From the interview I translated and subtitled(1) for you, we can sum up the following:
First, the astute French Foreign minister figured that the worse this whole business with Iran might come to is War; and not a Wet Tee-Shirt World Cup in Teheran — Which I shall deplore for various reasons, including some not closely related to my (purely, ahem, academic) interest in women's shapes and curves.
Next, we French prepare for war by trying to have our high command lay plans. Because, as even that stupid journalist should know, that's how one prepares for war — including those who actually manage to win them. However, as Mr. Kouchner reassures us, not just now.
We usually wait cunningly until the Panzer divisions make it to the nearby café, and organize the Wet Tee-Shirt World Cup in Paris. Fick fick Mademoiselle, and all that jazz.
Then, and only then, we reveal our well laid plan, that usually consists of mumbling how unfair it was from ze Germans to rush through the Ardennes instead of gently clashing upfront with the Maginot line, while signing disdainfully at the bottom of the unconditional capitulation form, and offering weekly shipments of fresh French Jews, totally.free.of.charge.
In the meantime, we propose that more efficient UN sanctions be possibly taken. Possibly. But hey, don't worry Mahmoud, it's not done yet. Not even close. No resolution, no nothing, no hard feeling, okay?
In the words of G. Julius Crittenden, in his Commentarii de Jell-O Gallico:
That begins to sound more like, "Remember what happened to Iraq! If you don't behave, there may be nothing we can do for you."
Indeed. And this is where you may be tempted to tag me a mean, sarcastic and cynical bastard(2) with an axe to grind when it comes to the SarkoShow, if you haven't already done so. Here's why:
Observation: Sarkozy adopted part of the National Front's aggressive public security rhetoric, and managed to steal a great deal of their votes, saving the country from the 2002 presidential elections blunder that saw the far-right making it to the second turn, and killing Le Pen's party for (at least) the next decade in the same move. So far, the aggressive rhetoric on security has been just that: rhetoric.
Gut feeling: far from being the disruptive young "Reaganite" newcomer who will shake the old dusty French political establishment and "save" the country from itself, Sarkozy was in fact said establishment's smart bomb to bust the old disruptive candidate (National Front's Le Pen) who had all these neo-aristocrats shaking in their boots when the voters hoisted him against the no-less odious Chirac. It worked, and French politicians from all sides will keep sleeping and eating while inbreeding vigorously; and nothing will change.
Observation: The new administration of what's been the most anti-American Western country to date(3) looks as if it suddenly whipped itself up one morning into a frenzy of pro-Americanism; and doesn't miss an occasion to sound Rover than the Karl. The French president goes a-running ostentatiously wearing NYPD tee-shirts and a-knocking on the White House's door every other day. France is dying to join NATO again and put the accordion back in its military wing while the new Foreign Affairs' boss, himself a Socialist, trips to Baghdad and rattles his glavius towards the Mad Persian Mullahs, even outpacing the most belligerent Neocons.
Gut feeling: the French realized that Chirac's strategy of opposing "American hegemony" — one of the most used expression in French politics for the past 30 years — upfront and in the open failed miserably and hurt "French interests" far more than they will publically admit. Therefore, a change of tactics is required and they're now aiming at working against the US from inside any alliance they can join: NATO, the Coalition of the Willing redux vs. The Iranian Nukejobs, your local AA, you name it. From their own account, the French want back into NATO because nobody listens to them otherwise. The age old French pretense to counterweight American power is not gone, but renewed — albeit far more sneakily(4). Will it work? I sure hope the United States have someone watching the French diplomatic channels as well as the DGSE's doings.
I really like the Americans. They're a bunch of incredibly decent people with an impressive record of achievements to prove it(5) but I do have to tell them something, from a friend to a friend: giving people the benefit of the doubt, and always looking for the best in them is a great quality, and one that honors your character as a nation. But when dealing with the corrupt ruling class of Old Europe in general and France in particular, it will get you nowhere, fast: Backstabbing is more than a national sport here; it's a way of life and politics. And they love to hate you.
