April 26, 2003

Comments

Matt,
The column wasn't as bad as you seem to think it was. It might have benefited from an effort to quantify anti-French sentiments.
Jeremy

Posted by: Jeremy Lott at April 26, 2003 12:06 PM

Matt:
Hmm, it seems to me you didn't quite a good enough job distinguishing from the legitimate "French bashing" from the illegitimate criticism. I think the former is based on real substantive differences where, as it appears (cliche by now), the French view/use the U.N. and the international "community" or law as predominantly, if not exclusively, as a means to limit U.S. power and influence in the world.

And it doesn't matter whether that U.S. power is used for positive things or harmful ones. Any extension and expansion of U.S. power is viewed critically by much of the French people, particularly the intelligentsia. The cowboy hyperpower must be restrained, Gulliver-like by a myriad of international laws and rules, laws and rules that can be dismissed if they interfere with French interests.

It seems to me that U.S. French bashing, such as it is, is a periodic spasm based almost entirely on the Iraq situation. Much of it will pass over time much as any fad. But the French bashing of the U.S. is more systematic and deeper and will not be repaired with time.

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 26, 2003 12:18 PM

Definitely overreacting here, Matt. Find me a direct quote that includes the word "punitive". Consequences? You betcha! We've had it brought home, hard, that the core values we share matter less to France than limiting our unipolar hyperpuissance.

We knew France wanted the EU to somehow counterbalance U,S. power; fair enough. What we failed to recognize was how aggressively France was working to undercut us in every sphere, and with whom she was prepared to ally herself in order to do so.

Now we know.

We'll have different expectations hereafter; we won't be sandbagged or surprised again.

That's "consequences". That's what Powell said.

Posted by: Alene Berk at April 26, 2003 06:12 PM

Not up to your usual standards. There's a good column to be made about the points that you raised but I'm afraid that you missed the mark. France used to be one of the world's leading democracies, but it isn't acting like one.

Many people lament that the US system gave us a choice between Al Gore and George W Bush, but either one would have made a broadly acceptable choice as president. A French system that produces a choice between Chirac and Le Pen cannot say the same.

As you know, I agree with you on the Bush blindspot about 'Saudi' Arabia, but I think you are vastly understating the problem with Chirac. He is not acting like an ally. Had he done so we might actually have been able to avoid the war with Iraq.

As a matter of policy I think it is foolish to punish the French people, but failing to isolate Chirac in some way is even more foolish.

I love France. Some of my fondest memories are of the times I've spent in Paris. I made it a high priority to make sure that my kids got to experience France. But I fear for the safety of my French (and Belgian) relatives, and of Francophone Jews in general. I wonder what is happening to the rule of law in the Francosphere. There's a column in that too...

Posted by: Martin at April 26, 2003 07:47 PM

One of the most important aspects of this article seems to be lost on people thus far. Saudi Arabia has exported the ideology, resources and personnel for acts of terrorism against the U.S., and yet the Saudi government seem to have avoided popular criticism - instead, everybody's complaining about France. The transgressions of the French government - while very real - are nothing compared to the truly nasty machinations of the Saudi elite.

Posted by: Andrew at April 26, 2003 07:48 PM

Andrew:
Great point, although I believe, correctly or not, that the Saudi elite are more splintered than perhaps you do. I cling to the idea that it's a faction inside the monarchy that is doing most of this.

Could be wrong but I think we can do things less overtly to alter Saudi policies. Wish is father to the idea (or however that saying goes)

On the other hand, Matt's piece was about France not the House of Saud. I think there's a clear and direct challenge to our influence in the world. Pretty clear, it seems to me, that the French elite is committed to the goal of reining the hyperpower across the Atlantic. We need to confront that with serious policies; my limited knowledge on the "instruments and tools" of foreign policy to deal with France leads me to cut it short here.

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 26, 2003 08:06 PM

Matt:

Don't let your more warbloggerly fans get you down about this one -- you're right on the mark. Things like the Franco-American dispute need to be kept in perspective and people need to remember that whatever the flaws of the Chirac government, it simply is not the real bad guy in the world. Of course, it would be nice if the French recognized the same thing about us, but just because some people over there are unreasonable is no reason for Americans to be unreasonable too. Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Crown Prince Abdullah -- these are some really bad guys. Dominique de Villepin? That's a guy America had some policy disagreements with.

