France’s human rightism dies hard despite cost to the region

It is high time for French diplomacy to renounce the dogma of pseudo-humanitarian interference and “Human Rightism” that has not served the interests of the countries it has targeted.
Saturday 07/09/2019
Geopolitical myopia? French President Emmanuel Macron leaves after delivering a speech at the Elysee Palace in Paris.(AP)
Geopolitical myopia? French President Emmanuel Macron leaves after delivering a speech at the Elysee Palace in Paris.(AP)

The issue of defending human rights and democracy, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, has been enshrined as dogma by Western countries that like to define themselves as guardians of the “free world.”

During the Cold War, this question was used as a formidable weapon to bring down the Soviet Union, as acknowledged in his memoirs by French sociologist Raymond Aron. In this ideological aspect of the global war waged by the United States and the Soviet Union, French diplomacy was not fully involved in what would become, after the collapse of communism, the West’s main weapon against all states qualified as “recalcitrant.”

Until now, the type of international relations championed by French diplomacy was based on recognition of the sovereign state as the central actor. This was the pillar on which the United Nations was created after World War II. French diplomacy did not recognise regimes but states. After all, isn’t the first role of a state to defend its interests?

Some dominant circles, probably inspired by the myth of “the End of History” so dear to the American ideologist Francis Fukuyama and understood by them as synonymous with universal triumph of liberalism, believe in the mission of the West: to convert the rest of humanity to the Western democratic model reduced to the dogma of individualism, erasing governments for the benefit of markets, unelected NGOs and perceiving media as a business venture rather than a democratic counterbalance.

We have seen the disastrous effects of this human rightist ideology, championed by France in the Middle East and North Africa during the last three decades.

All means were good to destabilise, under the pretence of defending human rights and democracy, this very sensitive and strategic region of the world, even by joining forces with the most reactionary and anti-democratic governments and movements in the region, such as political Islam represented by the Muslim Brotherhood and sponsored by Turkey and Qatar.

Despite the desolation, the terror and the bloodshed that this posture, or should I say this ideological imposture, has sown, these liberal apprentice wizards in Europe and the United States refuse to admit their mistakes and defeat. They are preparing to redouble their ferocity, always in the name of the same pretence that is contrary to the flow of history and to their own national interests.

We can see their masquerade happening in Libya, where France supports a pseudo-legitimate government in Tripoli, defended on all fronts by Islamist militias (always the Muslim Brotherhood and its sponsors) and gangs of traffickers of all kinds, all in the name of “democracy” and human rights.

These catastrophes make you wonder if this type of diplomacy is geopolitical myopia or a planned strategy to destroy any idea of ​​a development-focused state that meets the fundamental demands of its people, the only type apt to defend human rights in their entirety.

One remembers the strategy and campaign of destabilisation of the MENA region aggressively pursued by Reporters without Borders and funded by both the Quai d’Orsay and the US State Department, to promote free press in the world. The former director of this NGO is Robert Menard, who is today very close to the French extreme right, which is engaged in a veritable witch hunt against immigrants and Muslims.

If, with the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House, exporting democracy has given way to exporting goods and assets and the financing of NGOs responsible for exporting democracy has almost disappeared, the risk of having this disastrous policy make a comeback is real if the Democrats win the 2020 elections in the United States.

Former French Minister of Justice Robert Badinter, who was responsible for abolishing the death penalty in France, despite the opposition of the majority of French citizens, found the right words to denounce the duplicity of France’s Human Rightist diplomacy: “When France prides itself on being the motherland of human rights, it is just a figure of speech; France is the home of the declaration of human rights. To go further than that is a matter of historical blindness.”

In a famous article published by Le Monde diplomatique (December 2000), Hubert Vedrine, former adviser to former French President Francois Mitterrand and French foreign minister during the period of co-rule between the socialists and the neo-Gaullists (1997-2002), was the one who gave perhaps the best definition of this new conception of a “Human Rightist” diplomacy, which, of course, he opposed. For his stance, Vedrine drew the fire of the self-proclaimed NGOs championing this new diplomatic and democratic morality.

“Since becoming minister of Foreign Affairs, I have been repeatedly forced to distance myself from an emerging new ‘doxa’ in international relations,” he wrote.

This new dogma, or “doxa” as he called it, was massively defended and spread by the United States and the European Union, including France, through the creation and funding of so-called democracy-exporting NGOs, and is based on the premise that “states are monsters cold, opaque and repressive; realism is cynicism and international relations are the domain of choice; the reason of state is always hateful; History no longer counts and we are in an entirely new world where we must privilege “civil society” at the national and international levels. Anything that constrains and shrinks states — markets, public opinion, media, judges, NGOs — is good.”

We have seen, with the emergence of the ill-named “Arab spring” and coloured revolutions, where this “constructive”-chaos-generating doxa can lead. In this context, Ahmed Bensaada’s excellent book “Arabesque Americaine: Le role des Etats-Unies dans les revoltes de la rue arabe” (“American Arabesque: The Role of the United States in the Arab Street Revolts”) is a must-read to understand the harmful extent of this disastrous diplomacy that reached its peak under the Sarkozy and Hollande presidencies, especially in Libya and Syria.

A doctor in physics, Bensaada is also an Algerian political scientist living in Montreal. His remarkable investigation was published in Brussels and Algiers.

The arrival at the Elysee Palace of Emmanuel Macron, a creation of the socialist Francois Hollande who escaped his creator, initially sparked hope that this moralising posture would give way to realpolitik in French diplomacy. Two years later, however, there was disillusionment. Despite a slight change in narrative, the same past practices under his two predecessors have been maintained.

It is high time for French diplomacy to renounce the dogma of pseudo-humanitarian interference and “Human Rightism” that has not served the interests of the countries it has targeted nor its own interests..