The enduring popularity of France-bashing in the United States is a fascinating phenomenon. Nick Gillespie spies Marty Peretz getting the bug. What’s especially fascinating is the particular form of the contemporary France-bashing narrative, as reflected in Peretz’ post. According to this story, the USA differs from France in our greater eagerness to go to war and that this disagreement reflects superior wisdom on the part of the United States. Interestingly, neither prong of that narrative is supportable.
Obviously, there was an instance of France being unwilling to fight in a situation where the USA wanted to go in — Iraq, 2003. But here the French position — that Saddam’s WMD programs were not a serious danger, that a western occupation of an Arab country was likely to go poorly, and that such a war would hinger the fight against al-Qaeda — has been utterly vindicated. Other recent American wars — for Kuwaiti independence, against Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbia, agains the Taliban — were undertaken with French support. Before that, you had Vietnam where France fought Ho Chi Minh’s movement first, lost, then let us go make all the same mistakes over again. So French dovishness comes down to one war — Iraq, part deux — that France didn’t want to fight, and that France was right not to want to fight.
France’s “rep” for weakness and appeasement comes, of course, from World War II. But in 1938, France was the non-axis country most eager to fight Germany. Going to war without the support of England, the USSR, or the United States would have been a horrible policy. Once their British ally was on board, they fought. They lost, of course, but the contrast between France, the UK, and the USA in this regard is that France was located adjacent to Germany without a convenient stretch of ocean to block the Nazi advance.