Posted by: Matthew Yglesias at April 26, 2003 08:40 PM

Matt:
I don't think any of the critics here, both of your article or of the Chirac Government, are saying that we should overlook or excuse Saudi complicity - directly or indirectly - in funding al Qaeda and other terrorists groups. Or that the French government's policies are in any way more direct threats - right now - to our security and interests than radical Islamic terrorism.

However, it should be noted that in addition to these direct and explicits attempts to undermine U.S. power, the French government has been positively craven in overlooking radical Arab regimes and terrorists for a long time. The Bush Administration's sympathetic policies towards Saudi Arabia - as misguided as they may or may not be - are mild in comparison to various French government's appeasement (there, I said it) of many radical Middle East entities.

It seems to me that France's attempts to roll back American influence in the world is also an attempt to prevent us from taking the types of actions we need to stop radical Islamic groups - some indeed funded by factions in the House of Saud. To be sure, we need to put more pressure on Saudi Arabia to cut off the funding of the Islamofascists; but we also need to put more pressure on France to let us cut off the actions of the Islamofascists.

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 26, 2003 08:55 PM

I think your column is off base for one simple reason. French-bashing is not the result of an "honest disgreement in foreign policy." It is a reaction against France's entire foreign policy, which is to "contain" the United States, even if that means propping up ruthless dictators across the globe.

Read this article (link http://www.iht.com/IHT/JV/99/jv020399.html) from the International Herald Tribune from March 1999 (well before noted "unilateralist" George Bush came into office). France's actions have nothing to do with George Bush or Iraq. Quite simply, after the bad feelings engendered during the German federal elections, France saw an opportunity to split Germany from the U.S. and to isolate the U.S., joining with such other lovers of peace as Russia and China in the process.

France miscalculated badly, and to pretend it is still an ally is to be blind to reality.

>>>John Viocur, International Herald Tribune, March 2, 1999.

PARIS - France is undertaking an active campaign to strengthen multilateral institutions as part of an effort to define the United States' potential for unilateral action as one of the world's great worries. It is, in effect, an attempt to limit American power and to convince other countries that they should work together to contain it.

The French initiative has come into focus over the last three months through statements by President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine. One or the other has asserted that a new American unilateralism has come to life, that it is unacceptable and that France will offer the General Assembly of the United Nations a set of principles for building a new international order "excluding unilateral temptations and leading to shared management of global risks and threats."

In the context of a decades-long register of French criticism of the American exercise of power, and the almost institutionalized quality of needling between centuries-old allies, the new initiative is different in two main respects.

It casts the United States as a primary international problem, a hegemonic force blocking power-sharing in the new century. And it proposes reforming, restructuring or reinforcing a number of international institutions, among them the UN Security Council or the International Monetary Fund, as a means of containing or counteracting American power.>>>

Posted by: Thom at April 27, 2003 09:24 AM

Why do I think that IF the Bush Administration read the Riot Act to the Saudis that: (1) the French government would try to prevent us from taking any multilateral action and would criticize any unilateral actions ("Cowboy unilateralism destabilizing the region); and (2) they would then try to step in and replace the U.S. as Saudi supporters.

Unfair? Perhaps, but not entirely.

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 27, 2003 10:33 AM

Matt,

I am curious as to how you view your column in light of the revalations that France was passing on all the details of the conversations between Bush and Chirac to the Hussein regime in Iraq.

Do you still argue that our resentment of France is due to one too many McDonald's slurs, or do you think that perhaps France's recent governments are *not* our allies, despite their protestations that they do support us?

(Note that I am confining my condemnation to the *governments* of France, not the people. There is a difference between the two.)

Posted by: Ron at April 27, 2003 12:34 PM

Jeremy -- I didn't necessarily think the column was bad, just that it would have been quite different had I spent my usual amount of time on it, rather than a matter of hours. For instance, it would have had more quantification especially of the proposed or threatened American retaliations; some of which (such as reconsidering how NATO conducts its deliberations) I think make sense; others (absolutely anything resembling the American ambassador to Canada's warning that "security will trump trade" or whatever) I think would be dangerous. And thanks.

