France Doomed to Decline?


Does it matter who the next French president is, or is France doomed to decline?

Posted by Fareed Zakaria & David Ignatius on April 23, 2007 10:21 AM

Readers’ Responses to Our Question (161)

james b. :

"We have taken the first step." lol. the neocons? who is we?

once again, i doubt very much that sarkozy will side with the u.s. and become an american stooge a la blair. the e.u., more and more, is distancing itself from the u.s. i think that this will continue.

i do agree though that france's economy will strengthen in the coming years, but some of the stuff that neocons wan't to impose upon france like 60 hour work weeks and more "pro-corporation social policies" won't happen.

france is a perennial power, its civilization is strong, and its cultural needs no adjustment by the world bank or washington.

i saw paris je t'aime on friday and it was an excellent film, plus there are a few more excellent french films out now that i'm plannning to see. something like 3 or 4. i don't remember so many french films out in the u.s. market at the same time ever before.

Atheist, Boston, USA :

Nicolas Sarkozy has won the election. He will be the next president of France. The French citizens support his idea that immigrants should identify with Western values. As Sarkozy suggests, if they refuse, they are free to leave France.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/06/AR2007050600216.html?hpid=topnews

That Sarkozy will be president is excellent news for the West. Yet, the job of restoring France to its preeminence in the international scene requires that the French also elect pro-Sarkozy politicians to the French National Assembly in 2007 June.

Much work remains to be done to restore France to its status as an economic and cultural superpower. We have taken the first step.

james b. :

well, france is my second favorite country after russia.

assuming sarkozy wins, i have a hunch that he will become another angela merkel... washington saw merkel as someone who will bring germany farther from russia and closer to the u.s., reversing the trend set by her predecessor... to the astonishment of many, this hasn't happened and germany is pursuing strategic bilateral relations with as stronger russia.

i think sarkozy will be the same way. pundits in washington think he is pro-american, but he will prove to be pro-france, which means being pro-russia because russia is at the head of a pole that could balance american unilateralism. american unilateralism is a grave threat to freedom, peace, and prosperity to all countries, france included and sarkozy will join germany, italy, spain, greece, and hungary against american unilateralism in europe.

Fred, David, Seb & Julien :

We are very excited to get results of the election and are wishing very much that Mr Sarkozy will be our next President !
Vive Nicolas Sarkozy, Vive la République and Vive France !!!

Julien / Seb / Fred & David from France :

We are very impatient to get results of the election and wishing very much that Mr Sarkozy will be our next President.
Vive Nicolas Sarkozy and Vive la France !!!!

Atheist, Boston, USA :

If you are a French citizen, please remember to vote in the French election. It is vitally important for the future of, not only France, but also our entire Western society.

Nicolas Sarkozy wants to build France into an integrated society firmly grounded in Western values. Under his leadership (and under the assumption that the French shall vote likeminded people into the French parliament), France will return to its proper place as an economic and cultural powerhouse.

By contrast, Ségolène Royal wants to build a divided France based upon two moralities: Western values and Islamic values. She believes that both system of values are equally good, and she advocates tolerance and respect for Islamic oppression of women. In fact, she relishes the idea of Islamic thugs rioting after Sarkozy wins the election. That is the system of values which she advocates. Reprehensible. Disgusting.

Note that Sarkozy encourages assimilation: the immigrants should learn Western values. Yet, he is not a neoconservative. He opposes the war in Iraq. Also, he supports free trade with only other free markets. The typical American neoconservative is a heartless, greedy thug who advocates free trade with non-free markets. Non-free markets like India and China drives down the quality of life in the USA. For example, due to neoconservative bigots in the Congress, melamine from China has entered the American food supply.

Sarkozy's approach to free trade is the right way. In his way, France enjoys the benefits of globalization, yet his approach protects the quality of life in our traditional Western society.

France needs Sarkozy. In fact, even the USA needs Sarkozy, the moderate populist. We Americans need Sarkozy to protect us from our own neoconservatives.

Viva la France!

Atheist, Boston, USA :

The televised debate between Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy means nothing. Both politicians are simply presenting what they have rehearsed.

Do not judge them by this farce called debate. Rather, judge them by the policies that they have supported in the past. The past predicts well the future.

Royal has consistently supported the concept of two separate French societies: one based on Western values and one based on Islamic values. She has consistently demanded that we respect the Islamic values dictated by Sharia Law. One Islamic value is brutalizing women.

Sarkozy, by contrast, has consistently insisted that Islamic immigrants learn and support Western values. One Western value is equality for women.

If you believe that the future is Islamic values and a divided France, then you should vote for Royal.

If you believe that the future is Western values and a France united upon Western values, then vote for Sarkozy.

Julien from France :

One more thing, Nicolas Sarkozy is not Jewish and was born in Paris.

You can have a look on the below link that gives us real information on him

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolas_Sarkozy

Julien from France :

Definitely I will vote for Nicolas Sarkozy ! He is the man we need in France. We don't want that barbie girl called Segolene who knows everything about nothing !!!

cave laden :

i support royal. she is very sexy and thats whats counts in the end.

Atheist, Boston, USA :

Ségolène Royal is likely the strongest supporter of multicultural pluralism in the European Union. Here, "pluralism" means values (like honor killings and oppression of women) that are diametrically opposed to Western values. Royal believes that Western values and Islamic values (like those in Sharia Law) should be given equal status and equal respect in France -- and throughout the European Union.

Royal's brand of liberalism is shocking. Equally shocking is her sudden "change of face" during the election. She asks everyone to sing the French national anthem. However, that face is not her real face. Her real face is the policies that she has supported throughout her political career. She has always supported multicultural pluralism. She has always supported giving equal status to both Western values and Islamic values.

By contrast, Nicolas Sarkozy supports only Western values. His vision is that if you choose to live in France, then you should embrace Western values even though you may choose to reject French cuisine. The food that you eat is not important. What is important is that you strongly support civil rights -- and, especially, the rights of women.

This kind of assimilation is well-known throughout the West. This assimilation strengthens Western society. In fact, some of the toughest, strongest Americans who fought the Axis Powers (e.g., Japan) in World War II were -- Americans of Japanese ancestry. The 442 battalion of the American army consisted only of Japanese-Americans and was one of the most decorated battalions in World War II. They fought with distinction and honor in defending Western values.

If Japanese-Americans had acted in the way that Ségolène Royal advocates, then they would have helped Japan to fight the Americans in World War II. Ségolène Royal is utterly despicable.

enough is enough :

Sarkozy is not Jewish, so stop posting antisemtic comments.

Atheist in boston:

You are extremely bigotted in all your comments. Plus you clearly have no idea what you are talking about when you speak of the french arabic population or of Segolene Royal being in favour of honour killings and so on. So maybe you should stop posting until you find out a tad more about the subject matter.

David :

Sarkozy is JEWISH, that means he will have more loyalty to israel than france.
This will lead to the decline of france. Frnce will be controlled by AIPAC just like the US now.

Perier :

Sarkozy is JEWISH, that means he will have more loyalty to israel than france.
This will lead to the decline of france. Frnce will be controlled by AIPAC just like the US now.

Perier :

Sarkozy is JEWISH, that means he will have more loyalty to israel than france.
This will lead to the decline of france. Frnce will be controlled by AIPAC just like the US now.

Atheist, Boston, USA :

Most Islamic Arabs with French citizenship consider themselves Arabs first -- and, time permitting, secondarily French. Therein lies the fundamental problem with Islamic bigots in France. They refer to themselves as French-Arabs, not Arab-French. They favor Arab values or Islamic values over French values. In particular, these Islamic bigots support "honor" killings (by which an Arab bigot kills, for example, his sister because she touched the hand of a Swedish man).

Contrast these bigots with Japanese-Americans. Nearly 100% of the Japanese-American population in the USA has committed to assimilation and refer to themselves as Americans of Japanese ancestry or, simply, Japanese-Americans. They never refer to themselves as American-Japanese.

Both the British and the French should slam the immigration door on Muslims and, in particular, Arab Muslims. They destroy the core values of Western society.

RS :

I don't know if she's 'doomed', but France is certainly declining - a system that results in persistently high unemployment and low growth doesn't work, period, no matter how desirable it would be if it worked.
The French need to take a hard look at themselves, not just in economic policy but also in terms of racism. I know educated, law-abiding, hard-working French-Arabs who left France for Britain because French employers will not sully their eyes by reading a CV with an Arab name on it, regardless of citizenship. They can get away with it because with such levels of unemployment they can always find some white candidate.

Kenneth McKenna :

Mr. Trendspotter,

That IS my name, one that I quite like - thank you very much. I notice that you still don't reveal yours.

Assertions that Sarkozy wanted to place his country in a war not in its interest, and that he secretly apologized to a foreign leader (Bush), because Sarkozy has some jewish heritage and "Israel wanted it" are just not that different from similar Nazi assertions of the 1920's. Fella, you're there!

And all that's true even before noting that Sarkozy is a practicing Catholic. It was once a standard deranged argument in this country among the Know Nothings that Catholic politicians took THEIR orders from the Vatican, which quite openly opposed this war. Israel or Rome? Jew or Catholic? How was Mr. Sarkozy to know where to take his orders? It's all so complicated!

But no doubt you can set me straight.

Obvious trend here. :

McKenna: (like that's your real name) Thank you so for emphasizing my point. Doubling it.
As for your sneer "political and moral decline..." Mine, you mean? Eighth generation American?
Also, whatever group has put forth it's usual instruction to hit the chats for Sarkozy and zionism should scold you. Bringing up Germany is a little heavy handed. A little obvious what you're up to.
Though one knows of course how much you care about French elections.

Obvious trend here. :

McKenna: (like that's your real name) Thank you so for emphasizing my point. Doubling it.
As for your sneer "political and moral decline..." Mine, you mean? Eighth generation American?
Also, whatever group has put forth it's usual instruction to hit the chats for Sarkozy and zionism should scold you. Bringing up Germany is a little heavy handed. A little obvious what you're up to.
Though one knows of course how much you care about French elections.

Kenneth McKenna :

"Israel wanted that war and Sarkozy is a Jew."

So you think (and have the chutzpah to write in public, not under your own name!) that jews take their orders from Israel? Perhaps you also think that it is OF COURSE TRUE that the jews caused the German economic problems of the 1920's, as a certain mustachioed Austrian trend spotter argued at the time.

Signs of mental and political decline? We need look no further.

See the trend :

Royal's charge that Sarkozy apologized to Bush for France's not joining the US in the Iraq war IS OF COURSE TRUE. Israel wanted that war and Sarkozy is a Jew. That some of the posters here are screaming about it is pure proof. This is only a taste of what is to come of the French are so unwise as to elect Sarkozy. Surely they won't.

Kenneth McKenna :

Today's news brings word that Ségolène Royal has accused Nicolas Sarkozy of having “apologized” to President Bush for France’s decision not to back the United States militarily in Iraq - despite Sarkozy's consistent support for Chirac on the substance of this issue (although not Chirac's stroke-induced formal ham-handedness). Asked if the Socialist Party had any evidence that Mr. Sarkozy had “apologized” for not sending troops to Iraq, Arnaud Montebourg, a spokesman for Ms. Royal, said that the "evidence" was that Sarkozy shook Bush's hand on a Washington visit: “These are facts. How do you want Mr. Bush to shake the hand of a leader without some sort of opening on his part?” In other words, there is no evidence.

That Ségolène Royal thinks that she can close the yawning vote gap between herself and her electoral opponent by fabricating such a story is good evidence that she, at least, is convinced that France and French voters are in steep decline, at least mentally. With her enormous number of sometimes hilarious mistakes in this campaign, Ms. Royal has given cause to many French people of all political stripes to openly accuse her of "stupidity" (perhaps the worst thing that can be hurled at a French candidate). This most recent fabrication is damning evidence of Ms. Royal's apparent conviction that it is French voters who are "stupid."

France and French voters are not as stupid as Ms. Royal is convinced they are. She will not be President of France. But the fact that she has got as far as she has is harsh evidence of France's past and likely future decline.

