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December 02, 2003
IT'S EASY TO MAKE FUN OF THIS AS A "FRENCH QUAGMIRE," BUT IT'S ACTUALLY BAD NEWS:
For a second day, French soldiers fired tear gas and stun grenades into the crowd, which started gathering on Monday at the base in Ivory Coast's commercial capital, Abidjan.
Pro-government militias also delivered an ultimatum on Tuesday to the French: French peacekeepers had until 8pm on Tuesday to withdraw from the West African nation's ceasefire lines.
If not, militia leaders and youth groups said, their fighters would open attacks on the estimated 16 000 French civilians and 4 000 French troops living in Ivory Coast.
"All that is French will be attacked," pledged Narcisse N'Depo, a youth leader outside the French military base.
I'm pretty sure that this is a bad thing.
UPDATE: Reader Phil Beckman wants his schadenfreude, and he wants it now:
Not only is it easy to make fun of this as a "French Quagmire," it is actually enjoyable. Now understand that I have great sympathy for the people of the Ivory Coast and wish them only the best, but the French are supposed to be (by their own admission no less) this ancient, experienced, wise culture which has achieved some kind of transcendent state where problems are solved through peaceful negotiations rather than through brute force. And despite the fact that for some apparently inexplicable reason they keep failing, they never adjust their philosophy, strategy or view of themselves to the reality they face.
It is amazing that a nation like France that has achieved so much in the arts, sciences, philosophy and other fields could be so utterly incompetent in the field of international affairs (and so blind to this fact). One of these days they are going to learn from their mistakes; until then, I will enjoy the entertainment value they provide.
Well, making fun of the French is always appealing -- to all sorts of people -- but I think that this is a good time and place to resist the temptation. I will admit, however, that the poor French reception in the Ivory Coast tends -- as does history in general, as Beckman rightly points out -- to call French expertise into question. But it's possible to point that out without gloating at genuine misfortune. The only thing I'm not entirely sure about is whether the French are in the right here. I think that they are, but I'm not familiar enough with the facts on the ground to be sure.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Snarky reader Nicholas Tortorelli sends this link and suggests a contradiction. I don't see why. In the earlier post I was suggesting that we dilute French influence in the area. That's not the same as hoping for a humanitarian crisis. Frankly, encouraging armed action against the French would be justifiable in my opinion, given that they're doing the same thing against us in many places. So far, it's one-sided proxy war. But even if it became two-sided I wouldn't gloat over it. As Abraham Lincoln said, "War's a bummer, man. So don't you be gloating about it, dude."
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: D'oh! It seems I completely missed the point of Tortorelli's email. He writes again:
I wasn't implying a contradiction or anything, and it never even crossed my mind that you would want French death in order to expand U.S. influence. I was just trying to show, with your earlier help, how the French got themselves into such a sticky situation in the first place.
Excuse me if I sounded "snarky", I was just trying to be brief.
Yeah, I have that problem occasionally myself. As Abraham Lincoln said, "Blogging and email are hard. I'm glad they haven't been invented yet." Or was it Caesar who said that?