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A more assertive France in Africa

The world should be grateful for France's leading military roles in Libya and Ivory Coast. But the country is hardly replicating its historic role as la grande nation.

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Modesty is not the French way. But Paris demurred in claiming credit for the arrest of Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo on Monday. Not one French soldier set foot in the residence where Mr. Gbagbo was apprehended, a French commander emphasized.

Yet French helicopters hovered over the presidential residence as Gbagbo was taken into custody. French and United Nations helicopters had fired rockets on the residence and palace.

Clearly, French President Nicolas Sarkozy did not want to raise the specter of imperialism in this former French colony. But the Ivorian despot would still be defying election results and waging civil war were it not for French military intervention.

In recent weeks, the world has observed an unusually robust France in Africa. Along with London, Paris pushed for a no-fly zone in Libya, and the French flew the first sortie to protect Libyan civilians under a UN resolution. With its troops in Afghanistan, France is now more militarily active in the world than at any time since the 1950s.


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