Atheist, Boston, USA :

Ségolène Royal openly supports Islam in all its facets. Specifically, she believes that France should tolerate honor killings and the oppression of women living in the Islamic slums of France. Royal believes that we must respect all cultures and all religions, regardless of how oppressive they might be.

By contrast, Nicolas Sarkozy condemns the oppression of women. He condemns honor killings. He believes that the Islamic bigots in France should leave France if they refuse to respect cherished Western values like civil rights.

Don :

The french invented butt-banging. THANK YOU!!!

Naveen :

France and other European countries are wonderful places to visit as they each offer a different set of values that they live by which vary between themselves more than they can be used to differentiate them from the US.

Life for the individual is not easy in France. The "free" health care mentioned does not come cheap - your pay is docked for a day or two for each few days of minor health related problems. For all the vaunted benefits of extaravagant social spending, it was instructive to hear propective French businessman wanting to immigrate to England as they could not get any business started in France for several months (NPR report on French elections).

Given all that, society in France remains remarkably multi-ethnic, specially in the south. Yes there is xenophobia, but there is also acceptance. Almost all countries in Europe have been condemned to be doomed at one time or the other in the past few decades (UK in the 70's, Germany in the 90's and early 2000's; Sweden currently). They have all come back or will probably do so soon. French technology is to be seen to be believed - probably the right regulatory climate may emerge (soon or maybe not) for them to show their flair for invention and innovation and refute any question of being doomed.

Doomed - probably not and maybe neverय़

Busy zionists :

Has any one noticed that the jewish neocons who served Israel's push to war are now slowly but surely being taken down now ? Look at the DOD investigation of Feith, Libby's conviction, Wolfowitz WB problems ...Perle piloried in the major press even has he tries to resurrect his sorid, sorry necon reputation? SARKOZY, with no
experience or place to speak of in French government or history is placed where he is by the same busy zionists. Always at work. Who says there are no Elders? And if the French are uninformed enough to elect him (surely not)
there will be similar machinations when the the French catch on. Oh, the constant plottings of the zionists. They're determined next to start a revolution in Russia. Have you heard?

Vic van Meter :

As an American, I think the question of French decline is fair, as a response to other postings. American decline is discussed everywhere, especially in France (which I visit and within whom I have quite a few friends for a "monolinguist"). Frankly, I've agreed with them recently. America certainly did decline when Bush took office and I immediately got on my roll to my international contacts for their take. Yes, when Bush was elected, America was doomed to decline. Bush just doesn't know enough about global politics. And it's always better to get the opinion from someone outside looking in. We tend to get a rosy picture inside the country.

The question above is worded correctly. The problem is that for us "uncultured outsiders" (thank you all for assuming my ignorance based on where I live, it's lent much credence to your insults based on ignorance) and even in the French media, this election looks an awful lot like one of ours. Sarkozy looks like a half-crazy neoconservative and Royal's critics mutter about incompetance, wishful thinking, and the like. That sounds an awful lot like the last few elections with Bush the Jr.

Like it or not, the problems this time around are difficult to answer. If the unrest of muslim immigrants are the problem, what is the solution? It requires a lot of finesse, a lot of respect, and a lot of reputation. How do you appeal to the muslim immigrants for patience without specifically targeting them and driving up the resentment? The economy is ALWAYS a muddy issue. How do you inspire the working class? How does your social system prop up the unfortunate while still trying not to make them permanently "unfortunate." And remember that "unfortunate" people also can vote.

Is France doomed to a decline? It's sure possible. Nobody is seriously suggesting that it is doomed to failure. My French friends (especially Helene out there in Lille, shout out) are more worried about what they'll do after college, what their business is going to do over summer, and, shall I say, personal issues than the ongoing election war. Seriously, decline? Maybe, but there's nothing on the plate that's going to destroy France in the next few years. And even if France does go into decline in some kind of United States style, obviously they won't stay there. The United States isn't likely to either. We've got an election coming up ourselves to try and dig out of the hole we've dug into.

Maybe France is already IN decline and the incoming President will bring them out. Declines are always subjective. France may come out of a decline it never knew it was in. Unlikely, though, since Paris was perfectly fine the last time I went there. A little edgy with the violence, but who wouldn't be?

In the end, it's something we have to wait and see. All this doom- and boom-speak is great before the election, but we'll see what's going on after it's all said and done and the dust settles. The decline is in a lot of places, and where France may or may not be declining differs from candidate to candidate. After all this campaigning, they've got a whole cycle to bring their country back from the brink of whatever oblivion they're campaigning against.

Then they can pound THAT rhetoric into your head over the next election cycle. Whether or not France is declining, you can always feel good that, no matter what, the next election cycle will be ALL about how candidate X got France out of it. Joy...

frank collins :

i think this is from the bible. one day a powerful king wanted to learn the one law that would always apply to everything. he called in his advisors and demanded the answer. after a time he called them in again and when they did not know the answer he killed them and went to another group. soon no one wanted to be the kings advisor, but he was the king and if he said you were picked, you were picked. again he posed the question and waited for an answer to the question, what is the one law that will apply all the time to eveything. this time the advisor said "AND THIS TOO SHALL PASS". he served his king for the rest of his life.
nothing stays the same, not the boundries of a tribe, city, state or country. not the people or family that runs it, nor the political system that controls it. not even the earth stays the same. everything changes because THIS TOO SHALL PASS.

Awin :

Sarkozy was certainly not acting like a 'moderate populist'in calling the slum youth "racailles"
(riff-raff). That population has since become very aware of its' voting power and their motto is that Sarkozy=Iznogood.

Rich Rosenthal :

France will be alright. They know the value of the social side and the grudingly will admit to the economic changes required. The sadness is in how they surrender to it.
But France isn't flesh and blood, only it peoples and people get by. The revolution is not a failure. It is a dream before its time.

Rich Rosenthal :

France will be alright. They know the value of the social side and the grudingly will admit to the economic changes required. The sadness is in how they surrender to it.
But France isn't flesh and blood, only it peoples and people get by. The revolution is not a failure. It is a dream before its time.

Atheist, Boston, USA :

Sarkozy opposed and still opposes the American invasion of Iraq. Sarkozy is not a neoconservative.

He is a moderate populist. He favors uplifting the common person by reviving France as an economic powerhouse. His plan is right for France.

Various bigots are trying to paint him as a neoconservative because these bigots want him to lose in the run-off election. The bigots favor the open-door policy favored by Royal. The bigots want France to be overrun by Islamic bigots and Turks.

MikeB :

NEOCON -
Now I've heard that Sarkozy has been accused of wanting to dismantle some of the social safety net in France and to have closer, friendlier, ties with the U.S. and U.K. But I have never heard that he was friends with our idiot "president" and the nutjobs that are American NeoConservatives. Do you have some sort of statement Sarkozy made or is there something to this? This sounds a bit like hyperboly to me, but I really would like to know.

neocon :

Sarkozy is a NEOCON, a Bushie in that respect. If he is elected the French will quickly find themselves in Lebanon, or Syria, or wherever the israelis want.

Anju Chandel, New Delhi, India :

It is precisely because of this same reason that 'France is on decline' that 'who the next French president would be' becomes all the more important an issue.

The world cannot ignore the profound impact of France on global economy, civil societies and world politics.

Today's geopolitical realities do not let anybody rejoice the weakening of any country as it spells grave dangers for people - its citizens in particular and the world at large.

Anju Chandel, New Delhi, India :

It is precisely because of the same reason that France is on decline that who the next French president would be becomes all the more important an issue.

The world cannot ignore the importance of France on the global scene in terms of its profound impact economically, socially and politically.

The geopolitical realities of today are such that the weakening of any strong country spells more dangers for people - its citizens in particular and the world population at large.

Anju Chandel, New Delhi, India :

It is precisely because of the same reason that France is on decline that who the next French president would be becomes all the more important an issue.

The world cannot ignore the importance of France on the global scene in terms of its profound impact economically, socially and politically.

The geopolitical realities of today are such that the weakening of any strong country spells more dangers for people - its citizens in particular and the world population at large.

Barry T. :

I dont know what I think about a democracy where an elected leader is only truly supported by 18-25% of the population.

The United States has had a divider in politics for the last 6 1/2 years yet Jacques Chirac has been in the inner circle of leadership for over 20.

Is France doomed? The western world must recognize that there is little growth left int heir economies and that the future is in Asia (India, China, etc) and get over the romanticism that they are the most dominant countries in the world. Western Europe cant deal with the fact that they cannot have their cake and eat it too; they cant have their selfish policies against immigrants and keep their leisurely 25 hour work week including every benefit Mitterand could conceive. France, almost more than any, will decline as the developing world takes not only their manufacturing jobs but also their beloved intellectual jobs. What happened to the EU and its promise of grandeur? The French people will not even accept the Constitution, that while being one of the main architects and "beneficiaries".

The fact that France considers itself a major player in world politics yet refuses to defuse problems it created in its formal colonies in Africa shows its true weakness and future. It is and will continue to be a country of talk and little action. Say what you want about American foreign policy and the abominable war in Iraq, but at least past and future presidents are ready for some action if needed. How many french troops were in Bosnia, Rwanda, Ethiopia, etc?

France has declined and will continue to decline. As an American, I do not want nor would I want any part of the French system of democracy in my country.

Realize :

For those uglies who keep pointing out that there are many Muslims in France, and insinuate that's a terrible thing...perhaps you've missed the reality that France has the largest jewish population in Europe. And that most of the world considers that a minus...is NOT considered a bonus to say the least. Anti-semitism is rife in france. And in Europe, the west generally, and Asia, and.
Get wise.

jim harrigan, redondo beach :

Is France doomed to decline? Do you mean by comparison to the United States during the last 6 1/2 years?

jim harrigan, redondo beach :

Is France doomed to decline? Do you mean by comparison to the United States during the last 6 1/2 years?

Anonymous :

Letmegetthisstraight:
You can't say that Sarko is first generation hungarian immigrant. Only his father was. And his mother is not a Greek Jewess. His mother's father was a Greek Jew that happen to convert to catholicism by the way...

All in all, this is pretty common in France. Lots of people have one or two foreign born grand-parents (3 for Sarko)

MikeB :

Yousuf Hashmi :
"...This is true that since last 20 years France role in core engineering production and international politics is declining..."
What? I'm an engineer. When was in France, I was demonstrating the newest instrumentation for installing and maintaining optical fiber, rf, and other sorts of communications networks. Now, I'm an American, with with more than 50 patents, and I worked for some of the U.S.'s premier companies and I've got to tell you I was flat out emabarrased. The French are far ahead of us with chip and wafer and communications and package marking and printing technologies. If they play it right, the French will leave behind in the dirt. Actually, this is true of the Scandinavian countries, too; especially Denmark and Sweden. They are inventive and original, produce top quality goods, have motivatative and very smart and hard working employees who aren't afraid of some corporate swine outsourcing their job or replacing them with an Indian indenured servant. The future, my friend, IS in France and Sweden and Denmark. The U.S., England, and Germany have permitted their governments and corporations to sell their future, bargain it away for short term gains by investors qand the wealthy. France watches those scumbags like the bugs they are, which explains why they are so loatheed and defamed by the media and right wing nuts over here. The last laugh will be France's burying us.

Gareth Williams :

The choice of France's next President is of course of importance to the world. France has historically held a powerful position in geopolitics and continues to do so, albeit with a declining level of influence. But remember that France is one of the key members of the EU, an organisation that holds great influence worldwide. I cannot speak for one or other of the candidates in the second round, but can predict that France under Sarkozy or Royal will likely play a more important role than has been the case under Chirac.

Yousuf Hashmi :

This is true that since last 20 years France role in core engineering production and international politics is declining.

This is itself not a major problem. France exploring its strength on rich agriculture products and its dominance or art culture and life style.

So far out siders living thousands miles away from the shores of France it does not matter who will be the next president of France.

France has a core strength of a highly educated work force as well as one of the best infra structure avilable. Therefore the country have all the potential to rise and become a leading member of EU.