SMG -- Though I think you overstate the case, you point to a crucial conundrum: "The French view/use the U.N. and the international 'community' or law as predominantly, if not exclusively, as a means to limit U.S. power and influence in the world. And it doesn't matter whether that U.S. power is used for positive things or harmful ones." How, from the U.S. policy side, should we react to this?

First of all, the primary responsibility *does* lie with the French, not us. However, being American taxpayers, how do we promote more responsible and constructive behavior? Here's what I think: 1) We should point out, as clear-eyed, calmly and even dispassionately as possible, where France's policies have been terrible, cynical, counter-productive, sabotaging, and etc. For example, I think we are right to stress that France has *not* had anything resembling a serious road map toward disarming Saddam Hussein for certainly the last five years, and probably the last 12. Also, we should have (in case we didn't) sent a formal diplomatic note of protest when Chirac mouthed off to the Central Europeans about not being welcome in the EU if they supported the war. If Chirac and Paris are acting boorish, we should be able to make that case in a way that reasonable French people could understand. An important point about this -- we should NEVER confuse personal statements about George Bush, or individual disagreements about one specific U.S. policy, with a government's or a country's general morality. 2) Don't equate the desire to restrain American power (and increase French) as automatically negative. I see no reason why the principles of competition suddenly would not apply to international relations; which is to say, if one country/company becomes so overwhelmingly powerful, I think it's bound to abuse that power and become ineffecient. And we, lest we forget, have made explicit policy of muting French power and increasing our own for decades. I think we should *encourage* France and the EU to build a common and separate defense capability. 3) I think it's reasonable to assume that one aspect of France's (and the world's) resentment of us is a child-like damned-if-they-do attitude exacerbated by the U.S. exercise and expansion of power. Again, we may not be *primarily* responsible for this pathology (aside from our explicit policy to be the world's only superpower), but we can acknowledge this pathology, and look for creative ways to willingly restrain ourselves within various treaties, institutions, and mini-coalitions. Instead, we are doing the opposite (with the exception of our approach to North Korea), and therefore, I fear, we will *increase* that pathology, not *decrease* it. What does that pathology help produce? Unreliable partners, increased irritation, lack of burden-sharing, and (I fear) an obsession with America that may produce more terrorists.

Alene -- I think it is a strong overstatement to say that France is "working to undercut us in every sphere." France, as far as I'm aware, has been perfectly cooperative with the law enforcement and financial tracking side of hunting down Al Qaeda. France actively supported the wars in Kosovo and Kuwait, with Chirac working the phones daily with Washington in the former case. That said, the pressure on the Turks, the incessant chipping away at weapons inspections (until that was the only option beside war), and the pathetic attempt to form an "axis" with Germany and Russia are worthy of criticism and even rebuke. But what's the best form? If it's just some kind of vague "consequences," expressed in pragmatic re-jiggering of the NATO consultation process, fine. But when it goes beyond that -- and it will -- *that's* when I worry. Bush just cancelled a trip to Canada because of the lack of Canadian support; the U.S. ambassador there openly suggested that our neighbors might suffer trade sanctions. I think that's petty, disproportianate and dangerous. The last thing a jittery world economy needs now is a political trade war. But yeah, I should have dredged up more examples of explicit inappropriate behavior vis-a-vis the French.

Martin -- In some ways, I fear the pragmatic trouble with French-bashing is not that it's *wrong,* but rather that it's *right*. OK, I rtin -- In some ways, I fear the pragmatic trouble with French-bashing is not that it's *wrong,* but rather that it's *right*. OK, I realize that doesn't really make sense. Basically, as I've hinted above, I think we will promote *more* irresponsible behavior, not less, as we expand global power, bark like an angry bear at every irritation, and confuse attitudes toward the U.S. with basic moral value (which is why I keep making the Saudi comparison -- Bandar is our "friend," Chirac our near-enemy, even though Saudi Arabia provided the money, manpower & theology behind the slaughter that started this whole thing. That's sick and wrong). You also say that had Chirac acted like an ally, "we might actually have been able to avoid the war with Iraq." That may be true. It may conversely or additionally been true that had the Bush Administration engaged in skillful diplomacy, rather than the blunt rope-a-dope, Chirac would have acted much differently. I don't think we really know.

