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13 juin 2007

Bush in Paris

President Bush addressed the OECD today in Paris, a highlight of his stopover in France as part of a Europe tour.

The purpose of the trip is as vague as the speech itself. If it was about a farewell, the American predicament and Bush's appalling popularity abroad, as much as at home, did not justify it, for no country in the world will regret the war president. Sicne my last visit, Laura (his spouse) has written a book, my dad jumped from a plane (for his 80th birthday) and I have grown more grey hair, the President joked. And few thousands American boys have died in a stupid war, which represents a major strategic blunder ni over 40 years.

A short and uninspiring address, filled with all the imaginable commonplaces about the Marshall Plan and the Transatlantic community. Iran remains the bête noire and freedom the luminous path of merica's role in the world. Bush remniidned the audience that the election of Pope John-Paul II and Reagan and Thatcher's elections did contribute to the demise of communist evil. Nice words. However what striked me was the huge gap with the incumbent President in terms of restraint, analysis, knowledge of others and the ability to maintain relations and remain well informed about the adversary - all rules ignored by this Administration.

How will this legacy bear on John McCain? McCain plays the "tough guy" in order to weaken Obama's pretensions as commander in chief. But Afghanistan-Pakistan already emerge as a key issue often referred to by the Obama team.

In Paris, Bush had no word for Pakistan. He only mentioned the vague threat of missiles from the Middle East as a way to make the case for missile defense. A self-proclaimed faith in "freedom" hardly compensated for such lack of analysis. Nothing more on development, a fertile ground for terrorism. That may have dispel the notion that the President paid so little attention to the social predicament of the Middle East and have come to realize, albeit too late, that ideology is often a figue-leaf for deeper, structural issues. We were at the OECD after all...

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