February 20, 2003

AMERICAN DIPLOMACY -- not so simplistic:

Compared to Parisian diplomatic contempt, American efforts begin to look remarkably deft. No sooner had France and Germany established their common opposition to American aims, for example, than the U.S. characterized them as "Old Europe" even as it worked to bring a "New Europe" into plain view. Now that Chirac has made his countermove—telling upstart Europe it should be seen and not heard—the American and British governments look like a pair of pretty smooth operators. . . .

France's problem isn't the upstart applicant counties and their supposed "allegiance" to Washington; major EU member states with successful economies also stand with the U.S. France's problem is French global pretension: Chirac wants applicant nations to kiss his ring. The applicant nations see the EU as being about a democratic Europe of which they are a part, while France perceives the EU as being an instrument of French global stature. Currently, it can boast primarily of maintaining a neo-colonial presence in Africa, and of suppressing the struggle for independence in Corsica. Running Europe would considerably brighten its resume.

Well, I can't entirely blame them for wanting to keep Corsica. After all, it's the home of Laetitia Casta. (LATER: Iain Murray emails that Laetitia Casta is now a tax exile living in London. Seems fitting, somehow.)

UPDATE: Here's a summary of angry reactions from the New Europe courtesy of the BBC. And as proof that the French are on their way out, Molly Ivins is defending them.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Dwight Green emails:

Thanks for posting the Molly Ivins link where she defends France. While I hate the phrase, she constantly proves that she just doesn't get it. Repeatedly. Yes, many wonderful French people died in World War I and World War II. But she fails to ask the question "why?"

The folly of French leaders this century has been the single-most reductive thing to the population (and stature) of France. The beef that Americans have with "the French" isn't with your average French person... it's with the iincompetence of their leadership. Since the average American isn't immersed in French culture (contrast that to the bombardment of American 'culture'), the view here is shaped by the posturing and silliness that is their lleaders.

He's right, of course. Meanwhile reader Gautam Mukunda emails:

I just wanted to mention to you that Ivins is (as usual) factually inaccurate, not just inane. France had more (and better) tanks than Germany. What it did not have was any sort of doctrine of how to use them. It wasn't poor equipment, but an inability to think through the consequences of the equipment that they did have, that doomed France in 1940.

De Gaulle, interestingly enough, actually made a decent stab at inventing the first effective anti-blitzkrieg doctrine during the German assault. He was (IIRC) an armored regiment commander in the French Army. It was just too little, too late.

Yes, the French military defeat was -- like so many of the diasters of the 20th Century -- not the fault of circumstances so much as it was the result of the arrogant ineptitude and shortsightedness of French leaders.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ross Douthat at The American Scene writes that Ivins' is the worst column ever. Oh, I don't think she's accomplished quite that much.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: More on Molly: "She said one thing accurately, but it was by mistake."