Jewish World Review Dec. 3, 2003 / 8 Kislev, 5764

Tony Blankley

Blankley
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports


AFL-CIO meets Monty Python


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Occasionally a news story crosses the wire that defies any obvious categorizing. Reuters ran such a story on Monday, which I would describe as the AFL-CIO meets Monty Python. According to the wire story that ran at 14:18 E.S.T., French diplomats went on strike for 24 hours over what they judged to be excessive cuts in their budget at the French Foreign Office.

Of course, one's first thought is, how can you tell? Did either war or peace break out at a faster rate as the diplomats lay down their briefcases and put aside their professional sneers? As I understand the theory of workforce strikes, workers who produce things of value refuse to contribute their labor to the production process. The owners of the means of production, fearing being driven to the financial wall by not having valuable things to sell, capitulate and agree to higher wages and better working conditions for the downtrodden, but valuable, workers.

It would not seem that the French diplomats are in a particularly strong bargaining position. Surely a non-striking member of management could dash into a meeting with, say, American diplomats, and glare across the table and say "Non!" Admittedly, the professional French diplomat would precede such a response with several paragraphs of incomprehensible, but highly intellectual-sounding circumlocutions before getting to the point of saying "Non," but the result for France would be the same. Similarly, while the diplomats are on strike, almost any French citizen could take their places at cocktail parties with English or American guests and refuse to talk in any language but French. He could even speak especially fast, so that even their foreign guests who can speak some French would have a particularly hard time understanding them.

According to Reuters, at the French embassy in Rome in the fresco-decorated Renaissance Palazzo Farnese, the embassy was "closed to the public" because of the strike. How does that differ, functionally, from being open to the public? At their London embassy a recorded message said that they would be operating "at a reduced service," which brings to mind the equation 0 x plus or minus X = 0.

Donate to JWR

But beyond the matter of their professional utility, it is odd that a profession whose raison d'etre is talk, not action, would snap quickly into action on its own behalf. Why didn't they negotiate, using all their vaunted diplomatic skills? Is it possible that French diplomats don't believe in diplomacy when it comes to things they really care about? Are they brothers under the skin with President Bush after all when it comes to judging the efficacy of diplomacy?

The French diplomats' union, USMAE, ordered the strike actions because the budget cuts had, to quote Reuters "hit diplomats' allowances abroad and even led to paper shortages in some missions and Foreign Ministry offices." This shortage of paper brings to mind one of those Babar stories of the elephant bureaucrats rushing about forming committees and issuing reports when the rhinoceros army is at the gates of the city. Usually, workers strike so they can afford to put food on their kitchen table. The French diplomats cry of "We need more paper" would not seem to be calculated to stir the hearts of a nation.

More broadly, the diplomats complained that the budget cuts "make a mockery of President Jacque Chirac's bid to boost French influence abroad." (I would have thought that M. Chirac didn't need any help in making a mockery of that bid.) "The French approach is that you can solve world problems through diplomacy. If that is so, then give us the resources," said Yvan Sergeff, the French union boss. He went on to bemoan that "We do not understand how President Jacque Chirac and the government proclaim grand ambitions for France internationally even as human and financial means of this ministry are constantly shrinking." I share M. Serfeff's skepticism regarding French ambitions — with or without a fully funded diplomatic corp. Certainly Germany has made it increasingly clear in the months since the Iraqi war that they do not plan to hitch their wagon to the French " star."

Nonetheless, as we enter the Christmas season, my heart does go out to the disconsolate French consuls, sitting paperless and with reduced expense accounts in some of the most beautiful capital cities of the world. I suppose they can take some comfort in the stirring response of their leader, Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin; "There is a will to maintain our diplomatic capacity." Aux armes, citoyens! Formez vos bataillons! More paper!

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.




Tony Blankley is editorial page editor of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

11/26/03: Republicans need to learn from the Romans
11/19/03: All of a sudden we have a responsible media?
11/12/03: To arms
11/05/03: Mayor Mike's appetite for self-destructive accusations
10/29/03: A bloody march to peace
10/22/03: Calls for a general 's head because his comments may have ruffled the feathers of our esteemed enemies!?
10/08/03: The leakers' agony
10/01/03: Managing a scandal
09/24/03: Will we have to balance our strong ethical and religious revulsion of cloning against the danger of being surpassed by a gene-manipulated super-race?
09/17/03: The skinny on the First Ladies
09/10/03: More than cynicism will be needed to defeat prez
09/03/03: Dead Man Politickin'
08/27/03: Patience is not America's long suit
08/13/03: George Will's trifecta of punitive aspirations
07/30/03: A question for the candidates: Whose side are you on?
07/23/03: When GOPers attack their leader
07/17/03: Spanish fest mirrors U.S. elections
07/09/03: On the horns of a dilemma
06/25/03: The continuing deaths of American and British soldiers in Iraq should not be rhetorically minimized -- but sanctified
06/18/03: No reason to feel defensive about criticism of the war on terrorism
06/11/03: The Clintons — self-proclaimed geniuses — have no defense against the charge of cunning mendacity
06/04/03: George 'Machiavelli' Bush? Nah
05/28/03: When 'progressives' become reactionaries
05/21/03: Yes, this conservative is defending the NYTimes
05/14/03: Playing the politics of deflation
05/07/03: Only the stupid could think it'll be the economy: Comparing the Bushes 04/30/03: How to squelch increasing Iraqi distrust of America
04/25/03: Winning the war, losing the peace
04/16/03: Our own domestic Senate Republican Guard better be prepared for a grinding
04/03/03: At this human moment we need to act like humans, not just calculating analysts
04/02/03: If we could only draft Jennings' eyebrow to the cause, we wouldn't need the 4th Armored Division?
03/26/03: This war is showing the world who we really are
03/19/03: Time for America to laugh at itself
03/13/03: They're coming out of the woodwork: Russert, Buchanan and Moran
03/05/03: Franc-tireur
02/26/03: World history is shifting under our feet --- even our most experienced statesmen are, effectively, inexperienced
02/19/03: The shame! We've mischaracterized the French 02/12/03: Schroeder and Chirac will be disproportionately undercutting their interests
02/05/03: We need to rise above our temporary anger and seek to preserve our bonds with our European cousins
01/29/03: Who is President Bush's stupidest opponent: Saddam Hussein or Tom Daschle?
01/22/03: We call them our European cousins --- but I demand a DNA test
01/16/03: Dems bare partisan teeth
01/02/03: Before the cheering must come the struggle
12/27/02: Long ago and far away
12/18/02: Be glad that Gore's gone?
12/11/02: What fun! A titanic, once-in-a-century partisan battle royal is in the offing
12/04/02: Kerry atwitter
11/27/02: The unThankful list
11/20/02: First the scare, then the yawn
11/13/02: It's going to be a long two years for Lefty Pelosi and the Frisco Dems
11/06/02: Technology: A pollster's worst enemy --- thank goodness!
10/31/02: Watch this election's Wheel of Fate
10/23/02: The Ari and Colin Show: Politics has never been, well, more vaudeville-like
10/09/02: Bush beats drums of realism
10/02/02: Needed: A political chromatograph to detect any true statements in the public domain
09/25/02: Buchanan's new mag
09/18/02: There are many forms of peace
09/11/02: The imperial period of our history starts
09/04/02: Memo to Powell: In periods of upheaval, the refusal to act gives aid to those bent on destruction
08/30/02: Logging old growth is a sham issue

© 2002, Creators Syndicate