France Ready To Ditch Values For Pragmatism In Syrian Terror Crisis | 作者: Cui Hongjian | 时间: 2015-12-15 | 责编: Wang Jiapei
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Cui Hongjian


In order to form a unified frontline to seek victory in the battlefield against the Islamic State (IS), France seems to be retreating from another battlefield, one that focuses on the political solution to the Syrian crisis. It no longer insists on ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as the premise to embark on this political process.


Among the Western countries that try to interfere in the Syrian crisis, France has acted as the vanguard, sometimes even more aggressive than the US, no matter when it tries to display its responsibility to advance democracy in its previous colonial sphere or to retain its status as a big power and clout in the Middle East.


France was the first Western country to admit the "legal status" of the Syrian opposition. It was one of the Western countries that actively advocated military strikes against the Assad government during the Syrian chemical weapon crisis. It is also relentlessly seeking a dominant role in advancing Western-style democracy to solve Syria's political crisis.


Such presumptuous behavior by France made other European countries believe after the Paris terror attacks that it was the hawkish stance of French President François Hollande and his policy of "excessive interference" that brought about revenge by terrorists.


The belief of the West that the Arab Spring was a precursor to Western democracy has met a slap on the face. If the West can win in the Syrian crisis, it can still have chance to dominate the political evolution in the Middle East and North Africa so as to keep its geopolitical advantage and economic interests in the region.


Such logic proves the aggressive stance of France. Out of ideology rather than the reality on the ground, France simply blames the Assad administration for the rampant spread of terrorism in the Middle East and the refugee influx to Europe. Instead of cracking down on terrorists to restore order, it prioritizes ousting Assad to push forward democracy as a means to solve the Syrian crisis.


However, the Paris terror attacks and Russia's sturdy intervention into the Syrian crisis obviously are changing France's judgment about the country's internal and external situations as well as its Syria policy.


The conflicts between real interests and value diplomacy have once again emerged. No matter how persistent the Hollande administration is in pushing forward democracy in Syria, the task the administration faces is to respond to the Paris attacks and the IS behind it. Therefore, it should not be dragged down by whether Assad should leave or not, an issue that brews divergences among all sides.


At the same time, to make cooperation on fighting against the IS effective, France must bolster cooperation between the two anti-terror alliances respectively led by the US and Russia.


The sharp contrast between the US and Russia of their attitude toward the status of Assad should be laid aside, or Syria's political solutions, which run alongside cracking down on the IS, will be bogged down and anti-terror cooperation will be nothing but an empty slogan.


What propels the Hollande administration to compromise on Assad's status and accelerate the pace of striking the IS in Syria is the changing political landscape within France. The far-right National Front made big gains in the first round of the regional elections recently, though it's defeated in the second round. Only visible achievements in anti-terror affairs can help the Hollande administration maintain hope amid the gloomy political circumstances.


France's compromise means the retreat of high-profile Western democracy in the Middle East. Pragmatic interests outweigh values. But France still faces difficult political and diplomatic choices such as how to cooperate with Syrian government forces without making too much concession to the Assad administration and how to seek anti-terror cooperation with Russia instead of being accused of appeasing Russia. If France cannot strike a balance, anti-terror cooperation and the process of political solutions can be broken down at any time, as Western countries are always subject to their stubborn values.



Source: Global Times, December 15, 2015.


The author is a director of the Department of European Union Studies at China Institute of International Studies.