It’s occasionally worth asking for France’s help and support, but never worth pleading for it. The fundamental error that many people make in assessing American relations with France— the error Our Oldest Enemy tries to correct — is believing that France is some foul-weather friend that has always stood by the United States. John Kerry falls into this trap whenever he speaks about the importance of “grand alliances” and the like. What he really means are alliances that include France, as if those that don’t include France aren’t legitimate.
The notion that France has ever been a steadfast ally is a pernicious myth that serves French interests, not American ones. If France were America’s oldest ally, it wouldn’t have backstabbed the colonists at the end of the American Revolution, become the first military foe of the United States (following the ratification of the Constitution), sought to split our nation in two during the Civil War, accommodated the Soviet Union during the Cold War, quit NATO in the 1960s, or harassed the Bush administration over Iraq. I’m reminded of an old saying, which is actually an old French saying, and I’d be sure to mention to President Bush if he were to honor me with a phone call: The more things change, the more they remain the same.
(Thanks to Gregory Schreiber)