French-bashing has become an unofficial pastime in recent weeks — from the Internet to the late night TV hosts to the “New York Post” who coined the term “Axis of Weasels.” Much of this has been extremely enjoyable for me, as I had little respect for the “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” — I’ll never thank “The Simpsons” enough for that quote — to begin with, and they’ve done nothing but lower my opinion of them.

Much of the bashing has been at the less than perfect record of French achievements, specifically on the battlefield. From “Why are there trees down the Champs Elysees? So the Germans can march in the shade” to “What’s the proper English translation for ‘Maginot?’ ‘Welcome!'” the cowardice of the French is being hit hard. Now, I love the jokes, but I feel as if it’s a bit disingenuous. The French actions are not cowardly. They are doing now what they have been doing since the Cold War — playing a calculated game of “Realpolitik.” The French are not cowards — they are something worse.

To understand the French actions, a little history lesson is in order, starting right after the end of World War II. Until that point, the French had a claim to be a power in Europe, winning World War I and being a strong colonial power. With their defeat in World War II, the French fell to the ranks of a second-rate power and the Soviet Union and the United States rose to be the superpowers.

Needless to say this messes with your self-image. The French realized they never could play power politics against either country and so tried a third tactic. They attempted to be the intermediary between the two powers, trying to gain ground by playing both ends of the field. This is the reason that the French pulled its troops out of NATO, yet remained a member, in 1966.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and Europe coming into its own, France saw a great opportunity. Within the confines of the European Union and the United Nations, France could gain immense power by opposing the interests of the United States. Pretty much, they’re denying their second-rate status by desperately trying to find a means to gain importance.

The only analogy I can liken it to is a little brother. You are outside playing football with your friends when he comes out and demands to be quarterback, even though he’s horrible. He says he’ll rat you out to your mother if you don’t let him have his way. It is this giant sized tantrum that we see playing out on the world stage today.

This is why I consider the French much worse than cowards. The game they are playing with Saddam is nothing new. It is dangerous and utterly despicable because it is based on nothing more than hostility to the United States and a desire to dominate Europe.

In addition to the power play that France and Germany tried on the European Union, which is why the rest of Europe hates the French, consider President Jaques Chirac’s statement that the Eastern European countries that came out in support of the United States on Iraq, “missed a good opportunity to remain silent.” Threats of using the veto in the U.N. Security Council aren’t based on Saddam or peace, but are the equivalent of “ratting” the United States out to “mom.” So for those of you who consider the French correct and support their position I’ll offer a trade — I won’t call them cowardly, as long as you don’t call them principled.

Clemm can be reached at rclemm@campustimes.org.



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