Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Monday, June 27, 2005

The French Betrayal of..............Shut up!!!
Written by: Answerman

Over the last year or two, several right-wing hacks have published books purporting to demonstrate that France has been engaged in an over-200-year-long effort to stab the United States in the back. Unfortunately, these types of mindless soundbytes are what pass for history and analysis on both sides of the aisle today. While I expect this sort of behavior from Leftists, it's a little disconcerting to see from some of my compatriots on the Right. And it's not limited to the issue of France, or foreign policy, or anything else; rather, there is an anti-intellectual and extremely unconservative populist strain in American "conservatism" that seems more and more dominant every day. And Answerman doesn't like it.

The basic anti-France thesis is that (1) the French are cowards who like to surrender; and (2) the French have been betraying America over the course of three monarchies, five republics, and two empires. The first part of the thesis ignores -- as most populist arguments do -- the salient facts. The French government is probably only second to that of the United States (and perhaps Great Britain) in its ability to project military power. It fought numerous brutal anti-colonial wars -- in Vietnam in the 50s, Algeria in the 60s, and Chad in the 70s, to name a few -- complete with harsh and violent retribution against terrorist activities. It has used overwhelming force in numerous instances to defeat terrorist hijackers. And it recently took care of business by intervening in the Ivory Coast during civil turmoil there. The record simply disproves any notion that the French -- either historically or in the present-day -- are cowards afraid of projecting military power and anxious to surrender to their enemies. Too bad the mocking American populists don't know anything besides that France lost to Germany in six weeks early during World War II.

The second part of the thesis is asinine as well. Basically, the right-wing hacks who divert their energies to this sort of nonsense think America is really neat, and think therefore that everyone else should do what America wants them to do. This is an incredibly infantile sentiment. The French are a historic people with unique cultural attachments, a language of which they are legitimately quite proud, and (gasp!) their own national interests, which are at times (gasp!) contrary to American national interests. Should we back down in the face of French assertions of national interests contrary to our own? No. But similarly, we shouldn't act all surprised and morally indignant when a sovereign state asserts itself against our policies, when that state -- right or wrong -- believes those policies to be inimical to its interests. That's the way the world works. Heck, that's the way the United States works when it doesn't like something someone else is doing.

Unfortunately, a lot of right-wingers can't grasp these issues, and instead prefer to think of the United States as some sort of beacon of predetermined progress, and of other countries as liars and cheats if they don't sign up for our global utopian projects. And these right-wingers don't limit their nonsense to the French or foreign policy issues. Take our own little Goe, for example. Every day, we see him struggle mightily on the pages of this blog to articulate his rage against all sorts of perceived devils -- like the French, or like David Anderson, an intelligent liberal blogger who actually likely agrees with Goe on certain really important issues, like illegal immigration. And what's the point of all this rage? That the French have committed some sort of unique moral wrong by daring to oppose US policies on the world stage? Hogwash. That liberals of all stripes, Leftists, Nazis, and communists are all "fascists" because all of them believe in (admittedly drastically varying degrees of) the welfare state? Idiocy. And yet Goe and his ilk plod angrily along, failing to understand why no one takes them seriously, failing to recognize the really important issues, and failing to see how much they damage the intelligent Right through their perceived association with us.

This attitude that I have described, and that manifests itself in the anti-France books with which I began this discussion, is an extremely ahisorical attitude. And unfortunately, because we are not a particularly history-minded people, it is a very American attitude. But we must struggle against this populist, anti-intellectual jingoism -- on both Right and Left -- lest it does its part to make this already-screwed-up world an even more screwed up place.

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