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September 18, 2003

IT'S 1798 ALL OVER AGAIN: Tom Friedman writes that we're at war with France. I've used the term "Proxy War" to describe the French strategy, and a lot of the blogosphere has been saying the same thing. It's interesting to see it break onto the oped page of the New York Times, though.

Friedman takes the mild tone that the French should recognize that it's not in their interest to have America do badly in the Middle East:

What is so amazing to me about the French campaign "Operation America Must Fail" is that France seems to have given no thought as to how this would affect France. Let me spell it out in simple English: if America is defeated in Iraq by a coalition of Saddamists and Islamists, radical Muslim groups from Baghdad to the Muslim slums of Paris will all be energized, and the forces of modernism and tolerance within these Muslim communities will be on the run. To think that France, with its large Muslim minority, where radicals are already gaining strength, would not see its own social fabric affected by this is fanciful.

That's true, of course, and the French political class is in the grips of something between neurosis and psychosis to think otherwise, as some French intellectuals have been noting. But the French need to think beyond this point. Sooner or later, the United States will decide that "you're for us or against us" applies to France, too. Proxy war can go both ways, and the French have more enemies, and fewer resources, than we do.

For a start, we should start encouraging pro-democracy movements in Francophone Africa. And arming them. But that's just a start.

UPDATE: Sylvain Galineau writes:

France wants to get back to business as usual. For TotalFinaElf, Alcatel and the scores of French companies who coined money working for the Hussein regime for decades. As long as Paul Bremer is in charge, it won't happen. France needs someone it can bribe and sign dodgy deals with. The UN can deliver that. The US won't.

Read the whole thing. And then wonder why CNN, et al., have been ignoring this aspect.