By Helene Fouquet - Mar 22, 2011
French author Bernard-Henri Levy was present at the creation of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to intervene in the Libyan civil war.
With Foreign Minister Alain Juppe in Brussels, Levy, 62, attended Sarkozy’s March 10 meeting at the Elysee Palace with leaders of the Libyan opposition. Having arranged the encounter, Levy urged Sarkozy to become the first to recognize them as the government of Libya -- which he did.
It was Levy who confirmed a Le Monde report that day that Sarkozy was pushing for air strikes against Muammar Qaddafi. Juppe’s meeting in Brussels with his European Union counterparts failed to yield consensus on recognizing the Benghazi-based opposition and on military attacks. The United Nations voted a week later to authorize a no-fly zone.
“It’s too serious an issue to have someone like Bernard- Henri Levy tell France what to do in Libya,” said Stephane Rozes, who founded the Paris-based Cap Institute, a political- advisory firm. “His public posture is not good for France or its diplomacy.”
Sarkozy’s office declined to comment on Levy’s role in policy making.
France’s desire to play a leading role in the Libyan campaign has become embroiled in a dispute among coalition countries this week as French officials resist calls by the U.K. and Italy for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to take over. Norway suspended its participation unless leadership is clarified.
Levy’s involvement began on a trip to rebel-held parts of Libya, which he recounted in the March 5 Journal du Dimanche.
He says he called Sarkozy on March 4 after his meeting in Benghazi with Libya’s opposition Transition Council leaders, according to an interview in Le Parisien. He told the president the rebel leaders were ”good people,”
On March 15, as Group of Eight foreign ministers met in Paris, Levy also organized a meeting of the Libyan opposition council with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he told Europe 1 radio.
Levy -- known in the French media by his initials “BHL” - - wrote in his online magazine La Regle du Jeu that his role in arranging the Elysee meeting was “modest” and that Sarkozy “is not a man who lets himself being influenced by anyone.”
Levy’s link to Sarkozy has also a personal side.
His daughter, Justine Levy, published a 2004 roman a clef, “Nothing Serious,” depicting how her then-husband, philosopher Raphael Enthoven, left her for the model and singer Carla Bruni. Bruni and Enthoven had a son in 2001. In 2008, Bruni married Sarkozy.
Levy the elder’s activities include journalism, philosophy and filmmaking. He has reported from war zones including Bosnia, Burundi, Rwanda and Sri Lanka. In 2006, he wrote about the U.S. in a book entitled “American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville.” His 2003 book, “Who Killed Daniel Pearl?,” was made into a film starring Angelina Jolie.
In contrast to many in France, including former President Jacques Chirac, who opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq in 2002, Levy did not rally against it. In a 2008 interview with Bloomberg Television, he said the war was “morally right, politically wrong.”
In his recent diplomatic foray, he says he and Sarkozy were on the same page.
“I felt very early on that the French President was ready to end Qaddafi’s bloodshed,” he told Europe 1 radio on March 20. “I felt he was going to go all the way.”