reminds us that the age of European colonial empire is not over but has simply gone underground.
On the evening of March 4, 10 French paratroopers reached Birao, Central African Republic, and dropped near an airstrip captured by rebel militia. The paratroopers ambushed the rebels, killing several and reclaiming the airport for the government.
In France, neither the public nor parliament was informed of the attack for three weeks. Coordinating the mission was the "Cellule Africaine," a three-person office nestled behind the Elysée, France's presidential palace. This wasn't the first time the office has been involved in the Central African Republic's internal affairs: In 1979, France toppled the former colony's self-proclaimed emperor and reinstalled his predecessor.
For the past half-century, the secretive and powerful "African Cell" has overseen France's strategic interests in Africa, holding sway over a wide swath of former French colonies. Acting as a general command, the Cell uses France's military as a hammer to install leaders it deems friendly to French interests. In return, these countries give French industries first crack at their oil and other natural resources. Sidestepping traditional diplomatic channels, the Cell reports only to one person: the president.
But with France's new President Nicolas Sarkozy preparing to assume office later today, the African Cell's days may be numbered. There are accusations the French military bears some responsibility for the genocide of 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, charges the government strenuously denies. There's fierce debate over the French military's continuing presence in the Ivory Coast, where soldiers were dispatched in 2002 when rebels threatened to overthrow President Laurent Gbagbo.
Read the last quoted paragraph carefully and the rest of the article. Sarkozy may end this long standing interventionary -- let's not say "colonial" -- French practice because the Globalization which the Left has so stridently opposed makes these quaint methods impractical. The Left always allowed itself more moral leeway than the Right in accordance with the principle of "to each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs". The Left in its estimation always had more abilities and it had more needs. Unfortunately, Sarkozy is a believer in that American adage. "In God We Trust, All Others Must Pay Cash". And in this Globalized world, France is out of cash.
Many of today's terrorist movements are rooted in the geopolitical time bombs sophisticated Europe left planted all over the world in the last century. Colonial Africa may be the least malevolent. But the crazy map of the Middle East, the artificial country of Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to name a few, were explosive situations that were left ticking at the end of World War 2, when the Old Continent made a show of retiring from history, leaving the EOD clearance to an eager and somewhat feckless United States.
Perhaps one of Harry Truman's biggest strategic mistakes was to accept the creation of post-War institutions which were optimized for preserving the security of Europe but which had the unintentional side-effect of locking the geopolitical abcesses of the Third World into a festering limbo. One of the reasons the United Nations seems so dysfunctinal today is that its goal of keeping the West safe from Great Power conflict has already been achieved, and the price of maintaining and magnifying the power of people like Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Il, Robert Mugabe and Hugo Chavez is now becoming evident.
With the Cold War seemingly over and the goals of the postwar UN substantially achieved, it may be reasonable to ask whether the world needs international institutions and diplomatic arrangements better suited to addressing the problems of the Third World, whose ferment is most currently manifested in terrorism. Europe has already gotten its money's worth out of international institutions and American protection. The 21st century may be the time to refocus on cleaning up the terrible legacy that European empires -- including the Marxist empire -- have left on the planet for so many decades.