Friday, July 25, 2008

Whose side is the hostage-in-chief on?

This blog has followed the story of the Colombian hostages and its curious ambivalences here and here. It is worth returning to it and look a little more closely at the behaviour of the hostage-in-chief (at least if the media is to be believed), Ingrid Betancourt. She is, as it happens, considerably more photogenic than the other ex-hostages, not to mention the people who are still held in various parts of the jungle but she is also the one who can be relied on to speak the “right” phrases or should that be “right on” phrases.

Wednesday's Wall Street Journal Europe had an interesting letter on the subject. Unfortunately, one has to sign up to the newspaper to read letters on-line, so I shall have to copy it out. (The things one does in the line of duty.)

The letter is from Robert F. Agostinelli in Paris and it says:
The Ingrid Betancourt affair is really too rich with “faux” gratitude. I don’t remember one case that so pointedly laid out the differences between the U.S. and Europe.

On the day that Ingrid Betancourt was finally liberated by the Colombian Army (with U.S. support), the Italian Parliament was passing yet another strongly worded and “historic” measure demanding her release. It was the latest of a long, long list of European efforts to affirm their solidarity with Ms Betancourt. She was made an honorary citizen of Paris and her picture was plastered everywhere.

The entire European campaign was as pompous as it was feckless, useless and patronizing; all, sad to say, qualities we have now come to associate with Europe.

It was also dangerous. Colombia’s duly elected and popular President Alvaro Uribe, caught in an existential struggle with the FARC, the largest guerrilla group in Latin America and recognized as a terrorist organization by both the U.S. and the EU, came under pressure from Europe and Ms Betancourt’s family to “negotiate” with those who would destroy his country.

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez made good use of Europe’s angst about Ms. Betancourt by offering to “mediate”. As a carrot, Mr Chavez demanded that Europe and the world recognize FARC as legitimate “combatants”.

Mr Uribe, to his great and everlasting credit, refused. Only later, when some recordings were found on a captured FARC guerrilla, did the world have confirmation that Mr Chavez was bankrolling the FARC and pulling its strings.

Ms Betancourt was a wealthy Latin American who had grown up in Paris after her father was posted there as Colombia’s ambassador to UNESCO. Later she went to Science Po and there met such “luminaries” as Dominique de Villepin, married a French diplomat and gained a French passport.

Imbued with Left Bank idealism, she eventually returned to Colombia to run for president on a platform that included “progressive” activism. It was during her campaign against her rescuer, Mr Uribe, that she was nabbed by the FARC six years ago.

Ms Betancourt clearly gave France that which the country craves above all – she affirmed internationally that “France’s message to the world still counts”.

Ms Betancourt has already thanked France and its government, as well as President Chavez and President Rafael Correa of Ecuador; for what, one may ask? There’s still no word of any thanks for Mr Urive’s only ally in the world, which gave the rescue operation so much support, the Bush administration.
I feel a few points need to be added. First of all what Mr Agostinelli describes with such contempt is that famous “soft power” that Europe is supposed to bring to international affairs as against the despicable “hard power” of Americans and, it seems, Colombians. The fact that “soft power” gets us nowhere is irrelevant. It’s the fuzzy warm feeling that counts.

Secondly, I am looking forward to Ms Betancourt in her chic Parisian outfits running for the Colombian presidency with the help of all her international friends on an oppose-the-army-be-nice-to-the-terrorists platform. Should go down very well in Colombia. Sadly, Europeans do not vote in Colombian elections any more than they do in American ones as Senator Obama will eventually realize. They do vote in their own elections but that does no good at all, as the real government is the unelected one in Brussels.

Thirdly, I am intrigued by this idea of France’s message counting. As the French President did not even know about the operation, it would seem that his importance is of doubtful strength. Of course, he is no different from his predecessors in that he wants to get maximum kudos for minimum effort and, luckily, this rich leftie wannabe politician is ready to oblige.

Wait a minute: are we not supposed to be eschewing such things as national influence as outmoded and dangerous in favour of the EU’s common foreign policy? Just asking.


Dixon Webb said...

Hello Helen . . Great essay on the pretty female hostage and etc. Just found your blog and I like it.

Been reading about the rapidly growing number of Muslims in Britain. Had an uncle in Norfolk who once warned that they someday could be a larger threat than Hitler was years ago.

Most Muslims I know are just plain good friends and nice people. They want to fit in and enjoy what America offers. But that isn't the picture on the telly or in the news.

It is clearly true that a small minority of zealots has corrupted the religion beyond their numbers, but the centuries of peace and friendship have not yet been undone.

The point: In America we are also experiencing a fast rising number of Muslim immigrants. They are not fitting in well. Far to many belong or believe in the vicious, backward, Wahhabbi fundamentalism.

Question: How are you handling your similar problem, or on a larger scale, what, if anything, are you doing to defend your own culture?

I'm not proud to say that so far we've done very little across the pond.


Helen said...

Welcome to the blog Dixon. I hope you will stay with us despite the fact that the subject you seem particularly interested in is not one that we cover in any detail. There will be postings about British identity but mostly in relation to the European Union and various transnational organizations. There are many blogs and forums out there, which deal with the topic you mention.