Nicolas Sarkozy, the newly elected President of France, who famously courted Jean Le Pen, the extreme right winger, during the campaign, has now appointed Bernard Kouchner, the anti-authoritarian founder of Doctors Without Borders, who famously approved of the US invasion of Iraq “on humanitarian grounds,” as France’s Foreign Minister (read Secretary of State.) This is roughly the equivalent of George W Bush appointing David Brower as Secretary of the Interior.

The Socialist Party of France has booted Kouchner from its ranks. The two men seem worlds apart on issues of immigration, intervention, Turkey’s relationship to Europe. As Abraham Lincoln famously demonstrated, a fractious cabinet can produce phenomenal results; perhaps it will be so here. It will be interesting to watch, and possibly be affected by, Kouchner as he begins to apply his anti-authoritarian, humanitarian interventionism ideas with the power of a major state behind him. Any reflections on his part of his early approval of the invasion of Iraq will be extremely welcome. There is no instrument quite as authoritarian as an invading army

Though we all wish something to be done to stop the slaughters in Darfur, in Kosovo, in Israel/Palestine, in Iraq…shall we go on? The rule of predictable consequences shows itself almost always. It is not particularly easy to beat people into grateful submission. How would real humanitarian intervention work? What tools and what timing, what incentives and what dissuaders? It is absolutely clear we know almost nothing about this and we’re centuries behind in learning. The examples provided by the Gandhis, Vinoba Bhaves, Danilo Dolcis, Martin Luther Kings, the Cesar Chavezes have not been taken up in large scale, or even very repetitively. Stopping trouble = aiming guns in almost every rutted road of thought. Too bad.

One wonders what kind of state the Palestinians would have today, and how many dead would still be alive, had their Gandhi emerged in 1947. One wonders how many Tutsis would be alive if the humanitarian intervention had simply been to jam hate radio, open regional councils of grievance hearing, years before the slaughters began. Maybe Bernard Kouchner is the man to help the major powers start such discussions. I would really like to hear him talk about Iraq today, however, before he begins….

NY Times Saturday Profile of Bernard Kouchner