September 19, 2006

"You know the type, loud as a motorbike, but wouldn't bust a grape in a fruit fight" (I may make this a continuing series on France talking a big game but never backing it up with any action)

France says Iran doesn't have to stop enriching uranium before talks can commence:

The French President is the first European leader to state publicly that a freeze by Iran is not a precondition for opening talks. The concession to Iran seems to be linked to events in Lebanon, where there had been concern that French soldiers may be targeted by Iran’s proxy militia, Hizbollah, over France’s previously hardline stance in the nuclear negotiations.
Posted by Karol at September 19, 2006 05:12 PM | TrackBack
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I can't say that I'm surprised, though I think I've just had an "Ah Ha!" moment in figuring out French national character. Here goes.

Modern French history has gone through three phases.

First there was the period of empire and grandeur. Louis XIV, the Sun King, made France the Centre of Europe. His armies were invincible, and the French Nation was the cultural and political capital of the Continent.

This trend continued after the Ancien Régime went out of fashion, to be replaced by the new Empire of Napoleon. He did an even better job than the old King, conquering everything in sight until his opponents learned his methods and beat him at his own game, in Russia, Spain and finally Waterloo.

What followed was the second phase of modern French history. Call it the Century of National Disgrace and Defeat.

It began with the fall of Napoleon, but continued through innumerable humiliations from the mid-19th Century into the 20th. The French were kicked out of Mexico in the 1860s, and abjectly humiliated in their homeland in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War.

For decades they burned with the desire for revange, only to be bled white in the First World War to such an extent that their victory was one in name only.

French society and political culture curdled from the experience. Ehat happened is captured nowhere better than in the Stanley Kubrick/Kirk Douglas masterpiece, Paths of Glory. But, as we know, there was a disgrace grander than even this national calamity. I refer, of course, to the Nazi conquest of France in 1940, and the subsequent creation of Vichy. That is when the French became a Nation of Collaborators.

The rest of the Allies graciously let France pretend that it was still a "great power," and that it had a significant role in winning WWII, though anyone with an ounce of sense realizes what a nasty joke this really was.

Historical phases don't begin and end tidily, so the "Century of National Disgrace and Defeat" continued some time past the defining event of the third phase, discussed below. The Second Phase petered out with additional defeats and national reverses, beginning with the French losses in Indochina and Algeria, and ending with DeGaulle's creation of the Fourth Republic after the French Army tried to stage a coup d'état.

Most folks, especially conservative Americans nowadays, are blind to the existence of France’s third phase, and instead mock it for the second one, calling the French “surrender monkeys” and seeing them as cowardly weaklings for going decades without winning any wars. But I think this poorly describes the real nature of French national character and policy today.

The truth is far, far more disgusting than that. The third phase of French history is summed up by one word: Vichy. When one analyzes French policy in the post-WWII era it is clear that everything the French have done since is based on the belief that the only way to survive is to betray your traditional (or should I say “nominal”) allies and collaborate with their and your natural enemies.

France pulled out of NATO as a way of hedging its bets in the Cold War. If the Soviets were going to win, the French wanted to make clear that their nukes were only intended to protect their behinds. That way it would be less likely that the Russians would steamroller them. Similarly, after their defeat at Dienbienphu, the French employed a “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em strategy,” doing everything in their power to sabotage America’s efforts in that sad chapter of the Cold War. The same holds true for their approach to Castro: currying favor with leftist dictators is a way to hedge your bets if the Third World goes “socialist.”

Finally, of course, we have France’s collaboration with Islamo-fascism and Middle East dictators like Saddam. If you no longer have the power, guts, or will to hang in their for the long haul, and fight the good fight, what better course is there than collaboration? It worked during WWII, allowing the French Nation to survive (sort of) under the Nazi heel.

Who’s to say it won’t work now? Perhaps “leaders” like Chirac are as craven as they are because a collaborationist mentality is indelibly imprinted in their consciousness, as a result of their country’s experience in WWII. Like prostitution, which is a way to make a living if you feel you have no alternative, it doesn’t feel quite so degrading when you’ve been doing it a long time. In fact, it may be a decent way to get along and make a Euro.

I say these last words tongue-in-cheek, but I do think I’m on to something here. When you look at the way France behaves, isn’t the common thread collaboration and profit from those whom sane policymakers would consider their sworn enemies? It sure makes sense to me, in a perversely Gallic way.

