The French care more about jobs than Maliby Christine Ockrent / February 20, 2013 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2013 issue of Prospect Magazine
During his first months at the Elysée, François Hollande pretended to behave like a “normal” president. Nobody quite knew what he meant, short of going to Brussels by train rather than flying the Falcon jet Nicolas Sarkozy so much enjoyed. Soon enough the French wondered whether the socialist, in such contrast to his hyper-reactive predecessor, was up to the job. True, economic and social circumstances have been dire from the start. But the new president’s way of circling around issues, his tactical skills obliterating any sense of a vision for the country, was making his staunchest supporters uneasy.
On 11th January, in a short television address, François Hollande announced that French troops had intervened in Mali to prevent Islamist militants, already in control of the north of the former French colony, from taking over the capital. This intervention was at the request of Malian president Dioncounda Traoré—but in embarking on this African adventure the French president might keep in mind other recent western interventions, such as in Libya and less recently in Afghanistan, both of which have brought with them unintended consequences. In going into Mali, what is at risk for Hollande?
Like his US counterpart, the French president is commander-in-chief. There’s nothing like a war to change a leader’s stature, particularly in a nation of Napoléon and de Gaulle worshippers, which still celebrates its national day with a military parade. Whatever the justification, from preventing the dismantling of Mali to wiping the Islamists out of their northern strongholds, the intervention has been broadly supported by political parties and public alike, including the large Malian immigrant community. Security measures have been strengthened without any overt fear of terrorist attacks.
So far, so good. The French airforce, together with troops on the ground—3,500 altogether—chased the militants from Timbuktu and the other townships where they had im…