D. :

This question seems to have attracted a lot of attention and brought out of the numerous participants reactions which emanate from their various nationalities, religions and political affinities. In other word, instead of expressing opinions which come from serious thinking and objective observations, each one finds a forum to express his subjective reactions, which automatically create an antagonistic atmosphere, which is far from being constructive, because finally each one will remain adamant that he has the 'truth'.
One will never really have a valid view if he does not try to remain above all the 'truths' which are being thrown around. In my opinion, the only real truth is humanity which, unfortunately, has been overpowered by the new 'truth', money and power. Thus whilst a human is more important than anything else, we have put material elements above him. This is creating the world we are all on, and which cannot find a way to have us all live in liberty, equality and fraternity. We can still hope!

Atheist, Boston, USA :

Sarkozy is right in opposing Turkey's becoming a member of the European Union.

Check out the shocking story at the following link.

http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2007Apr05/0,4670,TurkeyInternetCensorship,00.html

Like the Chinese, the Turks block web sites. Also, the Turkish government tried to imprison the Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk for the "crime" of insulting Turkish society.

The Turks want us to respect how they suppress human rights. We respect them.

At the same time, we want the Turks to respect our right to preserve Western values. We have every right to prevent Western values (in Europe) from being contaminated by Turkish or Islamic values.

Sarkozy is right on the mark about trying to restrict immigration into France and about trying to prohibit Turkey from entering the European Union (EU). We should condemn Washington for trying to pressure France (and the rest of the EU) into admitting Turkey into the EU.

The last 6 years has demonstrated that Washington is incompetent on matters of foreign policy.

Kenneth McKenna :

frenchman said:

"Here's one reply from a Frenchman that does not address the United States: "France rated first in a 'quality of life' survey held by British International Living magazine for the last 2 years. Doomed? Doomed to free health care and education by a socially progressive electorate which refuses to give up certain rights maybe?"

Well, it's certainly a first baby step for at least one frenchman to address the question without direct reference to the United States (indirect references remain a question between frenchman and his creator).

I don't recall an international accord that made BIL surveys of its readers much evidence of anything. I do recall that a great many hi-profile EU worthies met a while ago and cobbled up the hilarious French-government propelled "Lisbon Accord" that proposed that Europe would become the world's best source of intellectual capital and technological innovation. Nobody is really talking about the Lisbon Accord these days, even (or especially) in France, except as a source of embarrassment. So by at least this one of its own measure of what matters, France seems to be in serious decline - and accepts that there is much more to come.

Whether "free" medical care or other French social policies are "progressive" - or merely constitutes the results of the usual rent seeking special interest legislation - would seem to require appeal to some kind of standard of "progressiveness," which is not provided. Certainly such policies do not seem conducive to general economic vitality. Certainly it is a stretch to suggest that the intentions of the great majority of French voters who caused such policies to be put in place were anything but grubby rent seeking.

By way of measuring likely "progressive" intentions: Do any significant number of the French actually give anything substantial to any charity worthy of the name?

Chris G :

To LetMeGetThiStraight: Why bring up the point that Goerge Washington was a slave-owner. Who doesn't know that already and who cares. What does that have to do with France. This may come as a surprise to you, but in 1776, for someone born into the Virginian aristocracy, and despite the fact the slavery was awful, it was actually possible to have slaves working on your plantation and still be a noble individual in other aspects of your life.

About France: However, you are right about France saving our butts in the revolutionary war, just like we saved theirs later on. Part of the problem between the US and France is people in both countries are stridently patriotic about their county (at least many of us are) and see their country as the one qualified to lead other nations in world affairs. Remember that for a long time, French was the language of diplomacy. There are attitudes of French politicians that bug me and I wish French people didn't feel so patriotically competitive with us. However, after reading about Phillip Augusts' struggle with England, and reading about how bravely the French fought along-side us in the Korean war, I have to conclude that they are not panzies, and I can only dislike French people the way I dislike Giant's fans, in a competitive, good-natured way.

Carl :

The French governmental system has it's good points, and the government is to be commended for avoiding the siren song of US dollars into Iraq and Afghanistan, that has consumed NATO and the US and Canada...however, the French income tax system makes even the USA system look good. Until France fixes that, they will stagnate in the personal savings department. Royal has better ideas on what a democracy should be, yet she is a hard core socialist; Sarkozy is a bigot, and probably will not be able to change the tax system in a meaningful way...tough choices

Fleur de Lys :

George Robertson : "A resurgent France? Quelle drole !! (That's "what a laugh" in froggie.)"

George, you'd do better with "Quelle blague!"... No need to try so hard, if you don't know the language. It only makes one wonder whether you know what you are talking about...

LetMeGetThiStraight :

Ah, I forget to add that I don't live in France but it is my home abroad... I don't like Sarkozy he's a NeoCon with a French passport. Furthermore he'll do or say anything to get a vote - sound familiar. When his model/actress wife committed adultery last year, he turned around and got himself a mistress. A trait of a vengeful persona. Also, it is widely reported that he pleaed with his wife before the campaign started to reconcile, his excuse was for the sake of their children - we think for his polotical career.

Royal isn't that fantastic in my opinion but my family that are nationals will vote for her - I don't know if I would even if I could - I am an American national.

For those who predict an easy victory for either of the two - guess agian.

Sarkozy is a first generation Hungarian immigrants son and his mother is a Greek Jewess. There has never been anyone elected president of the republic who is not at least 4 or 5 generations implanted. Also one final notation there are an estimated 500 000 Jews in France, lots of anti-sentism and there are about 8 million Muslims. The winner will need about 7 -10 million votes from the center to win - DO the math.

Vie la republique. Vie la France.

LetMeGetThiStraight :

France is a vibrant country and the people gracious. In 2000 fleeing the Bush and Co. coup, I an American national, veteran and CNN journlaist - predicting the deplorable decline of American values under a Bush administation, packed-up and moved to Paris. There are many things which I disagree with about the French but there are also many things which I disagree with about my mother country as well. Racism is rampart in the USA, period no discussion, I lived it. What upsets me sometimes is reading arrogant statements of the KOOL-AID drinkers and FREEDOM FRIES advocates. Whilst it is true the USA rescued France during WWI and WWII - I as a history buff remind my fellow countrymen that if not for the FRENCH during the battle of Yorktown, THERE WOULD BE NO USA. Also, General George Washingtion, president of our country and slaveowner would perhaps have been murdered which was the satus quo for captured colonist. I have noticed reading various post that HISTORY is not apparently a strong study of BUSH nor of his follwers. To reiterate, if not for the French blockade of the harbor in Yorktown, Lord Cornwallis' forces would have destoyed General Washington and the dreams of the USA. The General whose back was to the sea as Lord Cornwallis' forces advanced anticapting the Royal Navy Fleet - blocked by France - had no avenue of escape nor a plan B. In fact there is a famous painting all of you should study in the US National Archives of this historical event. Take a close examination of the ships mast in the harbor - Fleur de Lys - that would be FRENCH.
In esscence stop the anti-France rhetoric and the same admonishment goes to the ant-American sentiments offered-up by the French.

raven :

THAT QUESTION had to have come from Ignatius. It is disgusting. There are many who believe the US's decline in the world and imorality in the war far surpasses any French problem.
The tenor of this whole subject is rife with anti muslim stuff...snide and what we've seen before on certain subjects....with vicioius attacks on Royal (not many accurate) But no one will mention that Sarky is a Jew. Is nobody proud? This is ugly. And all too typical.

George Robertson :

Do you know that a laid-off French worker gets 2 years of salary? Not even the Swedes do that, and at least they (the Swedes) make people re-train into another job in order to receive extended unemployment compensation. No wonder no French company wants to take on new staff. Every French government that has tried to take on the radical left to change these and other obsurdities has been forced to back down by a radical left wing. A resurgent France? Quelle drole !! (That's "what a laugh" in froggie.)

James :

Demography may not be destiny, but it is highly influential. Large pools of third world folk inside and outside of France have been led to believe that France (or the West, in general) is a major source of their misery, and they have been encouraged to arrive at this belief by "leaders" in their countries, various elites who clamp on their countries self-imposed poverty and self-imposed oppression and who are skilled in scapegoating. Added to that reality is the fact that now few French believe in anything, including the idea of "French culture," a belief that once cushioned France's geopolitical decline. (A warm feeling about being "European" just doesn't cut it.) Result: possible near-term catastrophe. Sarkozy may be able to reverse these realities, but he faces immediate and enormous challenges.

BobL-VA :

MikeB,

Try:
http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/offenses/expanded_information/data/shrtable_07.html

It takes some work, but you can figure it out. Specifically, look at table 7.

Where did I ever state I was pro gun control? Go back and read my post. I never said any such thing. All I did was put out statistics.

That the US has a high homicide rate is just a fact. People could argue over why the rate is so high and I can only assume the anti gun lobby blames it all on fire arms. Since I'm just a litle skeptical I have my doubts any one factor is to blame for this statistic. Having said this we still need to put it in perspective. The US rates 23rd in the world in per capita homicides. As a citizen you're 4 times more likely to be murdered in the US then in France. However, you're 15 times less likely to be murdered in the US then in Columbia.

PS: in a previous post Tom Wonacott accused me of being a member of the NRA. I guess I've now been accused of being on both sides:)

scaevola :

France is not doomed, of course, but it is going through a profound crisis. Whether this crisis will be going on and deepening for at least the next five years is a question to be decided by this election. What is at stake here is tremendously important for France, but also for Europe, the United States and the West as a whole. France is and will remain a key player in the European Union. France is also a key partner for the U.S., probably more solid than it seems, but certainly less than it should be. In a multipolar world an even stronger alliance of the West will be necessary not only between the governments but between the nations. There was always more than a bit of a rivalry between France and the U.S. and it's not a bad thing as long as there is no hatred. Unfortunately a part of the French Left, but an influential one, has turned anti-americanism into a rotten ideology. Only Nicolas Sarkozy can solve this problem. Not only by showing his admiration and good feelings towards America (a pretty courageous and risky stance by the way) but by re-energizing France,by giving the Frenchs more reasons to be proud of themselves. Royal is telling people that they are smart and that whathever they do is great. Sarkozy is telling them that they could do better. He is a leader, she is not. The Frenchs are arrogant and bitter because they feel being weaker. A stronger France would be a better partner in a necessary partnership.

Rich Hultén :

France will not flourish because I am not there to be with my true love Trish Erskine. How are ya' babe? It has been a very long time, eh?

candide :

The French have been finished for over a century. It is only a matter of time until their second-class status is acknowledged even by them.

daniel :

This conversation is getting interesting. I am particularly interested in getting at what France is--the degree to which it is an economical event in contrast to an intellectual, artistic, cultural event. I wrote that what France has always seemed to me is a cultural event more than anything else and that perhaps this cultural event was neither made nor can be rescued by political methods (in short, it was a difficult to describe unconscious process). But of course politics must have entered the picture and that people are so aware of a cultural event as distinguished from a political cannot help but result in politics entering the picture to preserve trajectory of culture.

The point is France seems to be declining in the cultural sense, is spoken of now in the cultural sense as a place of people of good health, as a place where people value life over work, etc. (instead of cultural in the sense of a profound intellectual and artistic thrust). So is this new cultural understanding something as powerful and inevitable as the old culture of France or will France become increasingly political and more of an economic event (rather than cultural) to preserve at least something of France? With Sarkozy--and I hope he wins--we see an increased emphasis on the economical over the cultural (and with Royal we see no real championing of the cultural either) and the question should be asked if this is all France can do--if despite herself she must now become predominantly economical and political over the cultural.

And what does this mean? Does this not automatically mean decline? Is it not more exalted for a country that it can emphasize the cultural--its highest achievements--over mere economics? It seems France wants to remain a cultural force but events on the ground suggest cultural precedents are giving way to brute economics and politics...

And contrast this with the United States. The U.S. has always been about money money money. So does this mean the U.S. has never really forged itself as a cultural event and must do so or does it mean that the U.S. has always been in the odd state of ascending without really being cultural? Or is the U.S. just cultural in a different sense?

Just trying to contrast the cultural with the economic and seeking clues about how to determine decline.

