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‘We would have a better climate with John Kerry’

Do you believe that anything will change if John Kerry is elected US president? A little. We will have a better climate, we will be able to talk more calmly about how to deal with international problems. Now there is no margin for discussion. But I do not expect major changes. For there to be a truly European foreign policy, Europeans will have to be convinced of the need for a strong Europe as a global power. At present, we are not at that point. Many Europeans are afraid of something like that; they are influenced by a culture of pacifism and benevolence. I believe that this factor is more a hindrance than the conflict between supporters of European emancipation and the Atlanticists regarding the political unification of Europe. In a recent, very interesting article you wrote in Le Monde, you claim that the clash between the West and Islam is a real trend that has been developing for some time and could get worse in the future. Do you see any escape route? I wrote those observations with a sense of great sadness. However, I believe it is far more preferable to recognize an existing, major danger than to bury our heads in the sand and pretend there is no problem. Now, the way out of this situation is very difficult. The first thing that needs to occur, in my opinion, is for there to be peace in the Middle East, with a resolution of the Palestinian issue. I think that the Geneva initiative could provide the foundation. Also, there have to be solutions to the problems in Chechnya and Kashmir. At the same time, the West needs an intelligent policy to support reformist forces in the Muslim world. Recently, Morocco became the second Muslim country, after Bourguiba’s Tunisia, to reform family law and the position of women. Bush’s policy, for example, his illogical idea of a supposed «Greater Middle East,» leads to quite the opposite result. A neocolonial policy cannot preach reform to former colonies. It is inconceivable to try to reform the Middle East via NATO or the Group of Eight, forgetting the Palestinian issue and giving (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon systematic support. You have enriched the French language and the terminology of geopolitics with the term «hyperpuissance» («hyperpower»). Is this unprecedented American hegemony fated to have a long life or has it become more vulnerable after the September 11 attacks and the chaos in Iraq? This term is not meant as a criticism but as a simple observation. When I spoke about the Americans’ «simplified logic» and «Manichaeism,» yes, I was being critical. As for the rest, America is both a hyperpower and vulnerable; the one does not exclude the other. American hegemony will endure – for how long depends on many factors, such as Europe’s willingness to play the role of a global power, the course China takes, and domestic events in the US itself, but that does not necessarily mean it has to express the policy of George Bush. Particularly in the Middle East, identifying US policy with the policy of Ariel Sharon is a very serious matter, even more serious than the war in Iraq, and will have even more negative repercussions on regional stability and global security. It is diametrically opposed to Clinton’s policy, and a great mistake. The second great mistake was the war in Iraq, and the third was the management of the crisis after the war. Verge of civil war This brings us to a very difficult situation, because if the Americans fail completely in Iraq, what will follow will be civil war and the first victims will be the Iraqis themselves. One hopes that the Americans will find a political solution to the problem, but this will presuppose a total change in American policy. Is that possible after what we have seen in the Abu Ghraib prison? Of course, it exacerbates things, as a symptom of colonial war, in reality. But the fundamental mistake was the original political decision. You supported the principle of an intervention in Kosovo, where there was a war without a clear decision by the UN Security Council, but you were categorically against the war in Iraq. Isn’t this a double standard? I do not systematically support the principle of intervention. On the contrary, it reminds me of colonial methods. I think it is justified only in exceptional circumstances, such as humanitarian disasters, if all other means have failed, and always within the framework of the UN Charter. In the case of Kosovo, there had been ongoing, intense diplomatic efforts to find a political solution – culminating in the Rambouillet summit – that came up against the intransigence of Slobodan Milosevic. There were Security Council resolutions condemning Milosevic’s policy outright, although there was no mention of the use of violence due to objections from Russia. At any rate, all Western nations were unanimous about the need for intervention. The circumstances were completely different from those in Iraq. You have spoken about the need for a «new Montesquieu» to reform everything from zero, in the new reality of the post-Cold War era and globalization. What role do you see Europe playing in that new international environment? I think in fact today we do not have what is called an «international community.» There are deep differences between the West and the rest of the world, within the West itself, between Americans and Europeans. I believe it is a mistake for the West to try to impose at once a system that they themselves took centuries to develop.