Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff at PostGlobal

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff

Germany

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff is a Senior Director at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a transatlantic public policy and grant-making foundation. He overseas the fund's policy programs. He was previously the Washington bureau chief of the German newsweekly, Die Zeit. Close.

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff

Germany

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff is a Senior Director at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a transatlantic public policy and grant-making foundation. more »

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Leadership Matters

Of course it matters how and by whom a country is led. Nothing is predetermined, in France no more than in the U.S.

Sure, America's relative economic weight is slowly declining as China and India are rising, its international standing and thus its power have tanked in the last few years. Does anybody believe America cannot recover under the right conditions and under responsible leadership? The same is true with France. Sure, she is no great power anymore. But the French have been able to leverage their power through the European Union for a long time. That has proven to be more difficult in a larger Union. But President Chirac has been painfully inept at playing the French game in Europe. He famously told the new EU members that they missed an opportunity to “shut up” when they supported the Iraq war. A new leader will not have a hard time doing better.

Economically France is going through the same funk my country, Germany, has gone through, except with a time lag. The latest phase of globalization has created structural crises in all European welfare states. The small countries have been able to adapt reasonably fast. Not so the bigger countries. Nowhere is the resistance to change stronger than in France. And nowhere in Europe do centralism and state-centered views of the economy coincide in quite the same way.

But the French are no fools. In their hearts they know what needs to be done, even if it may be inconvenient. The leading candidate for president, Nicolas Sarkozy, should win a campaign award for his honesty about what actions are necessary. In Germany, Angela Merkel nearly lost because of her honesty about the painful reforms ahead. And even though she became chancellor, she did not win a mandate for broad economic change. France is on the verge of such a mandate. So why should France be doomed to decline?

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