Finally, even if we admit that I'm wrong, and that France took a 180° turn three months ago, after three decades of particularly vicious anti-Americanism(6), are we sure we want them back anywhere near the battlefield?
(...) When the coalition needed to show a united front, France continued to press for a deal with Hussein (...) He [Mitterrand] also pushed for another Security Council meeting, whose only possible purpose could be to delay the ultimatum. (...) Meanwhile, the defense minister was making several gestures of his own, all in the service of obstructing the United States. Although France had positioned 10,000 soldiers in the desert, it refused to follow Britain's lead and place them under U.S. command. The French wanted to emphasize their independence from the coalition, and so their top officer reported instead to Saudi commander Prince Khaled. (...)
On January 9, Mitterrand (...) announced that French forces would neither fly over Iraqi territory nor march into it. (...) Even French officers began to complain (...) though not out of wish to degrade the enemy or defend Gallic honor. As the Washington Post reported: "Senior French officers in the Gulf reportedly have been unhappy with the restraints, which they contended would lead to more casualties among their troops than necessary (...)" Mitterrand was persuaded (...) four days later and a week after the start of the air war, French pilots flew over Iraq for the first time. They also appeared to meet their safety goals. The Americans, British, and Italians all lost planes in the early days of Operation Desert Storm, but the French emerged unscathed.
(...) As the start of ground operations approached, French soldiers in Saudi Arabia were assigned the task of capturing the Iraqi town of As Salman (...) They were given two days to meet this objective. Major General Jim Johnson of the 82nd Airborne Division said that his men could accomplish the same task in less than twenty-four hours. His superiors decided that coalition politics outweighed the need to achieve every military goal as rapidly as possible. The French would have their two days to get to As Salman.
When the ground war began on February 24, the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division sent a message to their French comrades: côté (sic) à côté (sic) soldats français et américains nous écrirons une page d'histoire "Side by side, French and American soldiers will write a page of history."
"It would be written slowly," deadpanned Rick Atkinson in his account of the Persian Gulf War. Because French commanders were under considerable pressure to limit their casualties, their portion of the offensive crept forward at a snail's pace. Within hours of the first friendly message, Colonel Frank Akers radioed the French: "François, get your ass moving! Why are you guys taking so long?"
The French achieved some of their objectives on the first day, but irritated American commanders by quitting early: They had bivouacked when there was still an hour of sunlight in the sky. "To avoid mistakes," explained French brigadier general Bernard Janvier, "it's better to delay." When they finally reached the outskirts of As Salman on February 25, they set up their tents for the night instead of taking the city. As they moved into As Salman at dawn the next day, the French discovered a ghost town: Only a dozen civilians and fifteen soldiers were still there. There had been no reason for hesitation.
Accordion Brigade indeed.
Comments thread (11)
2667 - Banjo
The age-old American puppy-dog desire to be liked is so easily exploited by the French it would be funny if it weren't tragic. Of course, they'll stab us in the back again. We'll be hurt -- how could they? But we'll find a way to explain it to ourselves with the help of the Democratic Party. It's not them, it's us. It's always us.
2668 - HeckBoy
HeckBoy Auburn, AL USA
As a business owner, I've tried giving people the benefit of the doubt; life's less stressful when you trust people. At least it's less stressful until you find out you've been screwed. Now that I'm introducing an invention to the market, I'm being extremely cagey. I trust no one and you know what - the folks with whom I'm dealing respect me much more than they would if I hadn't learned from my experiences and changed my strategy.
Peace comes through strength, not appeasement.
2669 - Valerie, Texas
Yet more brilliant and astute observations DF. (I told you brililant was going to soon wear thin.)
Yes, we suffer from some form of dementia that makes us too quickly forget who are our enemies. There is a saying the Communist Chinese had for their close relationship with Communist Russia we should emulate when dealing with our "friends" in Old Europe: When you dance with a bear, keep an axe handy.
