Saturday, March 12, 2005

Bonds Forged in Blood Tend to Endure…

…if they are not hampered too much by the political élite
In Lebanon, unlike Iraq, France and the United States have shed blood together, the 299 lives — 241 of them American and 58 French — lost to Hezbollah suicide bombings on Oct. 23, 1983
writes Roger Cohen in the International Herald Tribune.

More than two decades have passed since then, but bonds forged in blood tend to endure. …

For the record, I have never shared some Americans' scepticism regarding the quality of the French armed forces per se. I have heard several times that the military asked for nothing better than to join Uncle Sam's boys in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Unfortunately for its members, they live in a culture where Yankee-bashing is rampant, Americans are consistently regarded as the country's (and the world's) most treacherous foe (indeed, basically, its only foe), and initiative as well as efficiency (military or otherwise) are underrated.

I have been reading NAM Rodger's history of Britain's naval forces, and it is quite startling to hear how much of the same cynical environment existed back in the 1700s… Such as this gem, uttered by a French decision-maker in 1779:

Too often these … battles produce much more noise than profit
It's not exactly the ubiquitous "La guerre, ça ne sert à rien", but it's pretty close. Needless to say, the difference with the English (or les Anglo-Saxons) in cultural mores and attitudes, as Rodger points out, was one key reason that allowed the Royal Navy ultimately to gain the upper hand in the long-standing rivalry with its counterpart across the Channel. (Plus ça change…)

Update: My book review on N.A.M. Rodger's The Command of the Ocean was published in the June issue of Naval History.

No comments: