France in an Age of Globalization by Hubert Vedrine with Dominique Moisi. Trans. by Philip H. Gordon. Washington D.C.: Brooking Institution Press, 2001. 143 p., $19.95.
This short book-perhaps better called a monograph-examines the world from France's view. The author, Hubert Vedrine was Foreign Minister of France when this book was published and is perhaps best known for his provocative phrase calling the United States a "hyperpower" (hyperpuissance in the original French). Vedrine fleshes out these arguments in this novel, through the conversation with noted international affairs scholar and journalist Dominique Moisi. Moisi is a great foil for Vedrine's classic realist perspective and the conversation is engaging and genuine.
I was particularly fascinated with how prominent the United States was in France's worldview. Few other countries (perhaps the France, the United Kingdom and Japan alone) have had empires in their recent history, yet only France shows the continuing fascination with-and ambivalence towards-the American global influence. In the pre 9/11 world when this book was written, the French arguments against invading Iraq, against foreign military incursions, against overreaction to global terrorism, were already all present. Vedrine paints France as the best of friends with the United States; as a best friend, France feels compelled to dissuade the US from engaging in its more irrational pursuits.
The Foreign Minister walks a fine line, trying to argue against French defeatism and resignation with a future that does not match the past while suggesting that France has something unique and special to offer a globalized world. Arguing against excesses, the Minister nonetheless refuses to acknowledge that realism and liberal intergovernmentalism are at times incompatible. Indeed, some of the most amusing and entertaining chapters are when Moisi, a committed international moralist, tries to corner Vedrine to acknowledge that it is no longer moral to be a realist. Vedrine swats away such suggestions, but the dilemma remains. The never-ending international relations debate continues.