French press review 4 May 2011
What will be the fallout of Osama bin Laden's death? Is Pakistan to be trusted? Salman Rushdie writes in Le Monde. Underwater opera opens in Berlin. And the crop of trainee top bureaucrats doesn't look promising.
The press in France is not yet ready to let Osama Bin Laden rest in peace.
Le Monde's main story looks at the implications of the terrorist leader's killing, from Washington where the elimination of America's public enemy number one has enormously boosted Presidernt Barack Obama's personal popularity, to Kabul and Islamabad, where Bin Laden's death may indeed provoke a fundamentalist backlash, with consequences we can't even begin to imagine.
Le Monde also says that the supposed role played by Islamabad in tracking down and eliminating the Al Qaeda leader proves that Pakistan can finally be considered a true ally of the United States. Which is not to say that the Pakistani security services are to be 100 per cent depended upon to support US interests.
The fact that Pakistan was kept completely in the dark until Sunday's raid on Abbottabad was done and dusted is indicative of the level of American confidence in their Pakistani allies. But at least the government of Asif Ali Zardari is clearly more scared of Washington than of the Taliban hordes maurauding in the no-woman's land of the so-called tribal zones of the Hindu Kush.
By the way, the Indian-born novelist Salman Rushdie, a man who has had his own difficulties with islamic extremism in the past, says in an editorial in Libération that it may be time to call Pakistan a collaborationist state and stop the diplomatic niceties. Rushdie says the crucial element in understanding the Pakistani position is the national paranoia with regard to the nuclear neighbour, India. Having a lot of Taliban neighbours can't help either.
Popular Le Parisien wants to know why no photograph of the dead terrorist leader has been published. Was he being protected by Pakistan? And did the American special forces go into the Abbottabad operation with the intention of killing Bin Laden?
The popular daily also asks the million-dollar question: if the CIA has known Bin Laden's location for several months, why have they waited until now to take action? Could it have anything to do with the recent launch of Barack Obama's campaign for reelection in 2012?
If it has, it appears to have worked, for the moment. But a series of revenge attacks would quickly wipe out all the political gains, and most people believe Obama to be far too astute to take that sort of risk.
And now for something completely different, as they used to say on Monty Python's Flying Circus. Le Figaro reports the opening in the German capital, Berlin, of an Underwater Opera. Staged in a swimming pool, the work involves mezzo soprano and former champion swimmer, Claudia Herr, in an hour-long underwater gurgle. Claudia and the accompanying choir get to breathe, thanks to tanks of compressed air, but they don't really get to sing. There are no words, just the sort of infinitely sad sounds made by whales and dolphins. The whole lot is picked up by hydrophones (the sound detectors used in sonar systems) and then fed to pool-side loudspeakers.
The whole project took 12 years to get afloat, and will join such other artistic wonders as Marta Beckett's Death Valley Ballet, or an Argentine opera recently improvised in a shopping centre in Buenos Aires.
The future is not looking good for the top ranks of the French civil service. According to the examiners' report on the admission interviews which resulted in the choosing of the 80 students for this year's intake at the top bureaucrat training centre, the National School of Administration, the candidates were "shy, badly dressed and totally unsure of themselves". And these are people who have already had about 10 years of university education, and are absolutely the most gifted people of their generation.
When they did have opinions, say the examiners, they allowed themselves to be bullied into changing their points of view. They were incapable of bringing on-the-ground realities to bear on their assessments of political positions. And they all wore the same suits, black or dark grey for the men, navy blue for the women.
Perhaps a tap-dancing routine and a Mickey Mouse tie would do the trick for anyone thinking of going for next year's admission interview?