Andrew -- Thanks! Though the Saudis *have* been bashed by some: Dan Burton, the National Review, John McCain, the Atlantic, the New Yorker, and 12,000 bloggers. Though I need to step away from the subject for a little while, I think it would be interesting to track debate about the Saudis among leading Democratic politicians. (If any of you know of some who've been banging the drum, please let me know).

Yglesias -- Thanks! And I love the worush Administration's sympathetic policies towards Saudi Arabia - as misguided as they may or may not be - are mild in comparison to various French government's appeasement (there, I said it) of many radical Middle East entities." I don't know if that's true, especially if your time frame is the last four decades, and not the centuries before that.

Thom -- I think the phrase "honest disagreement in foreign policy" is the weakest part of my column. Though I would point out that *Canada's* ambivalence toward the war was much more of an "honest disagreement in foreign policy," and we are punishing Canada as a result. As for France's "containment" policy -- as I stated above, I think we need to look at it with extraordinarily clear eyes, which includes acknowledging the ways that may be a *good* thing, in addition to identifying outrageously bad diplomatic efforts. It is the Hegemon's Burden, I believe, to be more untouchable, more above the fray than anyone else. As for France using such a realpolitik goal "even if that means propping up ruthless dictators," I would just point out that the United States has a history of doing exactly the same, and is in fact doing so in Saudi Arabia.

Ron -- If you mistook my column for an argument "that our resentment of France is due to one too many McDonald's slurs," than either I failed to communicate well or you read too fast (or maybe both). I still contend that France's recent governments *are* our allies (if not directly in this war). But then again, I'm a bit of a literalist that way. As for your news of that revelation -- it's the first I've heard, and if it's true, that's really really horrible, and maybe calls for the exact kind of rebuke I just warned against.

Thanks, everyone!

Posted by: Matt Welch at April 27, 2003 04:16 PM

Matt-

I agree that the U.S. has propped up dictators in the past, and unfortunately, has continued some unsavory relationships well past their useful lives. But you also have to look at the context. The U.S. was trying to contain the spread of totalitarian communism, which, according to "The Black Book of Communism" (a French book written, in part, by members of the French Communist party that should be required reading for anyone who writes about history or politics), intentionally caused the death of approximately 100 million people in the 20th Century.

The U.S., unlike France, did not form those tactical alliances for the sole purpose of trying to make itself important in world affairs.

Posted by: Thom at April 27, 2003 06:36 PM

Thom -- I agree that they are not directly morally equivalent, and that the cause the U.S. was fighting was one hell of a lot more noble than the extension of Francophony. I would just reiterate that, though our foreign policy is and has been animated far more by a democratic idealism, that we too are in the business of trying to make ourself important in world affairs. It is and has been a source of great potential good, and it is and could be a source of great potential danger, in my view.

Posted by: Matt Welch at April 27, 2003 06:55 PM

I thought the column made a number of good points, but it seemed the second half was an apologetic for France with bad-guy Saudi Arabia held up as the reason why France isn't so bad after all. It is true that the US has a lot in common with the French, more so cumulatively than with Saudi Arabia, and a not-unimportant history of working together. However, it seems lately that France has used its history as one of our allies as cover to engage in rank and deliberate opposition to the US - not just in a few policy areas, either, but as an overall policy.

As Ron mentioned, Fox News is reporting that France kept Saddam's govt informed of "the contents of private transatlantic meetings and diplomatic traffic from Washington" (the US govt has not confirmed it) which shows a more deliberately damaging intent than you allow for (and in fairness, the article came out after you wrote your column). But the issue of setting up Europe as a military and political power rivaling the US is not a benign matter itself - I would cheer efforts of the European nations to take on the responsibility of defending themselves, but that isn't what they're doing. From what I read, they (France & friends) are explicitly setting themselves up in opposition to the US, using anti-American sentiment as leverage to get their new efforts approved in their constituencies. It's one thing to be a nation or collective with primarily defensive military capabilities that will decide whether or not to join the US in operations on a case by case basis; it's another thing entirely to be focused on being a US military doppelganger. At the very least, France poses a similar level of threat as the Saudis, albeit in a materially different way.

