Socialist Party and its Communist alliesrnhad swept into power, contained no lessrnthan 102 projects which this shortlivedrnmesalliance of left-wing rivalsrnpledged itself to carry out. Even arnsocialist Napoleon could not have carriedrnout anything so outlandishly ambitiousrnin such a short span of time.rnWhen in 1986 a right-wing coalitionrnwon the parliamentary elections andrnJacques Chirac was appointed primernminister for a second time, his Caullistrnparty’s leading philosopher, Jean-MariernBenoist, warned that if the new governmentrndidn’t push through an urgent programrnof reforms within the first 100 days,rnit would lose its initial elan and soon bogrndown in a quagmire of bureaucraticrnsloth and institutional paralvsis. Therncombined forces of left-wing conservatismrn—a solidly entrenched bureaucracy,rnworkers always prepared to go onrnstrike for higher pay and shorter workingrnhours, and a huge masse de manoeuvre ofrnlycee and university students ever readyrnto demonstrate on Paris streets andrnboulevards in favor of free education, exanilessrnadmission to universities, andrnpainlessly obtained degrees—would inevitablyrnparalyze all efforts at radicalrnreform. This is exactly what happenedrnduring the next two years of cohabitationalrnstalemate presided over by a mulishrnpresident of the Republic (FrangoisrnMitterrand) and an increasingly hamstrungrnand frustrated prime ministerrn(Jacques Chirac).rnIf there was less talk of the need for arn100-day “breakthrough” when France’srnright-wing parties returned to powerrnwith a crushing parliamentary majorityrnin 1993, it was because the prime ministerrnchosen by President Mitterrand,rnEdouard Balladur, was the very prototypernof a French “organization man,”rna pliant advocate of “consensus” andrn”peaceful coexistence,” cautiously committedrnto not rocking the boat. (Thatrnsuch an uninspiring and visibly self-satisfiedrnnonentity—a “post-modern homornnovus for a tired people,” as the Italianrnjournalist, Barbara Spinelli, aptly describedrnhim in the Turin newspaper LarnStampa—could for most of his two-yearrntenure have enjoyed such incrediblernpopularity in successive polls offersrnproof, if one wanted it, of how shallowrnand undiscerning “public opinion” canrnbe, in France as elsewhere.)rnIn May 1995, when Jacques Chiracrnfinally achieved his political ambition byrnsucceeding his old enemy, Frangois Mitterrand,rnas the fifth president of the FifthrnRepublic, the 100-day yardstick was predictablyrnbrandished once again. And byrnthe end of those first 100 days, two realitiesrnat least were beginning to emergernfrom the dust and the smoke: first, thatrnthe Chiracian style and modus operandirndiffer radically from those of the cautiousrnBalladur and the subtly “Florentine”rnMitterrand, and, secondly, that thernnew French president is likely to end up arnprisoner of his own electoral rhetoric.rnRunning true to his well-known form,rnthe legendary “bulldozer” of Frenchrnpolitics lost no time plowing headlongrninto a heap of international trouble byrnbrashly informing the wodd that Francernwas going to resume its subterranean nuclearrntests in the southern Pacific. Tornhave done so on the eve of the 50th anniversaryrnof the bombing of Hiroshimarnshowed extraordinary tactlessness. Butrnwhat made this exercise in nuclear muscle-rnflexing so grotesque was its coincidencernwith an embarrassing admission ofrnmilitary impotence. For at the very momentrnwhen Jacques Chirac was trying tornconvince everyone that France, with itsrnatomic bombs and nuclear submarines,rnwas one of the worid’s great powers, hernfound himself forced to request Americanrnhelp in having French troops airliftedrnto Gorazde. Although this particularrnscheme was soon dropped, the requestrndramatically illustrated the real militaryrnweakness of a “great power” that hasrnproved itself incapable of manufacturingrngiant helicopters capable of rapidly airliftingrnmore than a dozen soldiers to arncombat zone.rnAll of this was foreseen, some 36 yearsrnago, by one of the canniest politicians ofrnthe Fourth Republic, Antoine Pinay, thernmodest, leel-headed mayor of a smallrntown in central France whose downto-rnearth recipes for financial rigor hadrnworked wonders during his eight-monthrnpremiership in 1952-53, and whom forrnthat reason Charles de Gaulle chose asrnfinance minister in June 1958 in order tornstabilize a tottering franc. When, a yearrnand a half later, the General informedrnhis cabinet ministers of his determinationrnto forge a French force de frappernbased on nuclear bombs, Pinav wasrnunimpressed. “Monsieur le President,”rnhe pointed out, “any country today, evenrna small country like Switzerland or Holland,rncan build an atomic bomb if it isrnwilling to invest the necessary resourcesrnand the vast sums of money such anrneffort requires. France too can certainlyrnmanufacture an atomic bomb. But oncernit has succeeded in doing so, what will bernthe result? All it will have pro’ed is thatrnFrance is still 20 years behind the UnitedrnStates.” In other words, a policy of phonyrnprestige was being substituted for arnless spectacular policy of military realism,rnaimed at modernizing France’s conventionalrnforces, of far more practicalrnand flexible use in Europe than therndoomsday weapon of the bomb.rnThis said, Jacques Chirac must be givenrncredit for having stiffened the backbonernof an increasingly spineless NATOrnalliance by vigorously promoting the creationrnof a “rapid reaction force” capablernof breaking the siege of Sarajevo. On Augustrn30, the day on which the guns of thernRapid Reaction Force went into actionrnagainst Serb targets, along with NATOrnwarplanes, Bernard-Henri Levy, one ofrnFrance’s leading “hawks” on the subjectrnof Yugoslavia, called on the Bosnianrnpresident, Alija Itzebegovic, at his Parisrnhotel. He found him in a radiant mood.rnIn the course of a fascinating conversation,rnItzebegovic compared the twornFrench presidents whom he had knownrnwell during the previous five years. “It’srnodd,” he remarked of Jacques Chirac.rn”Normally, power stiffens human beings.rnIt makes them solemn, stilted.rnWith him it’s the opposite. I had the impressionrnthat [the exercise of] power hadrnfreed him, that it had relieved him ofrnsome kind of burden and had enormouslyrnincreased his energy. I couldn’t helprncomparing him with Mitterrand, on therncontrary so stiff.”rnAfter which, he added (speaking ofrnMitterrand): “This man, for me too, willrnremain a mystery. So cold, yes. So calculating.rn. . . There was in this coldness arntrait that did not fit in with the fact thatrnhe was [a man] of the left. Is there notrnsomething more emotional in left-wingrnpersons? Yesterday, on leaving the Elyseern[Palace], I said to myself that it was asrnthough Destiny had made a mistake: it’srnChirac who basically has inherited therntemperament of left-wingers.”rnFor Jacques Chirac this is anything butrnan academic question. If he was able tornwin the presidential election as the leadingrnright-wing candidate, it was preciselyrnbecause he managed to outmaneuver hisrnmore stolid rival, Edouard Balladur, byrnemphasizing his concern for the millionsrnof suburban exclus—the latest catchwordrnfor those who, for one reason or another,rnhave been “excluded” from thernnation’s wealth—and his determinationrn40/CHRONICLESrnrnrn