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Cablegate: Ambassador's Meeting with Michel Rocard

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 007360


E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/25/2015


Classified By: Ambassador Craig R. Stapleton for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d

1. (C) SUMMARY: Former prime minister Michel Rocard received
Ambassador Stapleton October 24. Fresh off the early-October
publication of his new book, "If the Left Had Known," and a
recent trip to China, Rocard sees the November congress of
his Socialist Party (PS) as a historic opportunity. Offering
a historical perspective, Rocard stated that the PS, unlike
its main counterparts in Europe, has never cut itself off
completely with the ideology and politics of "rupture with
capitalism." When in power, dealing with the world as it is,
the PS has been forced to modernize. This was particularly
true during the five years (1997-2002) Lionel Jospin led the
party and government. When out of power, it is pulled back
by the romanticism of its Marxist roots. Rocard described
his historic role in the party as that of the leader of the
modernizers -- in the tradition of Jean Jaures, Leon Blum and
Pierre Mendes-France. He was hopeful that at the Le Mans
Congress in November, the Socialists would make the final
break from the past and emerge as a unified Social Democratic
Party. Rocard was reluctant to pronounce on the Socialists'
stable of presidential contenders, but was skeptical that
Jospin would emerge to rally the party to victory; too many
can not forgive him for having deserted the ship when he
abruptly announced his retirement the morning after his
defeat in the first round of the 2002 Presidential elections.
Rocard expressed the fear and loathing of Nicolas Sarkozy
that is common currency on the left. Dominique de Villepin
is a more acceptable alternative on the right -- even if he
mistakes himself for Napoleon when he is in fact Cyrano de
Bergerac. Rocard, who did not support the war in Iraq, said
that if he had been President, he would have privately
explained his views to President Bush, but then would have
remained with the U.S. Rocard, long chastised by some as "the
American in the party," pronounced anti-Americanism a
minority sentiment historically linked to the Communists and
Gaullists. He advocated a joint effort, in the form of a
European/American think-tank, to identify and address common,
emerging challenges. END SUMMARY.

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2. (C) Rocard, like former president Valery Giscard d'Estaing
(reftel), believes that French history provides the keys for
understanding French politics and France's policies.
Rocard's point of departure is France's emergence as a
nation-state. The history of other European nation-states is
that of linguistic communities serving their trade needs.
France created itself by destroying five cultures -- Breton,
Occitan, Alsatian, Corsican, and Flemish. "We are the only
European nation which is the military creation of a
non-homogeneous State. This makes France difficult to govern
to this day. This explains our difficulty in reforming, our
slowness," he said.

3. (C) The Socialist Party -- and its historic resistance to
embrace Social Democracy -- is a case in point. Rocard
contrasted the PS with European counterpart parties, noting
that in most countries, a Social Democratic party can expect
about 35 to 42 percent of the national vote. In France,
however, the PS can only count on about 18 to 22 percent,
with the Communists taking about 7 to 8 percent, and parties
of the extreme left a roughly equal number. The need to work
with the Communists, the far left -- and the unformed wing of
the PS, makes it difficult to have "feasible, realistic"
economic policies. Rocard pointed out that in the 25 EU
member states, only the PS, among the main parties of the
European left, had split (and a majority of its electorate
opposed) over the proposed Constitutional Treaty.

4. (C) Rocard stressed the importance of the upcoming
November party congress. The French media insist on focusing
on it only as it pertains to the fortunes of the would-be
Presidential candidates. While the Congress will have an
impact on individual candidacies, its significance will
depend on its success in defining the program, even the
identity of the party -- amidst debate and soul-searching
stirred up by the referendum. Rocard listed three important
questions for the party to resolve: Are we Social Democrats?
Are we Europeans? Do we admit at last that the market
economy is not only a reality, but a necessity? While he
thought it possible (and in his view essential) that the
Congress will answer each question in the affirmative, this
is not a foregone conclusion. The party leadership had taken
the right approach in deciding to address the policy issues
before proceeding to the selection of a candidate. It has
created an opportunity for the Socialist Party to finally
emerge as a modern Social Democratic Party comparable to the
SPD in Germany or Labor in Britain. Such a "clarifying
result" would represent the break from the past that Rocard
has long sought. That said, a more tepid result was possible
given the strength of the traditionalists, including those
now centered around Laurent Fabius.