D. Hodara :

To Fleur de Lys

Tonight Segolene gave a long speech in Montpellier and Sarkosy gave also a long speech in Rouen.
If you heard them or if you can have a possibility to obtain the contents of these speeches, you will have the replies to all your questions. Good luck.

rwcole :

The french thought that Iraq was a mistake- they agreed with the war in Afghanistan and are fighting there. Turns out they were right about Afghanistan.

Mush of Europe suffers from underemployment of the young. This leads to policies encouraging long schooling and less than forty hour work weeks- attemting to creat jobs on the one hand and hold young people out of the labor market on the other. Within a few years this will all start to change as the postwar generation begins retirement.

Most who babble on about the expensive social net in Europe know nothing about it- and can't even summarize govt. expenses for those countries with our own- program by program..

Too much un supported opinion and few if any facts lead to worthless discussion.

rwcole :

The french thought that Iraq was a mistake- they agreed with the war in Afghanistan and are fighting there. Turns out they were right about Afghanistan.

Mush of Europe suffers from underemployment of the young. This leads to policies encouraging long schooling and less than forty hour work weeks- attemting to creat jobs on the one hand and hold young people out of the labor market on the other. Within a few years this will all start to change as the postwar generation begins retirement.

Most who babble on about the expensive social net in Europe know nothing about it- and can't even summarize govt. expenses for those countries with our own- program by program..

Too much un supported opinion and few if any facts lead to worthless discussion.

Anon in DC :

The question is ridiculous on face value. The very same question was asked in the US's 2000 Presidential election, with the media and American public essentially saying (through polling during a time of peace and economic prosperity) that it didn't matter who lead the US.

Six years later, it's painfully difficult to say that the 2000 choice for leadership didn't matter. France is a nuclear power, a major diplomatic player with a seat on the Security Council, and a substantial part of the EU's economy. Social problems abound, as in any country, and difficult decisions will need to be made. But "doomed to decline?" Please. Of course it matters.

Anonymous :


The Village Idiot wrote:

Yes France is doomed, for the following reasons:

No children. French women are not having kids. Therefore France will cease to exist fairly soon.

Too many Muslims. Who are having children. And will turn what was "France" into Algeria North.

Gone: Wine, cheese, art (it's not Islamic), the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame (soon to be a mosque), the Louvre (not Islamic), Versailles, the Arc de Triomphe.

The only question is WHEN will Muslims overthrow the pathetic French governments and institute Sharia?

My response:

First of all, France women are some of the most fertile in Europe and have many more children than most other European countries.


Second, most muslims are not terrorists, what is publicized in the papers represents the acts of a violent few.

One of the strongest elements of French life is their secular government and social life. The Enlightenment really did influence people and they pulled their head out of the Middle Ages.

I suggest you do the same. Ignorance will get you George Bush and Freedom Fries. Have a good day, and God bless Bill Clinton, a relaxed man with his finger on the nuclear button.


Fleur de Lys :

D. Hodara

WHAT EXACTLY do you mean to say? Can you be SPECIFIC?

WHAT is a programme that offers "the best expectations for France and its people"? WHAT are you referring to? JUST HOW is Sarkozy's "the best programme"? HOW is his personality "more appropriate to the position"?

OK, you don't like the 35 hour week, consider it terrible that a French person work not as much as his/her neighbours... and hold it to be true that "in politics sentiments cannot fight realities" (yet in Vietnam nationalist SENTIMENTS managed to fight successfully American realities there and win a war, remember?...). Is that all? WHAT "policies of the countries around her" is Ségolène "ignoring" that you consider she should not ignore?

Earlier on, you posted that Sarkozy's programme "contains a number of items to correct numerous problems which the socialists' candidate will never have the courage and will to change." Again, WHAT items? WHAT problems? WHAT "very old social policies... have never been adapted to the changes which have been experienced by the world whether economic, financial or political"? WHAT changes experienced by the world? You write "Sarkozy... must be given a chance" to try and change things. Change WHAT things?

WHAT exactly are you trying to say? WHAT is one to make of what you write? To be honest, Hodara, and with all due respect, like so many critics of France on this thread, you write exclusively in general terms, like an ideologue.

When I follow a conversation like this one, I want to learn. So far, I must say you did not give me much to learn. I think I have some vague idea where you may stand, but I ignore totally WHY you stand just there and not elsewhere.

To repeat my position: "Like other countries, France suffers terribly from cheap, low-level party politics." So let me dot my i's and cross my t's: were I French, I would vote for neither of the above: Neither for Sarkozy nor for Royale. I would simply abstain.

Now, teach me something new. I love to learn.

say no to bush,USA :

I would say that French are far better off nowadays that we,the Americans. All we did in that past 6 years in different parts of the globe were wars,unnecessary killings,spread hatred beyond belief and spent billions of the taxpayers dollars on the destruction of other human beings and their countries. Whoever wins in France I hope will have the guts and the power to say "no" to bush and his sick vision of the democracy brought by F-16 and bombs.

Anonymous :

Petit Vélo: ton français est boiteux!

Mike, USA :

It doesn't matter who wins the election as France will continue on their present course appeasing the worlds dictators and tyrants while the watching the demise Western Civilization along with the rest of their European Union cronies.

No need for the French to worry though, America will be there to supply them with all the white material necessary for surrender flags when radical Islam takes their country over.

MikeB :

BobL-VA - Now, I've looked and looked and that number is simply nowhere to be found, at least from reliable sources. 8529, 11000, all numbers tossed around by gun control advocates are simply NOT supported by the statistics released by the Department of Justice. Go look at this site: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/gvc.htm#guns. Since 1996, less than 10% of nonfatal violent crimes involved firearms. Since 1994, the DOJ has NEVER reported an overall firearm related homicide count over 6,000. Last year, it was slightly under 5,100 and that count included police shootings and justifiable homicides! Moreover, the DOJ reports that 86% of all firearm related crimes, including homicides, are a result of inter-gang warfare and the victims are almost universally gang members, about half those being illegal immigrants. The actual number of homicide victims, not of this group, were around 400. This is a small and stable number, a percentage of population that goes all the way back to the turn of the 20th Century.

Basically Bob, you and other gun control advocates are on a hysterical tear that is directly responsible for the distorted view Euopeans and the rest of the world has of this country. The raw numbers, the actual statistics, simply do not support your and European contentions that the U.S. is a violent society and that firearms result in some enormous number of deaths and injuries. They do not and the data released by our and European governments simply does not support that contention. Indeed, there is a recent study of all of this in Holland, that appears to demonstrate that gun control laws, no matter how draconian, have absolutely no effect on homicides rates whatsoever.

My warning to you and the Brady Bunch crowd is that you are fostering a false-erroneous view of this country that is dangerous and foolish. This has contributed to the profound ignorance of European's and others about us...and vice versa! It's stupid, reprehensible, and ultimately self destructive.

AMviennaVA :

To my fellow Anglophone posters, especially those who are so expert on what ails France. Our fellow poster, PetitVélo, challenged you to answer him. As he points out, he was kind enough to read the comments in English, you should be kind enough to respond in French.

Especially those of you who are so expert.

berry, ecuador :

To Daniel:

You shoud read Sartre. My mother-in-law, a literature professor, loves him, as well as Camus.

Maybe I am being too superficial, but speaking of French culture I prefer something lighter, such as The Three Musketeers, particularly the movie with Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, Chris O'Donnell, Tim Curry and the gorgeous Rebecca de Mornay. Of course, the movie is a gross departure from the book, but that is how we, people from around the world, get information these days: through the eyes.

I've been to France twice. Paris is perhaps the greatest city on earth. Great food, great sights, great... something that is difficult to describe. Despite my very poor French, I managed to get portraits of me and my wife drawn by Sacre Coeur artists. I was impressed by French people's fitness, the cleanless of street markets, the comfort aboard the TGV and the Thalis, and the beautiful rural landscape.

My father studied medicine in Paris. He still loves the French way of life, the appreciation for good food and good wine, and the ability to see the beauty of life beyond purely economic terms. In that sense, I am a little bit more "American".

MikeB :

Ray, interesting that you quote the low end of the statistical ranges reported. Here's the actual raw numbers, as reported by the governments of England and the U.S. Reported homicides for England (Home Office crime stats) 2002 to 2005: 1046, 856, 838, 766. During that same period, the reported rate of "serious" violent crime (rape, forced home entry, shootings and knife wounds; all personal bodily injuries) during that same period was 2,351,379 - 2002, 2,298,452 -2003, 2,419,489 - 2004, 2,194,228 - 2005. Now, England's population in 2002 was 49.2 million, in 2005 it was 50.4 million. This is about 1/6 of the U.S. which was 284.2 million in 2002 and nearly 300 million in 2005. During the same period of time, the homicide and violent crime numbers are reported by the Department of Justice (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/viort.htm) as 65,780 - 2002, 62,928 - 2003, 64,071 - 2004, 60,263 - 2005 with a homicide rate tracking this very closely. The raw numbers are: 16,445 - 2002, 15,348 - 2003, 16,179 - 2004, 15,148 - 2005.

No, it is fairly obvious that the violent crime rate in England is much higher, even as raw numbers, compared to the U.S. In fact, you are about three times more likely to be the victim of a rape, a violent assault, a violent forced entry into your home, or other crime that results in your physical injury if you live in England vs. the U.S.. This is also true of France, Germany, Wales, Australia, Canada and much of the western industrialized west. The raw percentage is 1.7% for the U.S. vs. and average of 5.9% for other countries. The U.S., by the way, isn't even in the top twenty!

Now, for homicides, factoring in the population differences, you are about twice times as likely to be the victim of a murder in the U.S. What is interesting about this, is that the U.S. counts police shootings and other justifiable homicides and vehicular manslaughter (resulting from drunk driving) in their statistics whereas England the rest of Europe dpoes not. Now, I could not find those numbers to roll into England’s numbers, but using the DOJ database, I was able to roll them out of the U.S. figures. They account for slightly more than 50% of the reported homicide numbers. “Normalizing” for these, we get 7811 in 2002, and for 2003 through 2005: 7671, 7830, 7467. These results track very nicely with the population differences between the two countries. The inescapable conclusion is that the rate of homicides between England and the U.S. is close to identical, being slightly (about 10%) higher in the U.S. than Europe. Indeed, it is about the same difference between the U.S. and the rest of Europe. The only thing not accounted for is – why is the violent crime rate three times higher across Europe over the U.S.? I think the inescapable conclusion is that criminals feel safer in victimizing people in Europe, knowing that they are unarmed. I think the additional 10% homicide rate is accounted for by that, too. But, for the added rate of less than 1 in 100,000, you pay a very steep price in terms of personal security.

D. :

To Tom,

You are perfectly correct. Radical Islam is, today, the real threat to the whole world - including the moderate moslems.
However, US politics on the subject and its stubborn decision to stay the course in Irak are wrong, when it is obvious that the Iraqui people and the majority of the US people want the GIs out as soon as possible. The death toll of the GIs and the Iraqui population becomes intorlerable.
Out of Irak, will allow the US to consider with more attention the problem of radical islam - and this has nothing to do with France.

Tom :

" wouldn't we be better off today had George W. Bush listened to Jac Chirac rather than Tony Blair five years ago?"

No.

If the French continue to ignore the long term effects of their decisions France will fail. But I do not think this is the case. France will wake up, realize they are not fighting the US for the top spot. They will then spend their time on more productive things. Disruptive behavior is counter productive.

The US is no enemy to France, but RADICAL Islam is a threat.

Rob in the USA :

It doesn't matter who wins, because France is mired in a long, self-imposed socialist decline.

However, it would be fun to watch the corrupt Chirac be indicted after he leaves office and loses immunity! Sadly, I don't expect the French to go there, as they are definitely not an introspective bunch, and never have acknowledged what we on the outside see so clearly in them.

Oh well, we'll have to plan for the day when it becomes necessary for we in the West to disarm France, and remove their nuclear weapons so that they do not fall into the hands of the extremists. Let's hope that when that finally becomes necessary, there are at least a few clear-thinking people left in France, to assist in that action.

