Skip to comments.Mark Steyn: French opposed to war--unless it's their own
Posted on 02/02/2003 5:43:07 AM PST by knighthawk
Let's say you're the head of government of a middle-rank power. You have no feelings one way or the other on the morality of things, that being a simplistic Texan cowboy concept. What then should your line on Iraq be?
The first question to ask yourself is: Is Bush serious about war? If your answer is yes, the next question is: Will he win that war?
Answer: Yes, and very quickly. You know that, even if the drooling quagmire predictors of the press don't. So the next question is: How will the Iraqi people feel about it?
Answer: They'll be dancing in the streets. You know that, even if Susan Sarandon and Ed Asner don't. Unlike Ed and Susan, the Iraqi people know the scale of Saddam's murder and torture. And once the vaults are unpadlocked so will the rest of the world. So the obvious question is: If, for the cost of chipping in a couple of fighter jets, you can pass yourself off as a heroic co-liberator of a monstrous tyranny and position yourself for a big piece of the economic action from the new regime, why not go for it? It would appear to be, in the ghastly vernacular of the cretinous Yanks, a ''no-brainer.''
Ah, but for those with a big sophisticated Continental brain it's all more complicated than that. Say what you like about Jacques Chirac--call him irresponsible, call him unreliable, throw in shifty, devious, corrupt and absurdly conceited. But he's not stupid. The issue for the French is very straightforward: What's in it for us?
The answer to that may vary, but frame the question as a negative and the reply is always the same: What's not in it for France is that America should emerge with its present pre-eminence even more enhanced. France is in the business of la gloire de la republique, and right now the main obstacle to that is the post-Soviet unipolar geopolitical settlement. They are not temperamentally suited to being anyone's sidekick: If Tony Blair wants to play Athens to America's Rome, or Tonto to Bush's Lone Ranger, or Sandy the dog to Dubya's Little Orphan Annie, fine. The French aren't interested in any awards for Best Supporting Actor.
This isn't quite the same as being a bunch of spineless appeasers. As far as I can see, American pop culture only ever has room for one joke about the French. For three decades, the Single French Joke was that they were the guys who thought Jerry Lewis was a genius. I don't particularly see the harm in that myself, at least when compared to thinking, say, Jean-Paul Sartre is a genius. But, since Sept. 11, the new Single French Joke has been that they're ''cheese-eating surrender monkeys,'' a phrase introduced on ''The Simpsons'' but enthusiastically reprised by Jonah Goldberg of National Review and many others.
The trouble is the cheese-eating surrender paradigm is insufficient. If you want to go monkey fishing, there's certainly no shortage of Eurowimps: Since the unpleasantness of 60 years ago, the Germans have become as aggressively and obnoxiously pacifist as they once were militarist; they loathe their own armed forces, never mind anybody else's. But France is one of only five official nuclear powers in the world, a status it takes seriously. When Greenpeace was interfering with French nuclear tests in the Pacific, they blew up the damn boat. Even I, a right-wing detester of the eco-loonies, would balk at killing the chumps.
A few weeks ago, there was a spot of bother in Ivory Coast. Don't ask me what's going on: President Wossname represents the southern Wotchamacallit tribe and they're unpopular with natives in the northern province of Hoogivsadam. Something like that. But next thing you know, Chirac's troops have locked down the entire joint and forced both parties into a deeply unpopular peace deal that suits nobody but the Frenchies. The streets of Abidjan are full of guys jumping up and down calling Chirac ''Satan.'' All of this while the UN is hunkered down in a monthlong debate on whether to approve Article IV Sub-section 7.3(d) of Hans Blix's hotel bill. Ivory Coast is nominally a sovereign state. The French have no more right to treat it as a colony than the British have to treat Iraq as a colony. But they do. And they don't care what you think about it.
So they're not appeasing Saddam Hussein. On the matter of Islamic terrorists killing American office workers and American forces killing Iraqi psychopaths, they are equally insouciant. Let's say Saddam has long-range weapons of mass destruction. If he nuked Montpelier (Vermont), Chirac would insist that Bush needed to get a strong Security Council resolution before responding. If he nuked Montpellier (France), Iraq would be a crater by lunchtime.
It's true that for a couple of centuries the French have not performed impressively on the battlefield per se. But even a surrender monkey can wind up king of the swingers. In the Second World War, half of France was occupied, the rest was run by Nazi collaborators. And yet, miracle of miracles, in the post-war order France ended up with one of only five UN Security Council vetoes. Despite being deeply compromised and tainted, they came out a big winner.
Their next ingenious wheeze was to co-opt the new Germany, a country with formidable economic muscle but paralyzed by self-doubt. Overlooked in last week's fuss about Gerhard Schroeder's and Chirac's thumbs-down to Bush was the real meat of their confab: the proposal to merge their countries' citizenship. Schroeder and Chirac have effectively announced that at the heart of the European Union will be a Franco-German superstate of 140 million people around which the Dutch and Austrians and other minor satellites cluster like the princely states around British India.
A year ago, the Canadian columnist David Warren dismissed his own country and other fence-sitters as ''spectators in their own fates.'' That's not the French, for whom the peacenik predisposition of the other Continentals is a useful cover for their own ambition. You can't beat the Americans on the battlefield, but you can tie them down limb by limb in the UN and other supranational bodies. In other words, this is the war, this is the real battlefield, not the sands of Mesopotamia. And, on this terrain, Americans always lose. Either they win but get no credit, as in Afghanistan. Or they win a temporary constrained victory to be subverted by subsequent French machinations, as in the last Gulf War.
This time round, who knows? But through it all France is admirably upfront in its unilateralism: It reserves the right to treat francophone Africa as its colonies, Middle Eastern dictators as its clients, the European Union as a Greater France and the UN as a kind of global condom to prevent the spread of the American virus. All this it does shamelessly and relatively effectively. It's time the rest of the West was so clear-sighted.
If people want on or off this list, please let me know.
It's all about the chocolate!
No more war for chocolate!
Overlooked in last week's fuss about Gerhard Schroeder's and Chirac's thumbs-down to Bush was the real meat of their confab: the proposal to merge their countries' citizenship.
This really sums up the Iraq issue in a nice bow!
"This time round, who knows? But through it all France is admirably upfront in its unilateralism: It reserves the right to treat francophone Africa as its colonies, Middle Eastern dictators as its clients, the European Union as a Greater France and the UN as a kind of global condom to prevent the spread of the American virus. All this it does shamelessly and relatively effectively. It's time the rest of the West was so clear-sighted."
Yep, this bears repeating.
So the next question is: How will the Iraqi people feel about it? Answer: They'll be dancing in the streets.
The last question I would ask would be: What do we stand to lose when the truth about Iraq's WMD program is exposed? Answer: Lots.
The French will protest, kick, scream, and fight us to the last resolution before we go in for real. To steal a phrase, "Few love to see the evil they love to sell."
The French blackmailed the US into supporting its repacification and recolonization efforts in Vietnam -- our entry to that incredible disaster -- as the price of their participation in NATO. Later, when they realized they'd be very junior partners in the Atlantic Alliance, they withdrew most of the way even from that, while America was stuck with the bag in Southeast Asia.
Freedom, Wealth, and Peace,
Francis W. Porretto
Visit the Palace Of Reason:
And then I hope he holds them to the outrageous contract they have right this second for Iraqi oil, while the rest of the world pays lower prices.
Time to smack the French. I'm sick of them.
Sauerkraut and Bordeaux would be a more apt simile...
Come to think of it, the main sticking points both times were Russia and Britain. If Chirac and Schroeder steer clear of them, it might actually work.
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