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Ralph Peters is a regular columnist with the New York Post. Register here for access to the Post's Online Edition.



A Vote For Change

by Ralph Peters [author, novelist] 5/9/07

The French electorate voted for change by a margin of 6 percentage points on Sunday, ignoring the wild-eyed warnings of the leftist old guard and establishment intellectuals. I never thought I'd see it in my lifetime.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the president the people defiantly chose, is the most inspiring French leader since Charles de Gaulle's fall from power 40 years ago. But, unlike de Gaulle, he doesn't define himself through anti-Americanism.
Ralph Peters - Contributor
Ralph Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books, as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist for the New York Post and other publications. [go to Peters Index]

On the contrary, Sarkozy is the first top-level French politician who openly accepts that the United States possesses virtues from which France might take a lesson. While Sarko's attraction to things American can be overstated - he sees our system's deficiencies, too, and won't always agree with our foreign policy - he'll be a leader who examines issues on their merits, not on the basis of shopworn Left Bank slogans.

What's striking about this victory is Sarkozy's bluntness. Instead of mumbo jumbo about la gloire, he speaks frankly about the mess in which France finds itself. (In one of her countless miscalculations, Sarko's opponent, Ségolène Royal, condemned his forthright manner - but the French were puking sick of empty rhetoric.)

So what can we expect in l'age de Sarkozy? His ability to change a bloated, bureaucratic state will depend largely upon the upcoming parliamentary elections, but, whatever the results, count on nasty rear-guard battles waged by France's garlic-breathed Jimmy Hoffas and pampered university students (at a time when not one French university makes the world's top 200 rankings).

And the more Sarkozy succeeds, the more he'll be hated by the French establishment.

But what does this son of a Hungarian immigrant really believe after all the campaign rhetoric's hosed away?

Handsomely translated by Philip H. Gordon, Sarkozy's recent book, "Testimony," is startling in its integrity. No U.S. politician could be elected on the national stage if he spoke to voters with such read-'em-the-riot-act honesty. Sarko doesn't pander.

Consider just a few of his eat-your-vegetables messages:

* "The best social model is one that creates jobs for everyone, and this is obviously not ours since our unemployment level is twice as high as that of our main partners."

* "I admire the social mobility of American society. You can start with nothing and become a spectacular success. You can fail and get a second chance. Merit is rewarded."

* "France is no longer the country that comes up with new ideas."

And Sarkozy offers some hard truths to those Americans who mindlessly praise the imaginary social justice and "better" quality of life in a France they know only from privileged vacations that tend to avoid the Muslim slums and collapsed industrial areas:

* "The French have never spoken so much about justice while allowing so much injustice to prevail . . . The reality of our system is that it protects those who have something, and it is very tough on those who don't."

* "France has been discouraging initiative and punishing success for the past 25 years. And the main consequence of preventing the most dynamic members of society from getting rich is to make everyone else poor."

* "It is hard to exaggerate the damage done to France by the 35-hour workweek. How can anyone think that you're going to create wealth and jobs by working less?"

* "Thirteen percent of retired women live below the poverty line, and a further 25 percent are barely above it . . . The unemployment rate for unskilled workers is 15 percent . . . It is 22 percent for those under 25 and nearly 40 percent for low-skilled youth who live in [immigrant ghettos]."

On the last count, it's vital to note that French Socialists vilified Sarkozy for his hard line on satellite-slum lawlessness, but he was the only candidate who offered serious proposals to educate and employ brown- and black-skinned residents of France.

Sarkozy believes in affirmative action - but without the baggage of political correctness. Little Nic has a genuine social conscience. He just doesn't believe that empty words and narcotic welfare programs are more humane than opportunity and a paycheck.

On foreign policy, Sarkozy will be a friend of Israel, rejecting the anti-Semitism and pro-Arab idiocy of recent French administrations. (I wouldn't want to be that French diplomat who dismissed Israel as a "sh---y little country.")

The president-elect's even willing to take a fresh approach to Africa, where French economic and military imperialism never ceased after colonies gained a phony independence (Paris no longer paid the bills, but still collected the profits).

According to Sarko, the French military's "job is not to stabilize regimes [or] back leaders solely because they might be pro-French." To the foreign-policy Ancien Regime, this is Jacobinism - they can hear the carts rumbling toward the Place de la Concorde.

Monsieur le president-to-be is even honest about the destructive effect French monkey business has had on Ivory Coast, once the jewel of West Africa and now the country where "we run the risk of having bad relations with everyone" with nothing achieved.

He's also willing to confront Russia's Putin regime with its misdeeds.

Sarkozy could turn out to be the most revolutionary leader on the other side of the Atlantic since Margaret Thatcher. Time will tell. But at least we'll have a French leader whose first instinct isn't to lecture us about how stupid we are.

If France and America can work together constructively on foreign policy and security matters, it will be a great thing for Western civilization.

And I'm personally grateful to Nicolas Sarkozy and the voters who elected him: I can finally go back to Paris - without feeling that I'm subsidizing an enemy every time I pay a restaurant bill. CRO

Ralph Peters' wife insists, against all contrary evidence, that he's a secret Francophile.

Ralph Peters' latest book is Never Quit The Fight.

This piece first appeared in the New York Post
copyright 2007 - NY Post

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