We have new friends in New Europe, like brave and stalwart Poland. We don't need France any more. (As if we ever did, certainly not after WWI.) I remember clearly when Jeff at Sofia Sideshow blogged on the joy and delight of the Bulgarians being admited to NATO. It was a badge of honor. A mark that they were once and truly, now and forever FREE people.
I cannot see the French in this light. They do not seem to want to live as free people. And for this long, tough fight ahead for our survival we need people who want to be free. Yearn to be free. Who will die to stay free. Not placid serfs willing to plog after who tosses them their crust of bread.
Or who promises not to behead them if they behave.
2670 - Grimmy
Grimmy Where I'm at.
France has a long and well established history of taking whatever intel and/or information it has gotten from NATO or any other cooperative venture and immediately turning that intel and/or information over to whatever enemy needs to be bribed that day.
2672 - TooTall
Sanctions? We don't need no stinkin' sanctions! Why would more sanctions work now since they've failed in the past? Even if they stood the fabled snowball's chance in hell they won't pass since Germany has already said that they won't support any more sanctions since it might impact their economy.
2673 - SisterToldjah
Indeed. Democrats, of course, believe in appeasement over strength and think if we just learn to 'get along with' and 'understand' Islamofascists then they'll leave us alone. The Bush administration on the other hand, while they don't appease Islamofascists (thank goodness), they are so interested in being 'liked' that Bush will treat "leaders" like Vladimir Putin as a "friend" all the while Putin is stabbing us in the back. I remember Rummy created quite a stir with his "old Europe" comments, and afterwards I would almost bet that the phone calls between DC and those "old European" countries were fast and furious in an attempt to "clarify" the remarks and soothe ruffled feathers.
I do realize that a lot of it is just putting on a "public face" and that behind the scenes the attitude towards repressive countries like Russia is likely deservedly hostile, but some of it - I think - has to do with Bush's inherent desire to believe in the best of people. That's a nice attitude to have personally towards relatives and friends, but not one that is particularly well-suited for governing our country, and I say this as someone who has supported the President from day one, even though I have had my fair share of disagreements with him on several issues.
I do hope that while putting on the public face of an alliance with Sarko, that behind the scenes the President is being very cautious and guarded against trusting him too much. Hopefully on that front, he has learned his lesson.
Great post, DF - my eyes continue to be opened on Sarko's deception, thanks to you.
2674 - TMLutas
I think that you underestimate the difficulty of turning around an entire political culture. Within my lifetime, the Republican party imposed wage and price controls (Nixon) and assorted other left-wing nonsense in their economic policy. All the while they were beaten about the head and shoulders by all right thinking americans as barbaric unfeeling right wing savages.
Even if all the things you say are true, Sarkozy is supplying a valuable service to the political culture of France. Never again will the full court press about how nasty, american, etc. a french reformer is carry the weight that it did with Sarkozy. Sarkozy took every dirty low blow possible, came out on top, and now only has to prove he doesn't have fangs to change the dynamic of electing future leaders of France. Believers in liberty had been successfully demonized in France to an extent that most americans would find shocking. One cures this only through the election of the most freedom loving viable candidate available which creates the space for even more freedom loving candidates the next round. Newt could never have risen to power without Reagan. President Bush is providing a similar service (though it will become much more obvious after he leaves office) for the next generation of the center-right.
Hopefully, along the way, the French political culture will pick up and dust off their honor, international solidarity, and sense of spine. But that's something that ultimately comes from the collective personal decisions of the French electorate that they want to make something of France more than the ramshackle remnant of very old glory.
2675 - Iwo Gina
Iwo Gina Maryland
Only someone that truly loves you will tell you what you need to hear... not what you want to hear. Thanks for telling us what we need to hear, DF.
2676 - mbrewer2045
mbrewer2045 Wisconsin USA
Being educated in public schools, I have a history question that I was hoping somebody could answer for me please.
