Just another Gaullist day in the Arab world

December 26, 2010

The Syria Accountability Act prohibits Americans from doing business in Syria, but the French are under no such compulsion.  France has just plopped another 30 million euros into Syria, but that’s just a teensy example of the ongoing French approach to the region.  From ANSAmed via Gates of Vienna:

ROME, DECEMBER 21 — A financial package worth thirty million euros has been announced by the French Cooperation Agency as aid to Syria for a project to improve water infrastructure in the Damascus area. According to the Italian Foreign Trade Commission in Damascus, the loan will be used for improving the water distribution network in the outskirts of the city — an area inhabited by 34,000 people.

In a BBC piece a few years ago, Allan Little described the differences between U.S. and French policies in Syria this way:

…The difference is the difference between idealism and pragmatism.

America wants to topple anti-western dictators; France wants to work with them in the hope that they will become less anti-western.

America believes it can introduce democracy to the Arab world; France is pleased when it manages to introduce ATMs to its banking system.

Each – in separate ways – is trying to re-shape the Arab world in its own image – and bend the Arab world to its own needs.

The Arab world – you sense – has different plans altogether.

One problem with aid and investments to rogue states with piss poor accounting systems is that all the money is fungible.  The authoritarian bureaucrats can move money behind the scenes to other projects they deem more worthwhile (like destroying Israel).  C’est la vie.

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