D. Hodara :

To Fleur de Lys

The candidate whose programme offers the best expectations for France and its people should be chosen. In the present case, and considering that France is part of the EU and the world, the best programme belongs to Sarkosy, and his personality seems more appropriate to the position.
Segolene wishes to distribute a lot of benefits - over and above the generous ones which exist - when the present finances do not allow it and belongs to the party which reduced the weekly working hours to 35 - when all the countries around it work much more. To get money, it should be taken from the 'rich'. She tends to ignore the policies of the countries around her, including those with socialist governement.
In politics sentiments cannot fight realities.

PetitVélo :

Si au moins nous pouvions condamner nos journalistes à l'intelligence, nous serions protegés de titre d'article aussi stupide que celui-ci.
PS : j'ai fait l'effort de vous lire en anglais. Je me réjouis de vous répondre en français. Best wishes.

reply :

This is a response to the person who said I don't know anything about the US. I know more than you; I know the situation of poverty in the US, something you seem to be ignorant about.

Anon in China :

I for one hope that Royale becomes President so that France may continue be an example and beacon to the world of what not to do.

equitus :

"So, does having a large number of citizens below the poverty level and without access to health care or higher education and being one check away from homelessness make the US great?"

Wow, what you don't know about the US is a lot.

ironic :

atheist,

You talk of "slamming the door shut on Islamic immigrants and prohibiting Turkey from entering the European Union" and then you go on to mention "Islamic bigots." Can you see the irony?

Atheist, Boston, USA :

Sarkozy is the best candidate to become president of France. He will reform France and transform it into an economic powerhouse.

His best ideas are slamming the door shut on Islamic immigrants and prohibiting Turkey from entering the European Union. I also like his idea of promoting free trade, but he is not a free-trade bigot like the typical American.

A free-trade bigot supports free trade between the USA and non-free markets like Mexico and China. This kind of free trade is fake free trade. It destroys the quality of life in the USA.

What Sarkozy supports is genuine free trade with only other free markets. I like his ideas of protecting the quality of life in the West by protecting it from Islamic bigots and fake free trade.

I like the fact that he recognizes West values as supreme.

If loses the French election, could he run for the American presidency? I would vote for him.

jim hodgetts :

I lived in France for 30 years, had my own company, saw five Presidents go by. My views will surprise readers. For me France's strength is not in its economic potential, it is in its lifestyle.
They live better than any other advanced Western country (incl USA). Starting with the holidays and the number of priveleged days the kids spend with Mummy and Daddy. Nobody is counting that "wealth".

French administrative rules drive one mad. French Security Social exists, and indeed pays for medical treatment, but in exchange its a nightmare. Even their obligatory pension scheme (spilit into several "caisses") is a scandal. One such caisse, MMA IRD, is known for sneaking on poor pensioners to inform the tax system.

But like most foreigners, I have an affection for France, and for what it is, how it breathes (which includes the financial backing of education, art, and culture).

The French themselves can be irritating in their self preoccupations, sometimes wanting the moon without working for it, wanting to export without making an effort. These are the inherant traits in the French character which no politician can eliminate. When the Right is in power, France likes to complain. When the Left is there, France moves forward with less strikes, without contributing to the effort. Segolene Royal has said some things which suggest she could deal with these backward characteristics, but would they let her? Mr Sarkozy will give France plenty to complain about (ie change) and the country will resist moving forward in every way possible way. Then go on holiday.
But in spite of all this FRANCE will NOT decline. That's the surprise.

frenchman :

kenneth says "One indication (a symptom and to some extent a cause) of the likelihood of decline is the number of French people who will address a questionsuch as "Is France doomed to decline?" by immediately writing and thinking about the United States."

Here's one reply from a Frenchman that does not address the United States:

France rated first in a "quality of life" survey held by British International Living magazine for the last 2 years. Doomed? Doomed to free health care and education by a socially progressive electorate which refuses to give up certain rights maybe?

Peter :

It's funny how this question opens up a discussion about what is wrong with America. For some people "America is worse" is the answer to every question.

It is not arrogant to ask whether France is in decline. They are in demographic trouble. There are unresolved problems with Muslim immigrants that are ignored by the political elites.

Ray :

Add the London suburbs and you get a homocide rate equal to New York? Maybe if the "suburb" is the entire U.K. you get something like that. The entire U.K. in 2005/06 had "765 includes 52 homicide victims of the 7 July London bombings" [http://www.crimestatistics.org.uk/output/page40.asp].

Yeah, France has problems. Who doesn't. Maybe this election will bring some changes, maybe not. Those bashing France in this thread are showing lots of ignorance. You might want to look at recently reports of technological decline in the U.S. as one indicator of our increasing weakness. You might also look at what happens to our economy (toast) if one of several Asian countries coughs up a chunk of their dollar holdings into the world currency market. People living in glass houses shouldn't cast stones.

Kenneth McKenna :

Is France doomed to decline? Probably yes, and for quite some time to come. The French young are no answer: They are the ones who rioted recently to prevent even modest reforms of French labor law enacted to address sky-hi French youth unemployment. If anything, the French young are more visionless than even their elders, which really takes some doing. That suggests that the coming period of decline will be very long indeed.

One indication (a symptom and to some extent a cause) of the likelihood of decline is the number of French people who will address a question such as "Is France doomed to decline?" by immediately writing and thinking about the United States. Today, the extent to which a nation and its political system fail to address its own problems is generally directly proportional to the extent to which its people focus on the United States when confronted with their own national problems. "Blaming" the United States is the most obvious diversion, but it's by no means the only one. France is doomed to decline at least until the great majority of its people can bring themselves to stop thinking of their country as a footnote to whatever they think they see in the United States and its actions - and actually do something constructive.

Kenneth McKenna :

Is France doomed to decline? Probably yes, and for quite some time to come. The French young are no answer: They are the ones who rioted recently to prevent even modest reforms of French labor law enacted to address sky-hi French youth unemployment. If anything, the French young are more visionless than even their elders, which really takes some doing. That suggests that the coming period of decline will be very long indeed.

One indication (a symptom and to some extent a cause) of the likelihood of decline is the number of French people who will address a question such as "Is France doomed to decline?" by immediately writing and thinking about the United States. Today, the extent to which a nation and its political system fail to address its own problems is generally directly proportional to the extent to which its people focus on the United States when confronted with their own national problems. "Blaming" the United States is the most obvious diversion, but it's by no means the only one. France is doomed to decline at least until the great majority of its people can bring themselves to stop thinking of their country as a footnote whatever they think they see in the United States and its actions - and actually do something constructive.

pepe le pew :

France is toast. 'Debate' on its decline becomes not very funny joke when you examine the numbers of French who have already fled for Canada, Australia, New Zealand and such.

Mme Royal won something like 40 percent of the vote in the largely Mohammedan slums, nearly double her national average. Those numbers reveal the most significant dynamic at work: the defeated, reactionary and sentimental Left will destroy France and with it Europe as we knew it.

Euros are an odd bunch. They (the French included) sent or colluded in sending 6 million of their brightest citizens to death in the Nazi camps and then turned around a few decades later and welcomed from the various disasters of Islamic social engineering across the Mediterranean people who largely have no desire to assimilate.

Kenneth McKenna :

Is France doomed to decline? Probably yes, and for quite some time to come. The French young are no answer: They are the ones who rioted recently to prevent even modest reforms of French labor law enacted to address sky-hi French youth unemployment. If anything, the French young are more visionless than even their elders, which really takes some doing. That suggests that the coming period of decline will be very long indeed.

One indication (a symptom and to some extent a cause) of the likelihood of decline is the number of French people who will address a questionsuch as "Is France doomed to decline?" by immediately writing and thinking about the United States. Today, the extent to which a nation and its political system fails to address its own problems is generally directly proportional to the extent to which its people focus on the United States when confronted with their own national problems. "Blaming" the United States is the most obvious diversion, but it's by no means the only one. France is doomed to decline at least until the great majority of its people can bring themselves to stop thinking of their country as a footnote whatever they think they see in the United States and its actions - and actually do something constructive.

Anonymous :

Fareed Zakaria & David Ignatius,

Ask a ridiculous question, get ridiculous, racist, sexist answers like the ones by Jim Rockford and Jim/Joe/Joseph.

Jim Rockford :

Yes France is doomed, for the following reasons:

No children. French women are not having kids. Therefore France will cease to exist fairly soon.

Too many Muslims. Who are having children. And will turn what was "France" into Algeria North.

Gone: Wine, cheese, art (it's not Islamic), the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame (soon to be a mosque), the Louvre (not Islamic), Versailles, the Arc de Triomphe.

The only question is WHEN will Muslims overthrow the pathetic French governments and institute Sharia?

Let's be honest. A few thousand organized Muslim youth could overthrow the French government NOW. It's not like France has police, an army, or anything else that could resist them. The French are once again reduced to hoping their conquerors will be "nice" to them. Only this Vichy Republic will not go away because the US won't rescue them again.

So far the only reason the Islamic Republic of France does not exist is because the Muslim youth of the Banlieus lack organization and political leadership. Both soon to be supplied by Tehran no doubt. But France is a nation of old men, women, and a few feminized men who will surrender like they did the last time.

The difference between the Death Wish movies in the 1970's in America and the French movie Red Lights is that the former spoke to American's determination to end the crime wave Liberals had inflicted on them by lax policing and criminal rights and of course minority pandering. While Red Lights is just a fading fantasy of a France that ceased to exist after 1917.

In order for France to stay French and not an Islamic slum (the non-petroleum exports of the Arab world in 2000 equaled that of Finland in 2000), Frenchmen would have to fight, die, and kill to keep France French, that is a mostly secular, rationalist, Judeo-Christian-Classical nation.

And that is exactly why France's future looks like Algiers. Or Rabat. Or perhaps Cairo.

Dim from France :

Yes, a 85% turnout is historic, and it shows that French people have the will to be involved in their country's politics. Which is great. But I was shocked when I witnessed the admiration foreigners have for Sarkozy. I am not a "Royalist" and anyone could write an entire page about Ségolène's flaws. But Sarkozy based his campaign on seducing far-right voters, not by offering them an alternative to their ideas, but by adopting them. Appealing to the French most base instincts and giving an audience to Le Pen ideas, that's what Sarkozy did. And it is unfortunate that France's great right-wing party should look the other way when such ideas are endorsed under its banner. The ends do not justify all means.

David, in Del Mar, Colliefornya :

The French are doomed as much as the rest of the world. The only question is will W and his cronies trash the planet before 2008 or will we just have to wait another decade or two and suffer a slow, agonizing decline. The French have it easy...

Joe :

I agree. France is DOOMED. Not because of religion or race. But because of the attitude of the french men. Every french men (and woman) thinks France is the greatest Country and Frech culture is the greatest in the world. Fine. I am not arguing. Then they turn around and criticize everything that the United States stands for. I sometime ask them then why they are living in the United States. They don't have an answer.. We welcome everyone. But I hate those people who criticize everything in the United States and still live here. That is why I really think the French are doomed.

joe :

I agree. France is DOOMED. Not because of religion or race. But because of the attitude of the french men. Every french men (and woman) thinks France is the greatest Country and Frech culture is the greatest in the world. Fine. I am not arguing. Then they turn around and criticize everything that the United States stands for. I sometime ask them then why they are living in the United States. They don't have an answer.. We welcome everyone. But I hate those people who criticize everything in the United States and still live here. That is why I really think the French are doomed.

Joseph :

I agree. France is DOOMED. Not because of religion or race. But because of the attitude of the f***ing french men. Every french men (and woman) thinks France is the greatest Country and Frech culture is the greatest in the world. Fine. I am not arguing. Then they turn around and criticize everything that the United States stands for. Now I agree, we do deserve some criticism. But I don't think we have done anything to the French to be their punching bag. When I hear all of this. I sometime ask them then why they are living in the United States. They don't have an answer.. and they talk a litte more about the greatness of French. Now I agree, I am not against anyone coming and living here. We welcome everyone. But I hate those people who criticize everything in the United States and still live here. That is why I really think the French are doomed.

James Callaghan :

I agree. France is DOOMED. Not because of religion or race. But because of the attitude of the f***ing french men. Every french men (and woman) thinks France is the greatest Country and Frech culture is the greatest in the world. Fine. I am not arguing. Then they turn around and criticize everything that the United States stands for. Now I agree, we do deserve some criticism. But I don't think we have done anything to the French to be their punching bag. When I hear all of this. I sometime ask them then why they are living in the United States. They don't have an answer.. and they talk a litte more about the greatness of French. Now I agree, I am not against anyone coming and living here. We welcome everyone. But I hate those people who criticize everything in the United States and still live here. That is why I really think the French are doomed.

Frankly Speaking :

Hey, Frank: it's not really necessary to drag every conversation off into the weeds of repetitive and unoriginal anti-Bush screeching.

Not everything is about you and your pet obssession, you know.

If you truly find yourself unable to discuss any other subject, there are many highly effective medications on the market today that might help.

clement girault :

Tiffin from Virginia,

Maybe you've misunderstood what liberty, equality and fraternity actually mean?

Or you would not be suggesting that the (non-muslim?) French "object" to part of its population making its views heard. France is a democracy (85% of the voting population actually voted in the first round of this recent election!) and will remain thus. In a democracy - outside the US at least - a majority of the population determines who they want leading the country, whether that person is of this religion or that religion or heck, even an atheist.

Tiffin in Virginia :

France is evolving. It was once an important influence in the development of the West and Western culture. It is now in its twilight years of cradle to grave socialism and oblivious to the Islamic revolution within that will soon forge the realities of the future France. There is no spark of liberty, equality and fraternity among the traditional French that will notivate them to bother objecting in even the smallest ways to the Caliphate of France. France as we have known it is doomed. Whether its transition to Caliphate status should be called a "decline" is another matter.

Clem, australia :

Atique Malik,

Clearly you are a little bitter. Is it because French politicians voted to officially recognise the Armenian genocide? When your government recognises that, you can talk about "the evil of others."

For those who bring up racism issues,

There is undeniably racism in France. Just as there is in the US. The difference is that in the US, the State puts as much of the African-American population as possible in prison, even for minute offences. It's just a more covert, State-sponsored racism. When it comes to racism, i don't think any country is doing the right thing. Look in your own backyard before you point your finger at others.

Clem, Australia :

Sarkozy is a dangerous politician who wants to change French society by force. While some things need to be reformed it cannot be done without a wide consensus. He will thus enounter the resistance of the French population and will have the choice of bringing in the army or backing down when strikes and riots paralize the country.

Royal is a bland politician and despite being labeled a socialist is more centrist than what is traditionally regarded as left wing. She admires Tony Blair and wants to offer France an ill-defined "third way". She would have more chance of reforming France than Sarkozy as she would be less likely to attempt sweping changes but would adopt a more progressive approach. Her views have alienated a large portion of the country's left-wing electorate and that will probably cost her the election.

I'm dismayed by the Post's Fox-News-type loaded/rhetorical question. And i'm appalled by some of the Francophobic comments.

Conor Lynch - Canada :

While I agree that the question posed is somewhat absurd; anyone who contends that France has maintained it's post-war stature is equally absurd.

Someone mentioned that France, with a population of 64 million, has the sixth largest GDP in the world (Measured nominally). In 2005 that was true, although it included French Guyana and several other colonies. If you look at GDP per capita, however, continental France currently ranks 31st in the world; behind the Faroe islands, Singapore, and Canada. Whereas most major industrialized nations, specifically the US and Britain, dismantled the Fordist institutions of big government and labour, France never did. State institutions in fact grew; stifling growth. So, while French society certainly has the potential for less stratification than the United States, the economy itself grows at a snails pace.

Without major reform, with an eye for agility, the French economy will consistently lag behind it's German and British counterparts.

If french population growth was stagnant this would be less of an issue. The fact remains, however, that France is currently in the process of assimilating a large contingent of, largely muslim, immigrants, many from former North African colonies. Without economic growth, and job generation, tension with the poorer banlieue's will only get worse.

Caspar Fomalhaut :

Is France doomed? No. I think France will still be here long after the U.S. either: 1) Destroys itself in nuclear war, 2) Exhausts itself, like the Roman and British empires, in endless imperialist wars [like the present one in Iraq] or 3.) withers away in heedless overconsumption and narcissistic self-absorption.

Vive la France! Eternelle!

Ricardo Krauskopf Neto :

It's an interesting question. Bizarre is that it's suggested in a country that elected Bush. Twice (in fact once, but he had two terms).

Atique Malik :

France does not really matter in terms of its economy, military force or its strange view of its own importance.

The US feels compelled to look after the French in the same way it looks after the Israelis. I guess we were born to suffer for the evil that others do.

Atique Malik :

France does not really matter in terms of its economy, military force or its strange view of its own importance. Its a remarkably racist and bigoted nation that does a reasonable job in cheese and wine. Their whole purpose in life is to keep the Turks out of the EU, which is really a Christian and French boondoggle.

jim :

france is worthless.the u.s.a gives them there wine and cheese,not to mention their freedom.and they have done is sell weapons(jets)and other little things like sams.i have no use for them or the russians(home of the ak rifle)

MN Francophile :

It would be best if the French simply admitted that their cities and countryside is rife with racism and anti-Semitism. If they were to admit this, their position of strength would serve as a 'third way' in global politics and economics, by offering a democratic and valued alternative to the United States, China and Russia. Until that happens, the French will always have their unfounded messianic complex for human rights and dignity, doomed to never advance into a 21st Century multi-cultural society.

BobL-VA :

MikeB,

Actually, 8,259 people died in the US last year from homicides with guns. Another 41,000 were shot and survived. The US ranks 8th in the world in gun homicides per 100,000 population. Most people just assume since 15,000/16,000 people were murdered in the US it had to be gun related. Ah, not true. Only about 68% are gunned down with the vast majority of the remainder being stabbed.

The statistic that astounds me is .7% of our population is currently in jail. That's over 2 million people. That's by far the greatest number in the industrialized countries.

I agreed with your characterization on France. I love France and hopefully will go back again in the next couple of years. Very civilized society with a varied and rich culture and full of life.

Volodya :

Segolene Royal as a living incarnation of banality, albeit in its most elegant and exquisite form, versus Nicolas Sarkozy initiating deep, painful reflection on fearsome, unmentionable things that are going wrong. That's precisely why the elections in France attract so much vivid interest: by holding a mirror up to the entire Western civilization. These elections, in fact, are demonstrating that the French are still very much alive and perhaps not yet prepared to fulfill the prophecies of doom and gloom whose name is legion.

Anonymous :

[to Daniel]: "The goal for both countries should be perpetual artistic and scientific renaissance--the wit and constant felicity of France that people so envy and the pragmatism and experimentation of the United States--but both countries are becoming stalled for some reason and are becoming increasingly political and nervous ..."

I think that has to do with increased global competition. Its not that the quality of people is declining so much as they are not forced to reside in only the first world. All developed countries have benefitted from brain gain for a long time. We got lots of scientists from Germany in th 1930's and 40's; scientists escaping from Russia during the cold war and post cold war period. Computer scientists and engineers from India. France I'm sure got some of these people too as did all of Europe.

Its become popular to go home. A lot of places that were fringy before have developed proper cities. Isn't it only natural that borrowed brains would want to reunite with their homeland? There is a certain nostalgia, particularly as not all of their family ever moves and generally not all at the same time. This global quest for talent is cyclical but there are much more middle class people in the developing world these days. We just have more competition. It means at some point we might want to be nicer to our guest scientists and intellectuals. Its part of what gives us spark. They can work with our creative class here as well as in France and the whole structure is stronger.

I don't think having to struggle a bit means decline, it just means that there are nice places elsewhere and no one place can have a monopoly on culture. People might not like it but they will probably have to deal with it as I don't see people in the developing world sinking back into poverty without having a fit. They've become part of the world dialogue so it would be useful if we could tell the differences between their despots and reformers. (chances are if someone sounds overly strident they are selling something, as many of these countries are very corrupt).

Jared H. :

I hope the French choose Royal. America needs a socialist to show them up again.

Erica in Virginia :

[to mikeb] Yeah, that's what I figure. I first world city or suburb is probably a first world city or suburb. Its just our cities/suburbs formula is reversed.

Its kind of silly to be fighting over such silly differences, the really scary stuff doesn't even happen in first world countries. Though we've probably gotten ourselves too involved in the political conflicts of developing countries as they don't really follow many laws. It's definately dragging us down but I never understood why people felt the need to scream about their cultural divides.

Iraq's a mess. I don't know if we needed to get involved with that and suspect Saddam Hussein probably did claim to have wmd and was probably lying. Doesn't it strike anyone else as a game of chicken gone horribly wrong? Why on earth did he feel the need to bait the defense hawks, they're paranoid bastards!! And wasn't the entire outcome too damned predictable? A stalemate in the culture wars, a stalemate in the foreign wars. At least my accent confuses europeans, when i go traveling i can probably avoid the stupidest ones. (I'm trying to avoid everyone who is too partisan these days no matter what country they're from and I'm sure their political nuts are on the lookout for americans, just like our political nuts want to bash the french.)

Ba'al :

If we can survive George Bush, then France can survive either of their two candidates, flawed as they are. Both of our countries are likely to decline, in fact the decline here in the 7 years is palpable (fighting senseless wars tends to have that effect). People in France at this point may well enjoy a higher overall quality of life when everything is factored in. Their food is better, they have access to health care and good transportation, and the place is without any doubt cleaner and safer.

One of the things that saddens me is the tendency some here have to turn France, the country of Lafayette, into some kind of enemy because they refused to go support the madness of Bush and Cheney in Iraq. It tells you much of what you need to know about right wing values.

MikeB :

daniel - Go back to France. The artists are as alive today as ever. There are some brilliant young painters with a sort of Post-Impressionist style that were displaying their works last year in Paris and they were astonishingly good. As for writers, check the bookstores in the Bastille district (and have a drink in that wonderful copper top bar on the corner). Right now is almost an ideal time to go to Paris. The parks are filled with flowers and people and the occational afternoon shower leaves the air so sweet you want to bottle it and ship it back home. Here, in the U.S., we spend far too much time chasing after money and careers and immediate gratification. Some French do, too, but most lead life at a more leisurely pace; take time out for a glass of wine with lunch and take the time to enjoy life. We should learn from them!

daniel :

Does it matter who the next French president is, or is France doomed to decline?

This morning when I read in the papers (I try to hit Wash. Post, Wash. Times, Wall Street Journal, N.Y. Times as much as possible) something of this very question entered my mind. It seemed like a stark decision between Sarkozy and Royal and I have to confess I prayed for Sarkozy to win...But what do I know? I am an American...

An American that has read Stendhal, Balzac, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Diderot, Voltaire, Sartre, Camus, Descartes, Genet, the good Marquis, Jules Verne, etc.--Too many writers to list. I would not be the man I am today without this self-education in the writers and thinkers of France.

But I have not read Proust, Flaubert or Victor Hugo, so I suppose my opinion counts for nothing.

But I ask one simple question: which writers should I read today? I have read a little Baudrillard--some of the modern philosophers and I am familiar with of course deconstruction, but...

The point is obvious: I recognize nothing in France today which resembles the heights of its past. France for me was always a culture of thought, art, etc. and not primarily an economical movement. The politics was always odd with a strange play between democracy and constant conservatism, but I never objected because somehow France always produced witty thinkers, etc.

But now this culture of thought is not really in evidence...What does this mean? Can a political movement of some sort restore it? Did it depend on politics or was the politics of France subordinate to a difficult to define French artistic and intellectual thrust?

I think France is in real trouble. What people think of as France was probably not really anything that was truly grasped and directed, so it was never something driven by political control, so as this wonderful quality of France disappears--and I believe it has disappeared to a large degree--we can expect increased political turbulence, and I suspect that although France was not entirely born of a political understanding, many will no doubt locate clear reasons for decline and suggest clear methods for the restoration of former glory.

