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With Muscular Moves, Sarkozy Aims To Define An Independent France

French fighter jets took a lead role in the attacks on Moammar Gadhafi forces in Libya.

French forces have attacked soldiers loyal to Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo, in a bid to bring that country's violent political stalemate to a conclusion.

What is behind this push by France to assert itself?

Arthur Goldhammer, a writer and translator at Harvard University's Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies and a blogger who follows French politics, write in Foreign Policymagazine last month that "the Libyan uprising has given French President Nicolas Sarkozy an opportunity he has long coveted: to lead a risky international mission that holds out promise of ultimate glory."

Today, Goldhammer told Morning Editionhost Renee Montagne that Sarkozy is not only interested in improving his own political standing with French voters. He's also reacting to potential humanitarian catastrophes. And, the French president, Goldhammer says, is "keen to define an independent French position in foreign policy ... to stake out France's own role ... and to make it clear that France is not dependent" on others.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.