THE HISTORY of neoconservatism has been well documented as a trajectory from Left to Right and specifically from anti-Stalinist Left to pro-war and anticonservative Right. The story is usually told about Americans because, of course, it is in the United States that the movement has become strongest. But the phenomenon has long existed in Europe, too. Just look at the foreign minister of France, Bernard Kouchner.
Kouchner was appointed to one of France's highest offices of state in 2007 by the newly elected president, Nicolas Sarkozy. He had supported Sarkozy's Socialist opponent during the campaign, as he was a member of the Socialist Party and had served only in Socialist governments in the past. (His party duly expelled him for accepting the new job.) But Kouchner is not just an opportunist who jumped ship. He is a self-styled progressive who has systematically supported war, supposedly for humanitarian purposes, ever since the late 1960s. His partnership with the neocon Sarkozy was quite natural.
In February of last year, however, Kouchner's reputation came under attack after Pierre Pean, a leading French investigative journalist, published an expose entitled Le Monde Selon K. Pean charged Kouchner with all sorts of political, ideological, and financial malfeasance. The book caused a sensation in Paris. Firing back, Kouchner suggested that Pean harbored an anti-Semitic hatred against him and rallied important friends to his defense, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Fashionable neocon litterateur Bernard Henri Levy called Pean "a dwarf."
The sourness of the response was not surprising. Kouchner is well liked in France. He is one of that strange breed of politician that manages to cultivate the image of not really being a politician at all. Instead, he is widely credited as a doctor, his other profession, even though he has been in politics longer. Indeed, he has blended his two callings into one.
Kouchner cut his medico-political teeth in Biafra, the province of Nigeria where a vicious war of secession broke out in 1967. Although a member of the Communist Party at the time, he remained …