But what perhaps is most interesting is the resemblance to the United States--the stark division opening up between left and right (and of course the possibility of a female for political leader). It seems both France and the U.S. are having difficulty in envisioning a national unity beyond current left and right wing trends. A new synthesis cries to come into existence, but neither nation knows for certain if this synthesis is really possible.

Strangely enough the U.S. can learn from France--and France from the U.S.--in the sense that what is occuring is what we would like to be artistic and effortless--a cultural transformation in general--but is not being as effortless as we would like and is resulting in a political crisis.

The goal for both countries should be perpetual artistic and scientific renaissance--the wit and constant felicity of France that people so envy and the pragmatism and experimentation of the United States--but both countries are becoming stalled for some reason and are becoming increasingly political and nervous and often not seeing exactly what should be restored--and often contemplating simple answers which are more directly asssociated with the political than the artistic and scientific--the cultural in other words.

Poor analysis but this is the best I can do at the moment...

A note though on the Virginia Tech shootings which might shed some light on France and the U.S.: The Korean shooter came to the U.S. from a homeland starkly divided (North and South Korea of course) at eight years of age. He hated the rich kids, the charlatans (the poet Nikki Giovanni trying to teach what essentially cannot be taught, namely poetry?), and debauchery in general. We call him mentally ill but perhaps he was a starkly divided soul. As the U.S. and France become more starkly divided politically will we have more and more people divided as the Korean shooter?

A lack of cultural integration results in...divided human beings and increasingly disturbing political expedients? What is the difference between the Korean shooter and a president (Bush) who clearly never deserved office and really is only a mediocre American? What is the difference between the Korean shooter and a woman (Hillary Clinton) who in the prime of her life was in office with her husband, the president, but never saw anything at all of the world we now are in but feels she deserves to be in office? What are we to make of this incomprehensible, unjust, charlatan, debauched, ridiculous political situation we now are in?--Which both France and the U.S. are in?

Perhaps some philosopher can explain it....

MikeB :

"... France and it's cities are full of life, America is drained of life..." Cultural difference. In Europe, people of means live in the city centers and the poor live in the suburbs. Most of the Islamic minority in France live in two suburbs of Paris. The same in Sweden and England.

(That is why, just to use one Brady Bunch statistic, London had 64 firearm homicides in 2004 while New York City had nearly 400. If you include the suburbs, the homicides are the same.)

Anonymous :

Michael A. Thomas :
...Spend a week in Paris (or any other major city) then spend a week in Detroit, St. Louis, Memphis, El Paso, Buffalo, Birmingham etc. and you'll soon realise where the decline is. While France and it's cities are full of life, America is drained of life, but bloated in body. ...

That is an interesting point. I should note that from an economic prospective this all makes sense as many US citizens live outside of cities. It is a suburban country. There is simply a lot more space here then in Europe and instead of paying higher city prices many people start out in the suburbs where it is cheaper. Lots of those people enjoy lower rents and access to the city life, all without being forced to prop up someone's investment property. Why should people who get there first ride up the market and squeeze people moving in later?

If you look at any information on aging suburbs and the 100 hottest zip codes you will find that we are in fact laying down foundations for new cities. While most will probably stay suburbs a few are making the transition already. I do think Bush is incompetent, but I'd hardly malign an entire country because you have an intolerance for other people's way of life. Quite a lot of immigrants these days are skipping the cities too and moving directly into the suburbs and exurbs. I don't know why everyone is convinced that places that are ussually considered swing areas have deep political convictions. Some do, most are just places to live with slightly more affordable rents as we don't all have trust funds.

Is your complaint that not all people consider cities worth the expense? While a lot of younger people like living in cities the urban schools in the US tend to be horrible. They tend to lose middle class families who don't want to bankrupt themselves paying for private school. Its why DC has had so much trouble retaining a tax base. If you fix the schools, people will follow. =)

Erica in Virginia :

Isn't that a bit melodramatic? I swear. The media culture and politicians just get off on stirring up controvery. The French have done a lot to at least begin addressing their problems with their immigrants and vice versa but politics are hard, give them a break. At least they kept Le Penn out of the running this time what a nut! (This is fair and is not in any way letting them off the hook, most politicians regardless of country should be watched but allow them a chance first)

[tom] if you really believe that everyone supports the whole non-sense with freedom fries you're an idiot. Just because you found someone stupid enough to believe the hype doesn't mean much. Statistically half of the human population is going to be of below average intelligence and possibly even below average education level, get over it. As much as 1/6th of the population will be statistically significantly dumber or less educated then average!! (Some both). Chances are if you decided to skimp on the cost of housing, you might live with people who aren't all well educated. That's how the people are divided these days. If you bought an expensive house you might live with wealthy snobs... etc.

If you don't like the people around you move somewhere else, its a big country and lots of people do that instead of whining. Have you heard of the housing boom? I'm sure you could find somewhere you like in the country given that there are 300 million people here and a lot of regions to choose from. It's not like the country doesn't stretch over 5 time zones or anything, why do you need to like everyone? Why should they all like you? Why do you seem to find it so difficult to deal with people who are different from you? Probably 40-50% of the country considers themselves to be moderate, so why can't you get along with them if they are willing to get along with you?

Besides I found Paris lovely, California was lovely too, DC is my home and I'm sure there are lots of nice places with cool people to visit. I don't know why everyone wants to be a troll. It's just not cool anymore.

Jerry :

I hope the next French president will promise not to blow up any more GreenPeace boats in New Zealand harbors...

MikeB :

I keep noting further posts about Amercian gun and other violence and have decided to answer one incorrect perception. America IS NOT a violent country. In fact, you are nearly three times more likely to be the victim of a violent crime if you live in England or France or Wales or much of Europe (5.7% vs. 1.9%). In terms of gun violence, I cannot fathom, nor tolerate, the whacked out Brady Bunch statistic of 11,000 homicides per year. Go to the Department Of Justice web site. The acual number is 5,200 AND THAT INCLUDES POLICE SHOOTINGS.

I wrote a "Swiftian" answer to an editorial on the Post and the humorless morons in the editorial department deleted it. So I wrote it again, for the heck of it and they deleted it again. They have now done this six times. David and Fareed, tell these bozo's that this is their future. You know the old story of the Nazi's "...when they came for the Catholics I said nothing because I was not a Catholic...when they came for me there was nobody left."

The Post's coverage of the Virginia Tech tragedy and discussions of what we could do to prevent something like it happening again have prompted this. Your presentation has been to emphasize the the gun. Now, there are an estimated 193 million guns in this country. They have been here since the first days of this country and nothing like this has ever happened before. No, what is missing is the role of the press. The press, both print and television coverage of this troubled and twisted man and people like him has been repeatedly shown to cause copycats. Mr. Cho even left notes about his hero worshipping the killers at Columbine and he wouldn't have even known about that if the press had not reported so extensively about it, whole websites, like that of the Brady Bunch, are devoted to the killers and their victims. So, government press censorship would go a long ways towards preventing future problems of all sorts. The argument has been made hat press coverage of the war Iraq has led to increased violence and bloodshed. Who would doubt that the suicide bombers and other terrorists in Iraq are not playing to the American voting public? Ban an reporting of these events, censor any press coverage and these atrocities would soon disappear. Also, violent video games and books and movies are a cause. We should emulate our European neighbors in banning them. At the same time, we should emulate every other industrialized country and allow for indefinite imprisonment of anyone who might pose a danger to society or themselves. Taking this one step further, protests, such as those against the world bank, have resulted in millions of dollars of property damage and people have been injured or killed as a result. So, we ought to prohibit any future protests or even public gatherings that might result in protests. If we all truly want a safe and secure society, we ought to all be willing to sacrifice all of the Bill Of Rights and not just the Second Amendment.

This is cynacism. The fact that something like this was censored by the Post is the reason we will not outlive France. The very fact that nutcases like the Brady Bunch can have their outright lies distributed and believed is reason to doubt our ability or our suitability for survival. But, and you can depend upon it, the Nazi's of the Brady and like movements will be howling after your heads, after the First Amendment, after the right to protest and gather, after the right to a fair trial before imprisonment, once they have suceeded in their "reasonable" gun controls.

Canadian Anglophile :

EIGHTY FIVE PERCENT VOTER TURNOUT IN FRANCE. Until you can match that, methinks a respectful silence on things French should be the order of the day. Now, that is a real evidence of a great Democracy.

Sean :

I am sick of this sort of ignorant, kneejerk Francophobia. I have just read that infant mortality--a problem associated with the Third World--has sharply risen in the southern United States in the past decade, in part because so many of our mothers are becoming so obese. This is only one dimension of the direction a country is heading in, but it adds to my belief that we're in no position to judge France.

Sean :

I have just read that infant mortality--a problem associated with the Third World--has sharply risen in the southern United States in the past decade, in part because so many of our mothers are becoming so obese. This is only one dimension of the direction a country is heading in, but it adds to my belief that we're in no position to judge France.

Hugo, Johannesburg :

France is incapable of declining; it has a strong culture, strong values, and a strong people much aware of their role in shaping the history of the Western world and proud of their continued influence on what is regarded "as civilised" the world over. The US, with it's enfeebled culture and (mostly)ignorant population - and despite it's reputation as the world's only superpower - is most definitely (already) in decline

Hugo, Johannesburg :

France is incapable of declining; it has a strong culture, strong values, and a strong people much aware of their role in shaping the history of the Western world and proud of their continued influence on what is regarded "as civilised" the world over. The US, with it's enfeebled culture and (mostly)ignorant population - and despite it's reputation as the world's only superpower - is most definitely (already) in decline

Michael A. Thomas :

The audacity of such a question from an American newspaper..Look in the mirror and pose the same question. Spend a week in Paris (or any other major city) then spend a week in Detroit, St. Louis, Memphis, El Paso, Buffalo, Birmingham etc. and you'll soon realise where the decline is. While France and it's cities are full of life, America is drained of life, but bloated in body. Its spirit is broken by this awful invented war and the nation is fractured by the current incompetence of GWBush and Co. America, wake up and look in the mirror before you attempt to analyse or dissect la belle France.

Hugo, Johannesburg :

France is incapable of declining; it has a strong culture, strong values, and a strong people much aware of their role in shaping the history and their continued influence on the culture of the Western world. The US, with it's enfeebled culture and (mostly)ignorant population - and despite it's reputation as the world's only superpower - is most definitely (already) in decline

Anon :

the reactions here are hilarious. francophiles cannot believe that anyone in the US would have the audacity to question them or their government!

George :

US doomed to decline? I think it's over.

George :

US doomed to decline? I think so.

Tom :

Xenophobia alive and well in the land of freedom fries. Last country on earth that should be wondering about the survival of other countries. Our dollar is worth little against the English pound and Euro. Our military is broken. We export jobs overseas. We are at war, and will be at war for the foreseeable future. We lock people up for years, torture them, and then marvel at the fact they confess to numerous crimes. Forty of fifty million citizens have no health insurance. Yes, we certainly should tell the rest of the planet how to manage their affairs.

Anonymous in Texas :

You know what? Instead of always automatically bash everything French, like many people tend to do in America, think, wouldn't we be better off today had George W. Bush listened to Jac Chirac rather than Tony Blair five years ago?

I had no connection to France whatsoever. But I believe in multiculturism where we pick the best features in all cultures.

Marc Porter :

Ironically the French press asked if America was doomed to decline, and it is often a discussion at dinner parties here in Paris, during the last US presidential election.

David Ignatius must be getting his own back!

Fleur de Lys :

Amusing how many people here want France to change...

Why not tell us what precise changes you favour, instead of repeating the same generalizations one hears mostly from ideologues? Hence, we might learn something.

As we don't mind learning, thanks in advance.

Anonymous in D.C. :

As usual Fareed Zakaria (can hardly contain his need to bash anything from France and his continued xenophobia re French policy helped fuel the lead up here in America for the U.S. to go to war with Iraq (which he highly supported). The thought that Chirac could actually make sense when he said to Bush "Don't do it, it's a mistake," went right over Fareed Zakaria's sense of justice and idealism.

Paris calling :

Just another election. We've seen it all, just as the US and most other countries have. France is absolutely not in decline, even though a lot of people would like to believe that, or at least use the idea in election rhetoric.