Another difference for France vs. Saudi Arabia is the potential for change in each place. France is unlikely to become more democratic without another revolution, and the anti-Americanism there is systemic despite a free society where the "truth" about America is ostensibly available. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is likely to be caught up in the next decade or so with the democratic reform which we hope the Iraq liberation and subsequent shift toward democracy will spark in the Middle East overall. I've seen several articles about Arabs in tears over being lied to by their govts and media; I've seen articles praising the US in the Arab News that I never thought I'd see - and wouldn't see in France. The Sauds are corrupt, and we need to be very wary of them, but the country as a whole is more likely to change in a positive direction toward the US than I think France is, absent a sea change in leadership in Paris.

We don't want to be petty, but we don't want to be duped because of fond memories of holding hands at the Eiffel Tower either.

(And in a matter with absolutely no international import, what's "incentivized"? It stopped me cold. Are nouns all subject to being verbized?)

Posted by: susanna at April 27, 2003 11:21 PM

There is an aspect to realpolitik which is not a matter of being ruthless or indifferent when our interests require it, despite any naive moral concerns.
The other aspect is being told we need to take a hit from somebody acting in a treacherous and inimical way and smile.
That might be the case if we were, say, Czechoslovakia and the other country were Germany ca 1938.
Putting up with "stuff" without a whimper might seem grownup and realistic and all that.
But the question is whether it's in our interests to demonstrate we can be rolled.
It might demonstrate sophistication on the part of our diplomats, but that and a buck won't buy you a cup of coffee. It also generates real, live (sort of) dead Americans.
During our intervention in the Balkans, a French officer at NATO HQ was giving our bombing plans to the Serbs. He got two years, which means he's out now, more than likely. Any guess as to his pension?
This particular spy isn't the issue. It's the attitude and the willingness to act in certain ways that are the issue.
We can't afford to allow the French to do to us, or to try to do to us, what they've done to us, or tried.
Consequences might work where appeals to honor fail.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 28, 2003 08:50 AM

Sorry Matt -- this column is not up to your usual standards -- heck, it's not even up to _my_ usual standards. In fact, in reading it I was reminded of all those columns bemoaning "American attacks on Arabs" columns that came out last year and the year before. Just substitute accounts of vandalism against "French"-owned laundries and silly things like renaming breakfast foods with accounts of attacks on turban-wearing Sikhs and bigotted remarks about "ragheads." And further, you seem to think that American displeasure with France -- of which the public reactions are a symptom -- is something that is not worth figuring out. I sense a whiff of that French attitude: "Les americains, ils ne sont pas serieux." On the contrary, our beefs with France are quite real, many (as you _do_ take the time to point out) have been simmering for years, and these latest revelations of French perfidy have brought them to a head. I think the next time someone comes up to you and demands a hasty article, tell them no if that is the best you can come up with under time constraints.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 28, 2003 09:55 AM

A humorous aside: Yesterday we put up our flags -- French under the American one, bien sur -- and today we noticed that someone has already tried to burn the French one. Had he succeeded, the fire could have easily spread to the adjacent wooden lattice-work, and threatened the 100-year-old wooden house.

Posted by: Matt Welch at April 28, 2003 10:34 AM

And your point is? That if we'd just be nice, France would be our pals again and the neighborhood pyro wouldn't have invaded your property with his Zippo? That this is the highest level that opinion against France can possibly reach -- vandalism? Sorry for your problems, but that doesn't change the fact that you slapped together the article without much thought being expended upon it, and that the problems the US is having with France -- the government, and a certain segment of its citizenry -- aren't due to American Francophobia.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 28, 2003 11:47 AM

"France remains one of the leading democracies in the world".

The column wasn't so awful, but what could that sentence possibly mean? What's the difference between "leading" and "non-leading" democracies?

"... had the Bush Administration engaged in skillful diplomacy, rather than the blunt rope-a-dope ..."

