CNN's Kyra Phillips said Tuesday that the video of protesters facing police water cannons in Paris brought back "memories of Tiananmen Square." Mais, non. In 1989, outgunned Chinese students risked their lives in a quest for freedom and self-determination. Many paid with their lives, and few today would be happy with the outcome. In France, students brave water cannons secure in the knowledge that prime ministers almost always back down in the face of big strikes because that's what French prime ministers do.
In France, as in the United States, ambition trumps policy. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, de Villepin's expected rival in the 2007 presidential primary, decided to score some cheap political points rather than push for a policy consistent with his ideology. Sarkozy has called for suspending the contracts to allow time to negotiate with unions. That's crying uncle -- or oncle -- to tactics that should not prevail.
Bark laments: "There's going to be no debate about whether this law makes sense. The debate is going to be about: How do we get these kids off the street?" Minister of Foreign Affairs Philippe Douste-Blazy told reporters Wednesday that the situation has people questioning France's "ability to reform so as to be competitive in the new world we're living in."
Meanwhile, critics fault de Villepin for mishandling the issue and not consulting union leaders first. Now de Villepin knows how it feels when the world demands that one man be perfect, even as his opponents resort to lawlessness and force to win their objectives.
These strikes show Old Europe digging its economic grave while clutching onto job-killing regulations, as the French choose unemployment over economic growth. The French have a saying: "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose." (The more things change, the more they stay the same.) Hmmm. Maybe, things stay the same because they don't change.