Le Petit Caporal
It would surely be poor taste to accuse Nicolas Sarkozy of leading France into combat for purely selfish political reasons – but that won't stop some in the president's inner circle wondering if Operation Odyssey Dawn might just save the skin of a man who, a matter of days ago, seemed destined for electoral humiliation. Ever so discreetly, they will be hoping Libya can do for Sarkozy what the Falklands did for Margaret Thatcher – anoint a successful war leader deserving of re-election.
"The French do like to have their president play world statesman," mused one diplomat in Paris last week, before France's Mirage and Rafale fighter planes had taken to the skies. "A good crisis," he added, might be just what Sarkozy needs.
He certainly needs something. A week ago he was staring at polls so ominous some analysts wondered if he'd even make it into second place in next year's presidential contest. One survey put Sarkozy behind both his most likely Socialist opponent and Marine Le Pen, the new leader of the far-right National Front
We don't normally see the French rush into combat, though dropping bombs from a safe hight onto tents is hardly combat, so an explanation is needed.