Bush slyly (and metaphorically) covered up and let Chirac beat on him ally looked suicidal. ... For what seemed like an eternity, the champion kept wailing away at Ali, who would respond intermittently with a right hand. By round six, Foreman was looking arm weary, having expended significant energy throwing a large volume of punches. ... During the last 30 seconds of the eighth round, Ali launched a cunning counter-attack which would prove conclusive.
(BBC - http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/boxing/specials/ali_at_60/1729812.stm)

"Realizing that Foreman was the more powerful puncher, Ali went to the ropes, allowing himself to be hit again and again. The movie shows us the result: By the end of the fifth round, Foreman is punched out, landing blows like a drunk trying to fit his key in the door. Ali, coming alive with the cunning of a cat that's allowed its prey to think it has the upper hand, moves in and finishes Foreman off."
(Salon - http://www.salon.com/feb97/kings970214.html)

"Seemingly overpowered, Ali bought time by relying on a surprising new strategy, the now legendary 'rope-a-dope' technique. Leaning against the ropes and covering up for much of the fight, Ali patiently waited while Foreman ineffectually hammered away at him. In the eighth round, sensing that Foreman was exhausted, Ali came off the ropes and unleashed a potent combination that quickly dropped his opponent, ending the contest."
(http://www.integratedsolutionsmag.com/articles/2001_10/011009.htm)

Posted by: Michael at April 28, 2003 02:47 PM

The rope-a-dope formula, as outlined in my column from February: Start by making a great threat, taunt and convincing bluff. The opponent then overreacts in fury, not realizing how the rules of the fight/debate have been shifted by the bluffer. Then, after absorbing physical/rhetorical punishment, strike back and win, getting everything you wanted in the first place.

Here's what Ali said to Foreman before the opening bell (all this is according to Norman Mailer's account):

“You have heard of me before you were young. You’ve been following me since you were a little boy. Now, you must meet me, your master!”
This enraged Foreman. Now, Round One:
Then [Ali] drove a lightning-strong right straight as a pole into the stunned center of Foreman’s head, the unmistakable thwomp of a high-powered punch. A cry went up. Whatever else happened, Foreman had been hit. No opponent had cracked George this hard in years and no sparring partner had dared to. Foreman charged in rage. […] Ali was not dancing. […] Still a wail went up from the crowd. They saw Ali on the ropes. Who had talked of anything but how long Ali could keep away? Now he was trapped, so soon. Yet Foreman was off his aim. […]

So good fighters do not often lead with their right against another good fighter. Not in the first round. They wait. They keep the right hand. It is one’s authority, and ready to punish a left which comes too slowly. One throws one’s right over a jab; one can block the left hook with a right forearm and chop back a right in return. Classic maxims of boxing. All fight writers know them. Off these principles they take their interpretation. They are good engineers at Indianapolis but Ali is on his way to the moon. Right-hand leads! My God! Furious, Foreman went on the attack for the next seven rounds, Ali absorbing the punishment, then emerging victorious when George was all punched out.

So yeah, the analogy strains, but the point vis-a-vis the French was this: Bush made threats of unilateral action & bypassing the United Nations altogether; the French freaked out & demanded a voice ... and then suddenly Bush reversed himself, went directly to the United Nations, gave the French what they asked for (a vote), and successfully passed Resolution 1441 or whatever it was. Similarly, credible threats of U.S. war turned the French from sanctions-opponents to inspections-enthusiasts; but Bush finally called his own bluff. Again, check out my column for a longer attempt at stretching the analogy....

Posted by: Matt Welch at April 28, 2003 03:12 PM

Matt, I read your column in the National Post on Saturday and was delighted to see some rational debate on "French Bashing" in the U.S.A.

Too much of what I read is about how France has stabbed America in the back and should be punished. I seems to me that ANY disagreement with America over the Iraq war gets you labeled as a Bush-hater, or an America-hater. Your views were refreshing.

Posted by: Russ Campbell at April 28, 2003 05:10 PM

Matt,
After reading your blog for more than a year, I believe this column ranks among your very best. Too often, I believe, you have written to please an audience. This one came from the gut.
The harsher critiques that have followed only serve to underline that your writing on U.S.-French relations dances across political boundries that too few writers have the will, wisdom or grit to endure.
Great work.

Posted by: Scot Donaldson at April 29, 2003 11:00 AM

As a Non-American (Canadian) it is interesting to view Americans response to other country’s opposition to American foreign policy. There seems to be an automatic assumption that the US is right (righteous in fact) and that the other can only have dark nefarious motives. Notwithstanding the fact that part of France’s motivation in opposing the war on Iraq is its desire to limit US power through international organizations (a desire held by many countries) they may also have had very practical reasons to do so.

On the immediate level France is much closer to and has much greater social contact with the Middle East than does the US. Any increase in anti-western feeling could well result in further terrorist attacks in France either on American targets or just general bombs in garbage cans merely because it was the easiest target. (think Bali) If the actions of some other country were causing Canadian terrorists to attack the US I doubt that the US would sit idly by.

On the longer term level, France has a long and inglorious history with “liberating” portions of the world, and more particularly the Middle East. Experience has taught that there are many unintended consequences. Not the least of which is terrorist attacks of the type mentioned above. Who would have thought that France’s initial colonization of Algeria would have resulted in a near coup d’etat. Which isn’t to say that the US is about to colonization Iraq or that a coup d’etat will result, but just to point out that s**t happens.

Lastly as Matt notes France is a democracy the vast majority of its people opposed the war. The reasons for Europeans more pacifist stance are long and complex although 1000 years of useless bloodletting probably will do as a simple explanation . If the US is going to promote democracy it has to accept that others will disagree with their actions. Interesting to note that Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan were praised by Bush for their support – something tells me that ordinary Egyptians, Saudis and Jordanians weren’t consulted by their governments

Posted by: peter at April 29, 2003 04:19 PM

Here's the rub, to me.... allies do not have "making you weaker" as a primary foreign policy goal.

As for the problem that any criticism of the US is betrayal.... the Russians get away with a lot worse than the French have been proven to have done, and so do the Saudis. Why? Because I don't think average Americans really consider them to be allies, and you sort of expect rivals not to act in your best interest.

France's government has decided it wants to be a rival of the US. Being rival and friend at once is an extremely difficult line to walk. On Iraq, the French ghe French government didn't even try.

Posted by: Craig at May 1, 2003 04:06 AM
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tional organizations (a desire held by many countries) they may also have had very practical reasons to do so.

On the immediate level France is much closer to and has much greater social contact with the Middle East than does the US. Any increase in anti-western feeling could well result in further terrorist attacks in France either on American targets or just general bombs in garbage cans merely because it was the easiest target. (think Bali) If the actions of some other country were causing Canadian terrorists to attack the US I doubt that the US would sit idly by.

On the longer term level, France has a long and inglorious history with “liberating” portions of the world, and more particularly the Middle East. Experience has taught that there are many unintended consequences. Not the least of which is terrorist attacks of the type mentioned above. Who would have thought that France’s initial colonization of Algeria would have resulted in a near coup d’etat. Which isn’t to say that the US is about to colonization Iraq or that a coup d’etat will result, but just to point out that s**t happens.

Lastly as Matt notes France is a democracy the vast majority of its people opposed the war. The reasons for Europeans more pacifist stance are long and complex although 1000 years of useless bloodletting probably will do as a simple explanation . If the US is going to promote democracy it has to accept that others will disagree with their actions. Interesting to note that Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan were praised by Bush for their support – something tells me that ordinary Egyptians, Saudis and Jordanians weren’t consulted by their governments

Posted by: peter at April 29, 2003 04:19 PM

Here's the rub, to me.... allies do not have "making you weaker" as a primary foreign policy goal.

As for the problem that any criticism of the US is betrayal.... the Russians get away with a lot worse than the French have been proven to have done, and so do the Saudis. Why? Because I don't think average Americans really consider them to be allies, and you sort of expect rivals not to act in your best interest.

France's government has decided it wants to be a rival of the US. Being rival and friend at once is an extremely difficult line to walk. On Iraq, the French government didn't even try.

Posted by: Craig at May 1, 2003 04:06 AM
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