Diplomacy’s odd bedfellows

Romano Prodi and George W. Bush make an unlikely pair. One wouldn’t have thought that a technocratic former professor of industrial policy and industrial organization would have hit it off with a brush-clearing, sports-loving president. To make things worse, Prodi defeated a man who used to boast about his friendship with the president. But this ...

607375_BushProdi5.jpg
607375_BushProdi5.jpg

Romano Prodi and George W. Bush make an unlikely pair. One wouldn't have thought that a technocratic former professor of industrial policy and industrial organization would have hit it off with a brush-clearing, sports-loving president. To make things worse, Prodi defeated a man who used to boast about his friendship with the president. But this unlikely double-act just tag-teamed Jacques Chirac into coughing up another 1,600 troops for the beefed up UN force in Lebanon.

Prodi strode into the breach when France made its initial offer to send only another 200, pledging a serious Italian contribution of 3,000 soldiers and letting it be known that Italy would be happy to lead the force. Soon both the Lebanese and the Israelis were expressing their approval of Italy taking command. This morning, Bush called Prodi to tell him that he had a "positive" view of Italy's offer.  

At this point, it was clear that if Chirac wanted to preserve France's special diplomatic role in Lebanon—and French leadership of UNIFIL—then he was going to have to put more boots on the ground. In his statement announcing the enhanced French commitment, Chirac noted that he had "obtained the necessary clarifications from the Untied Nations: regarding the chain of command, which must be simple, coherent and responsive; and the rules of engagement, which must ensure freedom of movement for the force and its ability to take action if faced with hostile situations." If France's dithering really has ensured a more robust command structure and rules of engagement, then everyone - not just Prodi - might have benefited from it.

Romano Prodi and George W. Bush make an unlikely pair. One wouldn’t have thought that a technocratic former professor of industrial policy and industrial organization would have hit it off with a brush-clearing, sports-loving president. To make things worse, Prodi defeated a man who used to boast about his friendship with the president. But this unlikely double-act just tag-teamed Jacques Chirac into coughing up another 1,600 troops for the beefed up UN force in Lebanon.

Prodi strode into the breach when France made its initial offer to send only another 200, pledging a serious Italian contribution of 3,000 soldiers and letting it be known that Italy would be happy to lead the force. Soon both the Lebanese and the Israelis were expressing their approval of Italy taking command. This morning, Bush called Prodi to tell him that he had a “positive” view of Italy’s offer.  

At this point, it was clear that if Chirac wanted to preserve France’s special diplomatic role in Lebanon—and French leadership of UNIFIL—then he was going to have to put more boots on the ground. In his statement announcing the enhanced French commitment, Chirac noted that he had “obtained the necessary clarifications from the Untied Nations: regarding the chain of command, which must be simple, coherent and responsive; and the rules of engagement, which must ensure freedom of movement for the force and its ability to take action if faced with hostile situations.” If France’s dithering really has ensured a more robust command structure and rules of engagement, then everyone – not just Prodi – might have benefited from it.

James Forsyth is assistant editor at Foreign Policy.

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