France will never become similar to the UK or the US, even though some of you believe that it is the only road to success. There are other ways to live, and you should appreciate the fact that other countries are exploring them.

Edward Allen :

A TRULY DUMB AND PUERILE QUESTION. You are insulting the intellecutal abilities of your readers, most of whom have a general understanding French politics.

P J Tramdack :

I think the manner in which the question is posed is amusing. In their mini-revolt last year, the young people of France said no to American style global capitalism, and why not? Are not WE the ones who are doomed? Over 2,000,000 Americans are in prison, more than in any other country. We are 43rd in infant mortality, behind such powerhouses as Cuba. The average American has saved something like $50,000 toward retirement, just as pensions are going by the wayside. We manage to kill each other with guns at the rate of 11,000 per year, about 30 a day, every day. Apparently, the tragedy of the Blacksburg massacre is that the shooter killed an entire day's average all at once and in the same place. France? France is doing just fine. I would gladly trade 50 of our billionaires in exchange for France's problems. PJT

Jeffrey Harris :

The headline on this piece reveals, sadly, the limited worldview of Americans--whose country is not even 400 years old----in general and the utter decline of the WaPo as a serious newspaper.

In fact, the death of France as a nation has been widely and wildly exaggerated by monolingual English speakers who, if they visit the place, eat in cafes and visit museums, but don't talk to people, read, or watch TV.

Wakey wakey. Human civilization in France goes back to prehistoric times. France is presently the world's 6th largest economy (something they manage with 60 M people), and if you go back some centuries to before the US existed, it and Britain were neck and neck as the world's superpowers. And in the last couple years, its economic growth rate has equalled or betered that of the UK.

That said, reforms adn re-thinking are indeed needed to overcome an appalling rate of youth unemployment and underemployment in general.

The present elections present a refreshing break with the recent past. For starters, the biographies of the three leading candidates Sarkosy, Royal, and Bayrou all present compelling stories of talented people determined to overcome obstacles: desertion of the father in two families, death of the father in the third; academic challenges, the opposition of established party leaders, and so on. The kind of stuff that is pure gold in developing a presidential campaign in the US.

This factor, plus a new generation not beholden to the difficult past of WWII and its aftermath, has stimulated political life in France and attracted a record turnout at the polls.

The first round gave victory to Sarko and and Sego, two unorthodox standard bearers of the centre right and left, neither of whom is an heir to the established leadership of these main parties. The swing vote that will decide who is President lies with the supporters of centrist Francois Bayrou.

So the second round will not be "classic left vs right", as the mainstream US media has said in its headlines, but instead will be decided by the moderates, the independents. The likely result, whoever the actual President is, is a more pragmatic government with broader support than has been seen in France in decades.

Americans should be so lucky. This is a lot like how US elections used to be, before the divide and smear campaigns of the Banana Republicans who now cling to power--just---in Washington.

Sincerely

JHH

Vic van Meter :

In the Youtube generation, it's all about your wording. Here we have everyone arguing about what the Post's bias is on the question because they use scary words like doom. Fine, rephrase it. "With both remaining French presidential candidates advocating serious change, which is best equipped to handle France's growing concerns?" Feel better?

To the question at hand, I'm amazed at how much the French rhetoric in this election resembles one of ours in the States. Everyone advocating major change one way or the other, nobody getting into the gritty details. Sure, you'd love to fix the welfare state. That means either there has to be more money or less benefits or less people. All of those are sacrifices, and not in a long time have I heard people advocating sacrifices. None of the presidential candidates has some kind of wonder-serum for France's ills. That's because there just isn't one.

France isn't encountering any NEW problems with the possible exception of their growing Muslim populations and how to deal with those issues. The balancing act between social philanthropy and hardline conservatism are ongoing. The answer is obviously a move in the corporate direction at the expense of several government programs. The question both are posing is how much do you cut. Sarkozy seems a little more knowledgeable on the subject.

Still, I'd caution voting for him as well. French Nationalism is a sort of pride, but if it goes to far, you could see it become like American Nationalism. If Sarkozy is elected, his movements to re-France France might trample a lot of social rights. If you vote Sarkozy, make sure he realizes how big your stick is. People tend to cower in fear from governments. That's nonesense. We have more people.

MikeB :

What a stupid question! How many of those blathering about this have even been to France? The French are the most disorganized collection of artistic temperment people on the globe...and they are glorious, have a wonderful culture, a beautiful country and rich history and present and future. If you think the French are going anywhere, you're just plain being silly. They will adapt. They are better at changing and adapting than anyone in Europe. It isn't ever pretty, and it isn't ever planned, but adapt they do. In the end it wont matter who becomes president, but my bet is on the "conservatives" because the French are pretty fed up with the immigration mess and want them gone; especially the Islamic ones. The same thing happened in Denmark as a backlash to the Islamic nutcases that harrassed tourists and upset the Danish people - they cancelled their visa's and residency permits and shipped 'em out. I expect that to happen in France, too.

A "conservative" in Europe is not the same thing as a "conservative" in the U.S. A European conservative stands for nationalism and national and cultural identity. Most are opposed to globalization, whereas the liberals support it.

Conor Lynch - Montreal :

The great continental philosophers, many of whom were produced by the much lauded French system of higher education, are all dead. The socialist policies of big government, restrictive labour laws, and national champions, has stifled the nations economic growth. Without new jobs coming on line, it has been impossible to absorb the influx of immigrants that France has experienced, resulting in mass unrest and ghetto-ification. Furthermore, in terms of foreign policy, the initial driver of the European Union has lost it's position at the helm of the enterprise, having failed to ratify the EU constitution, cedeing the honour to Germany. The Euro, for example, is practically the deutsch mark in more broadly continental clothing. Influence in Africa, the Middle East, and former colonies specifically, has dwindled to virtually nil.

So, is France a power in decline? No. It is a power that has declined. Is it doomed? Also no.

France has the opportunity, with this election, to choose a new future for itself. For one thing, none of the major candidates styled themselves as a 'Gaulist', a radical development with no post war precedent. The message should be clear; the political leaders of France understand that the system is broken and have the courage to fix it.

The process will certainly be painful, as every renaissance must be, but the French Republic will emerge stronger and prouder for it.

SRA :

Is France doomed?

Not nearly as much as the Washington Post it seems. Ever since Fred Hiatt became editorial page editor the newspaper has sunk like the Titanic. If I wanted neocon toilet paper I'd subscribe to the Washington Times. Loaded questions like this parody Fox News to perfection. It's simply amazing how far the Post has fallen.

Joseph :

The question is a demonstration of the Washington Post's continuing disregard for France and the French in general....recall the petty anti-French stories galore after the French declined to join us in our Iraqi disaster. In fact the Post continues to exhibit a generally anti-Europe posture as the Europeans, along with the majority of Americans, do not consider our middle east posture to be a constructive one.

Fleur de Lys, Canada :

On a lighter note (for the readers who may find that of interest...) A French in LA's note reminded me that according to Radio Canada's international news, most French voters in the US voted for Sarkozy ("someone strong"...?), while most French voters in Québec (Canada) voted for Ségolène Royal.

Does this point to anything significant concerning the US and Québec, respectively? That is a question for the readers to assess...

To help people decide, if my memory serves me right, most French voters in Germany voted... for Ségolène.

Alexandre in NY :

Strikingly, in contemplating my vote this weekend and having lived in the US for 20 years, i found myself struggling to find material differences between the candidates when their proposed plans are put in an extra-national global context.

while bayrou was my choice and that of the upper class "cadres" and french bobo (bourgeois boheme as in the bohemian wealthy), it was more out of idealism than actual real expectations.

in fine, the choice will likely be made on character grounds, at least for me. and surprisingly, while i find sarkozy's personality unlikeable, i will probably buy into the idea that he is more likely to effect change than segolene who has shown very little resolve and independant thinking. france needs adaptive change, respectful of its identity and the place it can potentially occupy in the world based upon its cultural, engineering and educational qualifications. i wish a more charismatic leader could be entrusted with that brief, but sarkozy will have to do. he may surprise us and mature into thoughfulness and empathy yet keep a desire to restructure france. both are historically unlikely.

Frank :

WHAT ARROGANCE! Are we supposed to look on France with pity while our own government is a FARCE? Wow. We are DOOMING ourselves in the US, and I am PRAYING that in 2008 a wave SANITY washes across our voting public. But, with six years of No Child Left Behind and plenty of voting-age Red State Idiots, I will not hold my breath for an educated electorate. VIVA LA VERITE!

Bob G. :

There will always be a France to entice, delight and illuminate the rest of the world. French culture has staying power. I am more concerned about the Culture of Death in the United States, which manifests itself as suicidal "staying the course" policies, hard-headedness about social issues, and a failure to learn about past mistakes, resulting in casualties in morally-wrong wars, and massacres here at home. The U.S. has a lot to learn from French and other world-cultures about the preservation and nurturing of life and resources.

Anonymous :

How about: "Does it matter who the next US president is?" Not really. But France is different. The French are different. Anyway, the conflicts in France will be the same.

someone :

So, does having a large number of citizens below the poverty level and without access to health care or higher education and being one check away from homelessness make the US great?

a French in LA :

I voted this week-end and I too hope Sarkozy becomes the next President. France needs a leader, someone strong who can change things and motivate the French to follow. Royal does not have the "Shoulders" to be a President. Just listening to her speech after the election Sunday make you wonder what kind of President she would be. She has no expression, she does not talk with the heart.

Sarkozy has to continue what he started. Focus on his plan, not attack but gather and motivate the French, be more relaxed and confident. I believe he will win.

a French in LA :

I voted this week-end and I too hope Sarkozy becomes the next President. France needs a leader, someone strong who can change things and motivate the French to follow. Royal does not have the "Shoulders" to be a President. Just listening to her speech after the election Sunday make you wonder what kind of President she would be. She has no expression, she does not talk with the heart.

Sarkozy has to continue what he started. Focus on his plan, not attack but gather and motivate the French, be more relaxed and confident. I believe he will win.

Fleur de Lys, Canada :

What a question! How about: "Does it matter who the next US president is, or is the US doomed to decline?", as a reality check?...

France is a wonderful country, with model institutions and much culture, including amongst people of modest means.

After WWII, France has shown strong leadership in leading a whole continent to unite, work towards common objectives and develop anew, all that in a reasonably civilized manner.

France is a prosperous country, with much to offer in leading edge technology.

Since the end of decolonization, France has played a leading role throughout the world, through the francophonie proper and other associated nations. The French language is still present in many countries, and flourishing in many parts of the world.

I believe France (it is not alone in this!...) lacks, at present, candidates for leadership who would embody "une certaine idée de la France" (de Gaulle), which would include, above all, what one calls "grandeur", more particularly "la grandeur de la France". Like other countries, France suffers terribly from cheap, low-level party politics.

France is an older country. It will be saved by its traditionally humanistic values, by humanism. I am confident the smiling, more relaxed new generation will see to it that France thrives. French youth is eager to contribute and beautiful to watch.

D. Hodara :

It is indeed very important that the new president be Nicolas Sarkosy, because the programme he presented contains a number of items to correct numerous problems which the socialists' candidate will never have the courage and will to change. Some very old socila policies, which started in 1945, have created some of the most generous social benefits. However, they have never been adapted to the changes which have been experienced by the world whether economic, financial or political. Sarkosy is certainly willing to try, so he must be given a chance. Instead of accepting the democratic decision of the probable election of Sarkosy, the left and trade unions are already promising to have enormous demonstrations in the street if he is elected!!!
It is not easy to govern France.

anon. in oxon hill :

This is a loaded question--'doomed to decline'. A much better question is what are the implications of this destiny to fail in the context of the "war on terrror"? For most Americans, the only real interest they have in the matter of French elections is not the novelty of a woman leader, but concerns much more the immigration question and the internal debate within that EU country of what to do about the radical elements of France's well formed multi-culturialism, in light of middle east tensions and reality. The neo-cons in the U.S. believe the entire dialog supports Bush's view of things. simply stated, if we don't want to end up like the French we had better follow Bush doctrine.

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PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions.