December 12th, 2013
12:20 PM ET

What I'm reading: France's aggressive liberalism

By Fareed Zakaria

“The most remarkable thing about the diversification of Turkey is that it happened under a socially conservative Islamist,” writes Christopher de Bellaigue in the New York Review of Books. “When Erdoğan became prime minister, the question being asked was whether this highly effective and popular leader would use his new authority to impose an Islamist vision. As the 2000s wore on and the economy grew by an average of 5 percent a year, attracting some $100 billion in foreign investment, Erdoğan felt able to voice a different kind of aspiration: to regional leadership and a level of prestige that Turks had not enjoyed since the Ottoman heyday.”


“The substantial gains of the left on cultural and social issues and recent electoral victories in New York and Boston have created a misleading perception among liberals that the country is moving in the same direction on economic issues,” argues Thomas Edsall in the New York Times. “That is not the case: an ethos of self-reliance and individual responsibility continues, as it has for the past 237 years, to grip the American imagination. A switch to an ideology founded on redistribution, with economic justice as its core principle, would require a major upheaval, the likes of which we have not seen for some time.”


“It is clear why Hollande, so desperately unsuccessful at home, might go in search of monsters to destroy abroad,” writes Freddy Gray in The Spectator. “His approval rating hit a new low of just 15 per cent last month, and Standard & Poor’s recently downgraded France’s economy again from AA+ to AA. Perhaps a quick and decisive win in the Central African Republic will give the French President a little boost ahead of 2014.”

“But this new bellicosity is bigger than mere political concerns or any wish for France to be the ‘gendarme d’Afrique’. Under President Sarkozy and now under Hollande, the French have moved away from the hard-headed realism of De Gaulle, Mitterrand and Chirac towards a more aggressively liberal outlook.”


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soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    François Hollande's record low approval rating is one thing, France's historic tie to certain parts of Africa is another, that explains why it wants to be the "gendarme" of the region. Despite independence some of France's former colonies still look to Paris for help, especially, when it comes to combat Islamism. France still has some citizens living in the region for generations.

    December 14, 2013 at 11:28 am |
  2. j. von hettlingen

    Turkey's economy was in poor shape and close to collapse. A tough recovery programme was agreed with the IMF in 2002. The austerity measures imposed then helped Turkey survive the global financial crisis better than many other countries in 2008.
    Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, and put him on course to become the most successful leader in Turkey's democratic history.

    December 14, 2013 at 11:45 am |

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