French Give President Sarkozy Low Approval Ratings Poll numbers in France show approximately two-thirds of people there support President Sarkozy's action in Libya. But that hasn't translated into higher approval ratings for Sarkozy as he faces an election next year. Arthur Goldhammer, of the Center for European Studies at Harvard, talks to Renee Montagne about Sarkozy's challenges at home and abroad.
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French Give President Sarkozy Low Approval Ratings

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French Give President Sarkozy Low Approval Ratings

French Give President Sarkozy Low Approval Ratings

French Give President Sarkozy Low Approval Ratings

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/135305560/135306805" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Poll numbers in France show approximately two-thirds of people there support President Sarkozy's action in Libya. But that hasn't translated into higher approval ratings for Sarkozy as he faces an election next year. Arthur Goldhammer, of the Center for European Studies at Harvard, talks to Renee Montagne about Sarkozy's challenges at home and abroad.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Good morning.

ARTHUR GOLDHAMMER: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: You recently wrote about these forays into conflict in Foreign Policy Magazine and you called them Sarkozy's misguided quest for glory. What exactly did you mean by that?

GOLDHAMMER: Well, my point was that Sarkozy is a president who has a flare for sensing the mood of the French public. And I think he saw an opportunity here possibly to improve his ratings with the French electorate. He's always had an appetite for risk in his career. And I think before other Western leaders are ready to take the plunge in Libya, Sarkozy saw an opportunity - a risky one to be sure - but one that he was willing to run.

MONTAGNE: Is it, in your opinion, just about scoring political points? Is there not a deeper and maybe more historic quest that Sarkozy is on?

GOLDHAMMER: So historically, it has had close ties to Libya. And the Ivory Coast, where it has intervened most recently, has been considered part of France's backyard; it was part of French Africa for many years. France has had troops there on the ground, as had the U.N. for some time, and has been very patient in allowing the situation to develop since the November elections. This was not a case of impulsive action; it was a much more deliberate and an considered decision, in my opinion.

MONTAGNE: When it came though to Libya, Sarkozy had developed quite a cozy relationship with Moammar Gadhafi. How did that influence or not his support for the rebels?

GOLDHAMMER: Later, about six months later in December of 2007, invited Gadhafi to come to Paris, where Gadhafi's behavior was erratic enough to make this invitation laughable in the eyes of the French public. He pitched his tent in the courtyard of a fancy Paris hotel and he gave a rather bizarre interview on French television.

MONTAGNE: I'm wondering beyond France how might this more muscular position on the part of Sarkozy - representing France - how might that affect his standing on the world stage?

GOLDHAMMER: Well, I think that it's been helpful in relations with the United States because France was willing to take a leading role, where the United States was reluctant to become so directly involved in Libya. The French involvement in Ivory Coast has alleviated the need for any U.S. involvement there. And the European Union however, French objectivism has cut two ways. It's brought France closer to the United Kingdom under David Cameron, because Cameron shared Sarkozy's desire to become involved in Libya. But it's complicated relations with Angela Merkel in Germany, because she was reluctant to become involved.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

GOLDHAMMER: Thank you for having me.

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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