5. The triumph of inwardness. During his time in office, Sarkozy almost single-handedly kept Europe in the game of international politics, from Africa to the Middle East to Iran. If he is gone, European interventionism will go with him. It is only a matter of how long it will take. Sarkozy has reintegrated France into a NATO actively diminishing its obligations. Hollande, with roughly zero diplomatic experience, vows he'll pull France from Afghanistan this year. He will bring to France an inwardness that is dominating the rest of Europe -- for the first time ever.
Actually, that's not entirely true. After gallivanting around Egypt, Napoleon Bonaparte chose to create a brief but striking moment of European inwardness -- selling off Louisiana to the Americans and expending military effort outside Europe only upon rebellious Haiti. Napoleon's interest in an inward turn for Europe (yes, including Russia) was only a means to an end. What Napoleon wanted to accomplish was the political unification of Europe. Today's inward-turning Europeans seem to want no such thing. They have no taste for grandeur and no sense of what empire could mean in the absence of colonial exploitation. As a consequence, their version of a politically inward-looking Europe will be a weak Europe, whereas a politically inward-looking United States has not been so and is still not fated to be.
Sarkozy has been irresistible in his way, if not always an irresistible force. Whatever his electoral fortune may be, his appreciation for projecting French power outward was too committed to a misbegotten vision of France as a world power. What matters most as a counterforce against a weak, self-defeating European inwardness is that France be a European power -- committed to projecting its ideals and its energy outward across the continent, not across the globe. Sarkozy's failure here will likely persist to defeat the efforts of his center-right successors, if they choose to labor at a French interventionism that neglects the possibility of shaping Europe first and foremost.
Europeans and Americans should worry about this sort of defeat, too -- even if currently the majority of the French don't seem to. By the time a French leader comes to the fore capable of learning from these mistakes, the follies of Hollande and his more extreme opponents may have ensured an irreversible European tragedy.