Posted by: Redhand at September 19, 2006 10:56 PM

Redhande, I once googled "French military victories" and it came back no items found, did you want defeats? They've never been all that, and the last time they beat the english was The Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Posted by: bryan at September 20, 2006 05:44 AM

Tongue and cheek aside, there are a few things in history that have made the French anti-war. France has a rich militaristic history, in fact the French Navy and the world war they fought with England during the American revolution enabled America to prevail.

World War I can correctly be indentified as their main downfall but lets not forget nearly 250,000+ French soldiers were killed defending France during the Nazi invasion. The fact their gov't and the "Allies" weren't prepared; blame should not be layed with the French people or soldiers. Not to mention the Nazi invasion has gone down in military history as one of the most brilliant operations. The French resistance also played an integral part in D-Day as well as rescuing downed Airmen.

The problem the U.S. has with France today is a direct result of the Suez crisis. Eisenhower's failure to support the "Allies" (France, U.K. and Israel), permanantly changed the scope of European [French] military deployments. Read about it since this generation seems to have forgotten about history.


Suez was like Iraq in reverse. sort of.

Instead of slandering each other we should figure out how we can get on the same page and combat our common foe wich is Terrorism.

This Republican rhetoric of "Screw you, you're a pussy" is one of the reasons I am not a Republican.

Posted by: dan the x-Republican at September 20, 2006 11:01 AM

France is not really an ally of the USA. I am old enough to remember the deGaulle era. His attitude, after the USA bailed out France and the rest of Europe with over 400,000 dead, was hostile - thus the famous quote from Eisenhower about first digging up the US dead before leaving. France, as a member of NATO, was always suspect because militarily important technology or material was quickly compromised for a few Francs.

France has a major problem with Islam, and it is not the risk associated with a few thousand troops in Lebanon. The French population is now over 10% Muslim and growing far faster than the rest of the French population. Far too many of these are deliberately isolated, welfare dependent, radical young Muslims who spent a month last year burning every car they could find. The French government, and much of the rest of Europe, is scared to death because they do not have the force to deal with civil war.

About the only country at this point that has dealt with Islam in anything approaching an effective manner is Australia which has said get with the program or get the hell out. Every other country is pussyfooting around the basic fact that Islam is the problem.

Posted by: Publius Warmac at September 20, 2006 05:52 PM

While "dan" tries to make some effective points, I don't buy the "Suez" explanation. Certainly the Brits were as "let down" by Ike as the French, but that didn't cause them to become implacably hostile to the US the way France has been. I think it has much more to do with the national humiliation France experienced in WWII.

de Gaulle was a complete prick in dealing with the "Anglo Saxons" during WWII, despite the fact that Ike, especially, went out of his way to placate him. The French have always had issues with the English, so perhaps it's not surprising there, but I have always been appalled with the coarse and contemptuous way in which French leaders have dealt with the USA. You can't tell me that there hasn't been some kind of deep-seated, anti-American pathology in French governing elites since the end of WWII, regardless whether the Socialists or Conservatives were in charge.

My comments about Vichy go to my opinion that the French governing elite have never recovered from the fact that they were conquered, and were beholden to the USA twice (once in WWI, then in WWII) to save them from defeat. It's hard to have a "dialogue" with a former "ally" who spares no opportunity to embarrass and impede your legitimate security objectives out of jealously or pure malice.

Regardless of what US administration is in power, France is emphatically no friend of the United States. Sad but true; they've proved it time and time again, for reasons that range from commercial competiveness (and dirty money deals with dictators like Saddam) to sheer diplomatic perversity. The desire to humiliate the US and reassert some kind of "leadership" role in Europe has been the driving force behind Chirac's "diplomacy" ever since he took over. When you look at his public statements since 9/11 I don't see how it's possible to come to any other conclusion.

Admittedly, the French have a huge problem with their Muslim minority. But the response has been craven in every way. No one wants a civil war, but appeasement doesn't work against an aggressive group of religious fanatics. I shudder to think that there are large areas where the French civil authorities have virtually ceded soverignty to this alienated mob. Unless the French shape up and realize that nationwide enforcement of impartial civil law is essential, they risk losing their own country.

Posted by: Redhand at September 21, 2006 01:47 AM

I am no fan of the French, unless it's 2000 and from Bordeaux.

But, I disagree with much of your reasoning as to why France and mainland Europe doesn't support the current U.S. for. policy. We may have to leave it at that.

I feel the U.S. has been very opportunistic with choosing the timing of support for allies in the past to the point of almost supporting the enemy. Very similar to what France is doing currently.

Posted by: dan the x-republican at September 22, 2006 12:03 AM
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