Thursday, August 11, 2005

Even Small Doses of Criticism Is Too Much for France

"What hurts" he says?

"What hurts" he says!

"What hurts"!?!

A Frenchman tells us that jokes about France during the Iraq crisis hurt. They hurt the French. The French feel hurt.

In other words, according to those poor things, the Yanks were/are not only duplicitous and treacherous, they are insensitive and rude, those clueless clods.

Wait a minute, Cédric, do you mind if we get real here? For just a moment?

How do you think Americans feel for being called imperialist? For being called duplicitous? For being called treacherous?

How do you think Americans feel for hearing, Yes, of course 9/11 was a tragedy, but, somehow, somewhere, they deserved it

Oh, that's not being insensitive. That's being intelligent and lucide! I see… (It's just a total coincidence, I suppose, that being lucide happens to mean slamming the American government's position and being pretty much in total symbiosis with the French government's policies…)

And how about America's allies in the Coalition. How do you think they feel for being called poodles? And for being told, ils feraient mieux de se taire?

While we're at it, how do you think the Iraqis feel about the various peace activists, governments as well as individuals, who opposed the American action? What about the Iraqi people's hurt? Isn't it slightly more important than that of the French?

Because the difference with the members of the so-called "peace camp" is that while the latter remained passive, the Americans and their allies took action. Whether or not you agree with their policy, they put their soldiers into harm's way. (As for the leaders themselves, you can hardly deny that, at the very least, they took unpopular — and electoral — risks in making the popularity-defying decisions they did.) The hurt the troops risk suffering is somewhat of a more poignant type than that which members of the peace camp have the luxury of haughtily complaining about from the comfort of their living rooms (or government offices).

And you complain of the hurt suffered by the French?!

Having said that, Cédric, let us examine the content your post.

You contend that Americans have forgotten "the 300 000 dead French soldiers and [dismiss] most of the French military history".

Bearing that in mind, let us take a look at World War II, if you will, the war that (supposedly) the French have never forgotten America for.

I have never — and I mean never — had a discussion about World War II in France, where the sly comment wasn't brought up "Évidemment, ils l'ont fait pour leurs propres raisons". What's more, the BUT expression (Bien sûr on est éternellement reconnaissants aux Américains, c'est certain, mais…) suggests that American treachery is the bottom line and holds the deepest truth.

In addition to that, we hear of Washington's uncalled-for dissing of Charles de Gaulle (more insensivity) and even murder plots about same, and the 60th anniversary commemorations were replete with reports and descriptions of the Germans' sufferings and "the hidden face of some liberators", from GIs killing the innocent to practicing widespread rape.

Now, in theory, naturally, I have no problem with digging and (re-)examining, except: when it is one-sided and replete with double standards — that happen to self-serving. (Which is what this blog is all about.)

Regarding Iraq, there is little, if any, examination of the "peace camp" members' purpose being other than principled and, indeed, holy (for instance, whether the status quo relationship with Saddam Hussein amounted to "dictatorship for oil").

But to go back to the subject matter of the post at hand — the Revolutionary War — it is obviously taboo to say that the French authorities of 1778 intervened "pour leurs propres raisons." Where France is concerned, obviously, we are not to look for any "hidden faces"…

And unless I am mistaken, you are not an expert on the War of Independence, or 1770s politics, certainly not more than I am. In addition, it is no hidden fact that strategy planners have contingincies for every possible scenario, no matter how unlikely (thus, plans exist in the Pentagon for how to react should war break out with Britain, although obviously they are among the least studied).

I'm not saying I beleive Harlow Giles Unger's contention, but: given the above, why might there not have been, for instance, the circulation of an idea among the French general staff — even if only briefly entertained — to murder a general like George Washington?

More generally, why can one repeat ad nauseam that American policies, even if admitted to be for the general good, were carried out "pour leurs propres raisons" and one cannot do so with French policies (even when it concerned the régime of autocratic aristocrats)?

No, such an idea must be dismissed out of hand: unlike France's constant putting into queston of American policies, this becomes a collective "vomiting" on France, like "one pisses in a urinal" (to quote another commentator who I have grave doubts is any kind of expert on the revolutionary war or history in general, for that matter).

You add: "we've got books and editors saying that the main enemy of America has always been France". Is America being the main enemy of (or threat to or danger for) France and, indeed, of all humanity, not what you read about not only in untold French tomes, but in French newspapers day after day, month after month, year after year? Rather than American books being gratuitously anti-French, as you allege, the fact that such literature is so ubiquitous in France is the reason why a number of books on the subject (those you mention) have come out in America recently.

As to whether there is a difference between French enmity and its American equivalent, Joe N points out where it lies: "Any criticism of France occurs in small doses and almost never in the mainstream media — unlike the near daily nonsense in the Paris papers."

But even those (small) doses are too much for France!

I am not saying I believe that Vergennes wanted Washington surreptiously shot. But what I do believe — and what, indeed, I do know, preuves à l'appui — is this:

In what is claimed to be the rational, emotion-less pays des débats, there is indeed room for debate. But, as your post proves, it is far narrower than is commonly believed (as Stéphane pointed out in his insightful post on Fox News). And that, incidentally, cannot have happened without the connivance of the ministry of education, which you laud so much.

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