IVES: Former French Ambassador Speaks and the SFS Echoes


On Thursday, September 28, the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy hosted former ambassador to France, Jane Hartley.

Ms. Hartley has a long and impressive resume that includes everything from heading international consulting firms to working for the Carter administration. Barack Obama nominated her to this post in 2014 after she raised $519,000 for his reelection effort in 2012.[1] She was then confirmed by the Senate unanimously, thereby continuing “a time-honored tradition in American politics:” the appointment of campaign fundraisers. She would hold the position for two years until the end of President Obama’s second term, after which she returned home to the US.

During her speech held at Georgetown, the former ambassador gave what was essentially an oral memoir of her time in France. This included being in Paris during both the Charlie Hebdo and the November 13th attacks. In her recollection of the attacks, Ms. Hartley toed the party line spectacularly well. Not once were the words radical Islam or even Islamist used. In a stunning display of political correctness, her first actions in the days immediately following the attacks were predictable and tired; to light up the embassy in the tricolor of France, to host interfaith religious dialogues at the embassy, including an Iftar, and to claim that these terror attacks were not representative of “diverse multicultural societies.” She went on to point out that terrorism was not the product of a poisonous ideology like Saudi-funded Wahhabist Islam, but instead a result of Western society’s failure. In fact, she described potential terrorists as “disenfranchised youths,” whom society had failed. She immediately set about conjuring a plan to help the French fight terrorism.

Basketball courts. Yes, basketball courts. The United States of America paid for several public basketball courts in the middle of the Parisian suburbs so that the “disenfranchised youths” would turn to sport instead of terrorism. As the speech moved towards Q&A, it became clear to all that this ‘unique’ policy was in no way sarcastic.

When asked if the migrant crisis was responsible for the surge in terrorism, she gave the usual line: “Of course not, there is no correlation.” An expected answer, yet she then went on to claim that France does not have a lot of immigrants and that their society is one of the most homogenous in the EU. From a United States ambassador, this answer is shocking. France has the second highest per capita and total foreign born populations in Europe. 11% of French citizens were not born in France.[2]

When queried about Marine Le Pen and populism, she demonstrated equal ignorance. As a self-proclaimed “big fan” of Emmanuel Macron, she highlighted how young people in particular were rebuffing the anti-EU movements and rallying behind the supranational organization. Once again, the data disagrees. Nearly 50% of youths cast their first ballot for either Jean Luc Melenchon or Marine Le Pen in the 2017 election, both anti-EU candidates. Le Pen in particular polled the highest among youths; one pre-election poll conducted by the Washington Post suggested she would win 40% of the 18-24 demographic.[3] These numbers may seem unimportant, but Ms. Hartley acted as the face of the United States in France for two years. For her alleged “depth of knowledge of French political and economic policies,” she was, at the very least, poorly informed on the topic of French politics. However, this is not entirely unsurprising considering her French has been described as “conversational.”[4]

It was a speech of incorrect facts, of neoliberal feel-good policy, and of cultural Marxism that only the SFS could host. Ms. Hartley spoke of the nervousness she felt when accepting the ambassadorship. Former ambassadors to France include Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and Sargent Shriver. This is truly a list of political heavyweights. The event ended with our hosts commending Ms. Hartley on a speech well spoken and an ambassadorship that her predecessors would be proud of. A year onwards, nothing has changed: Marseille (10.01.2017), Paris (08.09.2017), Lot-et-Garonne (06.18.2017), Paris (04.20.2017), Paris (03.17-18.2017). Terror continues to plague France. The government cannot protect its citizens. Yet here, in the SFS, we vacillate and compare basketball courts and an Iftar to the great works of Jefferson and Franklin.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/07/world/europe/obama-nominates-ambassadors-to-france-and-ireland-jane-hartley-kevin-omalley.html?_r=0

[2] https://web.archive.org/web/20120128101046/http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_OFFPUB/KS-SF-11-034/EN/KS-SF-11-034-EN.PDF

[3] http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/world/2017/04/19/a-youth-revolt-in-france-boosts-the-far-right/?utm_term=.8e03c240b9af

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/07/world/europe/obama-nominates-ambassadors-to-france-and-ireland-jane-hartley-kevin-omalley.html?_r=0