Bernard Henri-Lévy

From James Crabtree, the Financial Times:  It is a story straight from a Bond film. A man on a top-secret mission seeks a taxi to sneak across the Libyan border. Finding no willing drivers, he commandeers a vegetable truck and races through the desert for a clandestine tête-à-tête with the rebels. Yet this is no super-spy but the dapper philosophe and soi-disant diplomat, Bernard Henri-Lévy.

President Nicolas Sarkozy’s deployment of “BHL” was a further coup de théâtre for France’s most telegenic Left Bank intellectual. But as the west ties itself in knots over the limits of its UN resolution, his gambit also provides clear justification for escalating the only truly Gallic military doctrine: liberal philosophical intervention.

Don’t be distracted by the leonine hair or the trademark tailored white shirts open to the navel. BHL’s arrival in theatre is realpolitik at its most sartorially elegant; the side of French strategic thinking that has always believed Nato must bow to Plato. All it took was a late-night satellite phone call after BHL’s rebel rendezvous, and talk of an imminent bloodbath staining the French flag, to spur Sarko into action.

But if this surgical strike was a triumph for la diplomatie française, it was a greater leap forward still for French philosophy. In times of war, la gauche would once have been stuck with Derrida deconstructing resolution 1973 or Baudrillard on Muammer’s modes of mediation. But with BHL in Benghazi, no one can claim the Libyan war doesn’t exist. …

Hot-air strikes alone cannot control events on the ground. Gaddafi Jr might not play ball. And the campaign now faces that most existential of military dilemmas: no exit strategy. Faced with such problems, Gauloises on the ground can only go so far. It may be that a full-scale philosophical invasion is the only solution.  (photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty)