When historians write the story of the international military intervention against Libya's Muammar Gadhafi, they will find much to mine in the role of French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy in swaying Nicholas Sarkozy to champion the cause.
"B.H.L.", as he is called, is the rare public intellectual with a national nickname and a deeply unbuttoned shirt. He is one part noble humanitarian and champion of the oppressed, as well as one part soap opera.
The New York Times' Steve Erlanger reports on B.H.L.'s influence in the Libyan conflict:
It was Mr. Lévy, by his own still undisputed account, who brought top members of the Libyan opposition — the Interim Transitional National Council — from Benghazi to Paris to meet President Nicolas Sarkozy on March 10, who suggested the unprecedented French recognition of the council as the legitimate government of Libya and who warned Mr. Sarkozy that unless he acted, "there will be a massacre in Benghazi, a bloodbath, and the blood of the people of Benghazi will stain the flag of France."
Mr. Lévy, a celebrated philosopher, journalist and public intellectual, gives Mr. Sarkozy sole credit for persuading London, Washington and others to support intervention in Libya. [...]
He is known simply as B.H.L., a man of inherited wealth, a socialist whose trademarks — flowing hair, black suits, unbuttoned white shirts, thin blond women — can undercut his passionate campaigning on public causes, including stopping in Rwanda and Bosnia, strong support for Israel and an early critique of France's unthinking fascination with Communism, revolution and the Soviet Union.
His flamboyant advocacy has annoyed many in the past, including the current foreign minister, Alain Juppé, who seemed largely excluded from Mr. Lévy's Libyan initiative. Mr. Lévy negotiated directly with Mr. Sarkozy, with whom Mr. Lévy has an extremely complicated relationship going back to 1983.
While they were friends and once vacationed together, Mr. Lévy openly supported Mr. Sarkozy's Socialist opponent in the 2007 presidential election; Mr. Sarkozy then married Carla Bruni, who had broken up the marriage of Mr. Lévy's daughter, Justine, who wrote a novel about it. [...]Read More »from In “Sarkozy’s war” in Libya, a not-so-hidden hand