Conrad Black sizes up the two main presidential candidates in France's upcoming spring election, and gives a (reluctant?) nod to the UMP candidate, Nicholas Sarkozy.
In this article in Canada's national newspaper, the National Post, Black frames his choice with a good summary of the scope of Europe's current challenges:
Europe is in a torpid dyspepsia, with a shrinking population, and the problems of trying to replace the unborn with immigrants, many of them enemies of the venerable cultures of Europe. Even today, scores of automobiles are burned almost every night in France by disaffected Muslims, a practice that the French, with their often admirable, shrugging, sangfroid, officially ignore.
The dream of European integration and federalism has collapsed. The Western Alliance, largely because of a vacuum where American leadership existed under Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan and the elder Bush, has gone from a coherent association to a coalition of the willing, to a slovenly group of countries that will accept an American security guaranty, but do nothing in return for it.
The social democratic model for Europe's main economies, except for Britain, has produced a high unemployment/minimal job creation recipe for stagnation. The bold Euro dream of challenging the United States for world leadership has withered even more abruptly, and less remediably, than the prestige of the United States. China, India, Japan and even Russia advance in the esteem of the world while the West wallows.
This could be a decisive moment in the current history of Europe. Only the French can lead Europe out of its despondency. The British are respected but are not considered European, by the Europeans or by themselves. The Italians are liked but not taken seriously politically. Germany is self-conscious, and it has no panache to lead. Historically, Germany has had only the crudest methods for leading Europe. Only France has the material importance, political credibility, and flare and style to lead Europe, but not try to dominate it. The continent awaits leadership and the French never doubt their aptitude to provide it. Royal makes a splendid advertisement for liberated motherhood, but Sarkozy should win the presidency. He could be only the third French leader since Napoleon, after Clemenceau and de Gaulle, to change Europe. His continent needs him.
[image courtesy of http://www.discosarko.com/, the website built by Sarkozy's campaign team to persuade the youth of France into arriving at the same conclusion as Lord Black]