5. (C) Rocard clearly did not wish to be drawn out on the
merits or demerits of the possible Socialist candidates for
the Presidency in 2007. Replying to the Ambassador's
question on how the PS could transcend its normal
18-to-22-percent electoral take (in the first round of
Presidential elections) and furnish a winning presidential
candidate, Rocard cited the need for a charismatic candidate
and an attractive platform. This winning combination would
produce a sufficiently strong showing in the first round so
as to obviate the need to negotiate with the Communists and
far left -- thereby increasing its appeal to the moderate
center in the second round.

6. (C) Noting a media effort by allies of Lionel Jospin to
position the former Prime Minister as the only figure who
could rally the fissiporous left, Rocard was skeptical.
Rocard, in a fair-minded assessment of Jospin, cited his
historic contribution of opening up the party in the
post-Mitterrand period, a modernization that was cut short by
the defeat in 2002. He cited Jospin's honesty, but saw it as
a political liability: "Jospin can't bear lying. He is a
straight and honest man -- to the point of rigidity. He
refuses to make unfillable promises to the electorate."
Despite Jospin's virtues, his abrupt departure after his
defeat in the first round of the 2002 elections was viewed by
too many in the party and among its supporters as an act of
desertion in the hour of the party's -- and country's --
greatest need. This would likely disqualify him for another
run at the Presidency.

7. (C) Rocard was more voluble when discussing the two
Presidential rivals on the right. He compared Prime Minister
Villepin favorably to Interior Minister and Union for a
Popular Movement (UMP) President Nicolas Sarkozy. Even if
Villepin had gained notice by his 2003 speech before the UN
Security Council, not a pleasant association for the U.S. it
is Sarkozy whom we should fear. Villepin "knows the limits
of power." Sarkozy, by contrast, has traveled little, has
minimal foreign language ability, and only a meager interest
in international issues. He employs a language when
addressing illegal immigrants that Rocard characterized as
'borderline racist." In short, "Sarkozy is not safe in his
respect for human rights. He's not Le Pen, but he's a danger
to the balance of the French Republic in its practice of
human rights." By contrast, Villepin shares our common
values concerning human right. In addition, "he is someone
who would never mistake those who are allies with those who
are not" (sic).

8. (C) Rocard, however, also expressed his "anger" at
Villepin for the 2003 UNSC speech, which he thought had been
counter-productive, particularly with respect to
then-Secretary Powell. "We should have been supporting
Powell; instead, Villepin pushed him into a corner." Rocard
said that if he had been President of France at the time, he
would have written a four or five page letter to President
Bush at the outset, setting forth his misgivings over a
military solution. The letter would have remained
confidential. Once the U.S. decided to proceed against Iraq,

however, he would have remained silent, and not led
international opposition as Chirac and Villepin had done.
Rocard joked that Villepin identifies with Napoleon, whereas
he is in fact more a Cyrano de Bergerac character. He is the
inheritor of a proud French oral tradition: "We like to
talk; if you want a silent partner, you should be dealing
with the Finns instead."

9. (C) Rocard emphasized to the Ambassador the importance of
not conflating the loud French anti-Americanism espoused by
the Communists and Gaullists with the pro-American sentiment
felt by most French people. "Please don't forget," he said,
"that anti-Americanism has never won a majority here." He
criticized the U.S., however, for not having listened to
"friendly" advice in the lead-up to the Iraq war. The
French, who lost two colonial wars, in Indochina and Algeria,
he said, tried to warn the U.S. that it would be unavoidable
-- "sociologically predictable" -- that the Iraqi factions
would unite against the USG. He emphasized, however, the
necessity for the U.S. to stay the course, warning that Iraq
would descend into civil war if the U.S. left before

11. (C) In response to the Ambassador's question on the
consequences for Europe of the failure of the constitutional
treaty, Rocard said he thought it "less important than many
believe, and not too important to the U.S." There is indeed
a resultant paralysis, but not of the functioning of the EU.
Rather, it has incapacitated the creative energy and
enthusiasm for the European project. "It kills the idea of a
political Europe which you (the U.S.) were afraid of, and
does not change a thing in the integrated market." He
provided his assessment that the current Administration's
support for Europe had been hesitant, and for two reasons:
concern over the possible emergence of Europe as a military
power separate from NATO/US; and, increasing conflict over
economic and commercial issues, which was an unavoidable
result of Europe's development as strong, unitary player in
the international economy.

12. (C) Rocard proposed a joint European/American think-tank,
which might fill a current gap -- a place where Europeans and
Americans can together consider the challenges of tomorrow.
Speaking of the growth of India and China, along with all the
other challenges confronting both of us, he said, "We need a
vehicle where we can find solutions for these challenges
together -- so when these monsters arrive in 10 years, we
will be able to deal with them."
Please visit Paris' Classified Website at:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm

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