There is a joke going around that France is going to change her Tricolor flag. She is going to remove the blue and red parts, leaving only the white.
In fairness, however, the French are not waving the white flag of surrender today. They are standing in defiance-not defiance of Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein, or Islamic terrorists, but of America and American interests.
In the days following Colin Powell’s masterful presentation at the United Nations Security Council detailing Saddam’s efforts to develop and conceal murderous weapons, the French cobbled together two ad hoc alliances to obstruct the United States’ taking the necessary step of disarming the Iraqi dictator through military force.
Hard Cheese, Jacques
First, they solicited the support of Germany, Russia and China for a fatuous proposal to expand and extend failed UN weapons inspections in Iraq-in lieu of decisive military action. