Day: November 5, 2007

Sarkozy on War and Diplomacy

In his first major foreign policy speech, made at the Fifteenth Ambassadors’ Conference back on August 27, France’s new President Nicolas Sarkozy created shockwaves when he said that an Iran with nuclear weapons was unacceptable, and warned that Iran could be attacked militarily if it didn’t meet its international obligations to curb its nuclear program. What many commmentators seemed to ignore at the time is that these remarks were made within the context of a speech that was devoted almost exclusively to the possibilities and imperatives of the diplomatic resolution of crises throughout the globe – in particular the confrontation beween the West and radical Islam. The speech needs to be read in that light, for it is an important contribution to the debate. And it doesn’t underestimate the gravity of the threat:

There’s no point in waffling: this confrontation is being called for by extremist groups such as al-Qaida that dream of establishing a caliphate from Indonesia to Nigeria, rejecting all openness, all modernity, every hint of diversity. If these forces were to achieve their sinister objective, it is certain that the twenty-first century would be even worse than the last one, itself marked by merciless confrontation between ideologies.

The Last Anarchists

The Norwegian literary magazine Vinduet is celebrating its 60th birthday. The anniversary issue contains a number of items of interest, including a profile of the Swedish Academy’s director Horace Engdahl, who is interviewed by Christian Kjelstrup. The Swedish Academy is, of course, best known for its annual awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and Kjelstrup has some searching questions for the director, who is also the Nobel Committee’s permanent secretary. At one point in a slightly defensive explanation of the Committee’s work, Engdahl claims of himself and the committe members that “we are the last anarchists” – presumably in order to suggest an independence of thought and selection that is removed from current trends and fashions in literary taste.

Kjelstrup is not afraid to point out, however, that one major author who failed to receive the Nobel award was turned down on the grounds of his “anarchism”. He was Lev Tolstoy.

Labels: , , ,