Name for me, at any point in history, where one group of people (culture, civilization, tribe, etc) has "appeased" the invading group of people into not invading and preserving the original culture. Can anybody provide a historical example of how "appeasement" has worked? Again, I admit my history education lacks substantially behind those educated in REAL schools, but I am hardpressed into coming up with any examples on this. You might conclude that after a couple of thousand years of written record keeping, we might have at least one example of this policy actually working.
It isn't in human nature to "simply get along" with groups that you despise (for whatever, and usually incorrect, reason(s)), and it probably won't be soon. I wish Democrats would understand that so we could move on from the silly debates currently wasting resources in our Congress (hey, it's my dream....I can still dream, can't I?). Anyway, I'll keep the boomstick handy and a watchful eye on our "friends"....because, as we all know, we can always trust our friends.....(no offense intended to all of those individuals, organizations or governments that ACTUALLY are our friends).
2677 - the dissident frogman
the dissident frogman France
I appreciate your positive approach, but with all due respect find it rather misplaced, as I don't believe the US can be compared to France.
Do correct me if I'm wrong, but when Republicans (or any other party for that matter) raise taxes, control prices and wages, and generally speaking inflate the size and reach of the central government, they are quite simply an anomaly — as in so doing, they go against the founding principles of the nation - and the people can, and do indeed, fix many, if not all, these anomalies.
After all, taxes and representation are the real issues that laid the foundations of the USA, and the sparks that ignited the American Revolution.
France however, is exactly America's dark twin in that respect. The all powerful central state goes back to Louis the XIVth (at least) and the only thing the French Revolution "changed" was to move the centre of power from Versailles to Paris. The "revolutionaries" then proceeded to fully institutionalize and organize the principle of state control and intervention, that remains the pillar of the French republic to this very day - arresting thousands, and cutting the heads who dared get in the way or were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time — in effect inventing the doctrine of Terrorism (it's no coincidence the French Revolution was the inspiration and reference to most of the 20th century Communist ones, starting with the Soviet.)
To this day, this principle has never been challenged by any French politician, and even less so by the French people (those who choose to stay, that is). Within my voter's lifetime (roughly 20 years), I've seen both sides rule the country and talk about "decentralization", a much vaunted concept by which they mean to share the power with the local institutions. This was cheap talk (Sarkozy isn't a pioneer, even in that respect) and remains dead letter, and Sarkozy himself doesn't bother mentioning it anymore (He does take pleasure in being compared to Napoleon Bonaparte however).
In addition to that, bear in mind that, for instance, the French didn't reject the European Constitution because they saw it as yet more intrusion by the State in their life, but on the contrary denounced it as an Anglo-Saxon ultraliberal scheme (in the classic, European meaning of the term: free market, competition, individual liberties, etc.) whose only purpose was to attack their beloved social model of Marxist theft and redistribution. In short, in their view it's not that the EU Constitution offered them too much Socialism, but rather not enough.
That's the French political culture there and then, and unlike you, I actually hope it won't pick up and dust off again, as every time it did, it brought nothing but more pain and restriction on the people's liberty, self-responsibility and ultimately prosperity. In fact, I fear this is precisely what Sarkozy is trying to achieve, and I believe his call for reforms' only goal is not to enable a drastic change of society, but to restore the establishment's "welfare", threatened as this neo-aristocratic class feels by the steady decline in State revenue, resulting from the last 30 years' ghastly economic performance (itself a result of their collectivist and interventionist policies.)
I guess the bottom line is that even if I was wrong and Sarkozy was not the political establishment drone I feel he is, then he would be and remain an anomaly in French political culture — and I believe you underestimate the capacity of said culture not to reform itself. France's overblown central State is not the result of some misguided and recent political experiment that shall in time be corrected by the voters: It is France's very nature.
I can't think of any - quite the opposite actually (and being French, I know something of the "virtues" of appeasement.)
But then, I've been educated in public schools too (not that we have a choice here, since the French state forces its monopoly on Education, as in so many other fields)