France is flexing its muscles in Libya, a sign of Sarkozy's international ambitions.
Whatever one’s opinion of the war in Libya, one thing is beyond debate: French President Nicolas Sarkozy is leading it. Every step of the way – from the decision to go into Libya in hopes of preventing a Bosnia-style bloodbath in Benghazi, to the escalating airstrikes on Tripoli, to the recent decision to deploy attack helicopters to strike Moammar Gadhafi’s entrenched forces – Sarkozy has been out in front. His American counterpart, on the other hand, has been “leading from behind,” in the oxymoronic phrase of an unnamed White House adviser.
This role reversal at the top of the western alliance is not particularly sitting well on either side of the Atlantic. When U.S. forces are involved, Americans want to be in the lead. (Perhaps that explains why an ABC News/Washington Post poll reveals that Americans disapprove of President Barack Obama’s handling of the Libya crisis 49 to 42 per cent.) And when NATO is involved, Europeans want Washington to lead, albeit grudgingly sometimes.