February 16, 2002

At Last, Some Reasonable Writing

At Last, Some Reasonable Writing About the French: Every day I've been meaning to write an "enough already" post to the bloggers who have written off the European Continent, and especially the French bit, as a bunch of thankless, feckless, cheese-eating anti-semitic surrenderholics to be abandoned to their own statist Arafat-loving fantasies at the soonest possible moment. But each day there were so many new polls about bombing France, so many, ah, unfortunate figure-skating snafus, and purple-faced posts, I just decided to cover my ears and sing La Marseillaise every time I heard someone shout "Fuck Europe, Fuck Europe, Fuck Europe." Fortunately, UPI columnist James Bennett writes a fine column today (via Glenn Reynolds) about our French pals, and the context in which we should place their recent carpings about U.S. foreign policy (to which I'd add another: there's a heated presidential campaign in progress over there, and attitude toward America is one of the main theoretical differentiating points between Socialist Lionel Jospin and Gaullist Jacques Chirac).

We are part of the same alliance, same basic family (literally true in my case), and same civilizational conversation. Like any family, there is some trash talking, which should always be encouraged and laughed at, especially since when the chips are finally down (as they were in the Gulf War), the French usually join the fight to a level exceeded only by the Brits. For years, I have heard the same old comfortable jokes – Jerry Lewis this, McDonald's that, ignorant arrogant cowboys here, faux-sophisticates without moral compasses there, etc. Read any book about, say, the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, and you'll see all the same complaints, dressed up in period clothes. And you'll also see how the French admire our crazy energy & idealism, and how we like the Frogs enough to make Paris the number-one travel destination year after year. It's all good ... except when either side forgets it's a member of the same family, and sinks to the lowest level of mutual insult.

Still, the recent hubbub is notable for being the first time in my memory (and I do not remember the anti-nuke protests in Western Europe during the 1980s), where the American "street" is noticeably pissed off by what they've usually ignored with a chuckle. I was annoyed enough during my recent visit there to write this and this, and I've certainly never shared Ralph Nader's desire to switch systems with France, but irritated Americans seem to be criticizing Europeans both for being geopolitically irrelevant (comparatively), and for griping about said irrelevance. If the U.S. continues its longstanding policy of deliberately blunting the military ambitions of its friends so it can be the lone superpower, there will be griping and immaturity galore. And some of it will even be justified, unless you believe that power somehow doesn't corrupt. By all means, continue smacking around whatever Euro-nonsense is deserving, but for heaven's sake, don't mistake the barkings of a single commentator or politician or even newspaper for that of 280 million very different humans. If you don't like the byproducts of negative foreign opinion about America's outsized military power, ask yourself for how long you want, say, 37,000 U.S. troops to be stationed in Korea. And if you want to keep condemning all the French, realize that you are, in fact, condemning my wife. And look how funny she is.

Posted by at February 16, 2002 09:43 PM
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rs, I have heard the same old comfortable jokes – Jerry Lewis this, McDonald's that, ignorant arrogant cowboys here, faux-sophisticates without moral compasses there, etc. Read any book about, say, the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, and you'll see all the same complaints, dressed up in period clothes. And you'll also see how the French admire our crazy energy & idealism, and how we like the Frogs enough to make Paris the number-one travel destination year after year. It's all good ... except when either side forgets it's a member of the same family, and sinks to the lowest level of mutual insult.

Still, the recent hubbub is notable for being the first time in my memory (and I do not remember the anti-nuke protests in Western Europe during the 1980s), where the American "street" is noticeably pissed off by what they've usually ignored with a chuckle. I was annoyed enough during my recent visit there to write this and this, and I've certainly never shared Ralph Nader's desire to switch systems with France, but irritated Americans seem to be criticizing Europeans both for being geopolitically irrelevant (comparatively), and for griping about said irrelevance. If the U.S. continues its longstanding policy of deliberately blunting the military ambitions of its friends so it can be the lone superpower, there will be griping and immaturity galore. And some of it will even be justified, unless you believe that power somehow doesn't corrupt. By all means, continue smacking around whatever Euro-nonsense is deserving, but for heaven's sake, don't mistake the barkings of a single commentator or politician or even newspaper for that of 280 million very different humans. If you don't like the byproducts of negative foreign opinion about America's outsized military power, ask yourself for how long you want, say, 37,000 U.S. troops to be stationed in Korea. And if you want to keep condemning all the French, realize that you are, in fact, condemning my wife. And look how funny she is.

Posted by at February 16, 2002 09:43 PM
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