It sure looks that way.
The news that France has suffered another death in Afghanistan is allowing socialists to push hard for a rapid and complete withdrawal of all military from the country. And as TIME magazine reports, with French voters going to the polls next year, the argument to end involvement in Afghanistan is gaining traction.
On Sunday, Socialist officials responded to news of the 74th French soldier killed in Afghanistan with calls for rapid withdrawal of France's 4,000-odd contingent from the country, and a wider “change of strategy” in a conflict they suggested has dragged on too long and is accomplishing little. Members of President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling conservative party derided the declarations as “political opportunism” seeking to exploit the death of another French soldier for a few summer time sound bites. And they may be.
Yet with support of the mission in both Afghanistan and Libya now waning among voters, any Socialist cynicism that may have been involved also seems to be rooted in significant public impatience with foreign entanglements--and therefore potentially influential with election-minded policy makers.If Mr. Sarkozy appears determined to finish the job in Afghanistan, he is especially resolute about remaining an ally of the rebels attempting to overthrow Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi.
It was just two weeks ago that the international media began to pick up on another political theme -- whether the French military is being stretched too thin. Such talk is especially noticed when a country also acknowledges that its domestic economy is sputtering, as France's is.
Mr. Sarkozy also has been heavily involved in conversations, most notably with German chancellor Angela Merkel, about putting an end to the financial miseries of various European nations. But those efforts are meeting with resistance on the home front; as Bloomberg notes, new poll numbers suggest the public is not comfortable with bailouts of other nations while their own economies are unsettled.
Asked if bailouts should be used again “even if they were necessary to keep the euro zone intact,” 59 percent of Germans disagreed and 20 percent agreed, according to the poll released today in London. In France, 47 percent opposed using bailouts again, versus 27 percent in favor, while the split was 65 percent to 13 percent in the U.K.
Europe’s debt crisis is also taking its toll on political leaders, the poll showed. In Germany, 75 percent of those surveyed disapprove of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s actions, while 47 percent in France disapprove of their government. The poll also showed that 58 percent of Germans want to eject Greece from the currency region, an opinion that was shared by 45 percent of French people surveyed.
“Public sentiment is overwhelmingly against any more bailouts, particularly given the rest of Europe’s anger directed at Greece, making this an increasingly combustible situation,” Michael Nardis, head of YouGov Investment Products, said in a statement. “Investors should consider putting some discount factor on the likelihood of further bailouts given the political climate.”Without question, the political climate will have some effect on what Mr. Sarkozy does; consistently, polls have shown he is trailing as next year's elections begin to loom. At the same time, he is trying to demonstrate an authority necessary to be a leader. That is a treacherous balancing act. Just ask his counterpart in the United States.