Our second refugee from reality is Luke, from France. Luke described himself as French, a "regular cheese-eating guy" (somehow he forgot "surrender monkey" to complete the phrase -- thank you, Matt Groening and Groundskeeper Willie for THAT particularly brilliant turn of phrase), and went on to put forth his take on US-French relations.
...I am french... regular cheese eating guy from the second oldest democracy in the world, which used to be America's best friend ...
But that seems to be a long time ago, a very long time ago....
You may know what it feels when you see your best friend doing a huge mistake. And you try to explain to him why, in you point of view, honestly, he dead wrong. But you best friend won't listen. Maybe because you found yourself unable to find the right words. Whatever. The thing is, you realize suddently your oldest friend and you are all of a suddend living on two different planets.
And that's a sad awakening, I can tell you that.
Julie did a particularly fine job of handing Luke his own derriere, so I'll simply deconstruct the basic, wrongheaded take on the history of US-French relations.
Before I begin, however, I must pay tribute to one of the finest pieces ever written on any blog anywhere. I call your attention to Bigwig's Military History Of France, which does the best job I've ever seen anywhere of outlining the French's role in the world. The only thing I've ever seen to even come close to this in sheer brilliance is Laurence Simon's post-9/11 warning to the world, "Only a Crazy Person Picks a Fight With Someone Who's Nuts."
There is a certain mentality I've noticed that is getting more and more common. It's based on the drive to succeed. There are certain people who are not content to simply succeed, but can only feel satisfied if others fail. They seem to think that the only way to rise to the top is if they can drive others to the bottom. That the successes of others is a direct threat to their own chances to succeed. That seems to be the prevailing attitude of the French.
But back to the topic of French-American relations...
Yes, during the American Revolution, the French were of invaluable assistance. But as others have so ably pointed out, that wasn't so much helping us as sticking it to the British. Likewise, during the War of 1812.
During the American Civil War, France favored the Confederacy, but remained officially neutral. They were interested in establishing a puppet state in Mexico, and liked the US being too distracted to intervene.
In World War I, the main French contribution was mud and brothels. After requiring the US and England to save their asses, they were major proponents of imposing crippling reparations on Germany, setting the stage for Big Mistake II 25 years later.
In World War II, the French surrendered so fast, some thought they might have actually violated the laws of physics. They cheerfully set up a puppet government and started collaborating their little hearts out. De Gaulle, the leader in exile, finally condescended to allow the Allies to liberate France from the Nazis. Postwar opinion polls showed not only did the Vichy government never exist, but that approximately 163% of the French population had been active members of the Resistance.
France didn't forgive the US for liberating them from the Nazis. They resisted joining NATO, and at one point presented the alliance with a "us or them" ultimatum. When the rest of NATO chose to stick with the nation that had a record of actually WINNING wars, France went it on their own. They later allowed themselves to be persuaded to return.
France had been a bit of an also-ran on the whole empire-building. It turns out they were as inept as building an empire as they were at standing up to Germans. The worst hell-holes in Africa right now are former French colonies. But the crown jewel of France's empire was French Indochina -- or, as the rebels who wanted to throw out the French called it, Viet Nam.
When it became obvious that that they were going to lose, the French did the only logical thing they could do -- the called in the US to help. And, naturally, we said "sure!" and promptly poured 58,000 American lives down that drain while the French cut and ran, not even taking the time for their customary surrender. Merci beaucoup, mes amis.
France did have one great military victory, however. In July of 1985, Greenpeace (the annoying enviromental activists) sent their ship, the Rainbow Warrior, to the South Pacific to discourage the French from conducting nuclear tests. French agents bombed and sank it, killing a photographer.
And that brings us up to the current war in Iraq. The French government (and certain key individuals close to government officials) made untold millions, perhaps billions of Saddam, both before and after the first Gulf War. France supplied with 13% of its total weapons purchases, second only to Russia/the Soviet Union (57%) and well head of the US, which came in 11th with about 1%.
For once, the French found an honest bone in their bodies. Once bought, they stayed bought. When the US went to the UN to get it to get off its collective ass and put the "resolve" into its resolutions, France did everything they could to prevent it. They attempted to strongarm the newly-free nations of Eastern Europe, telling them that they "missed an excellent opportunity to shut up," and deployed every bribe in their arsenal to sway their former colonial holdings in Africa. Too bad for them, however, that they didn't figure on a US president who had the testicular fortitude (a concept foreign to the French government) to see the UN vote for what it was and give it all the respect it was due -- to wit, none.
Jed Babbin, who had served as an undersecretary of defense during the late 80's, put it best back in 2003: "going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion. You just leave a lot of useless noisy baggage behind."
So, Luke, you claim that France "used to be America's best friend." With friends like that, who needs enemas?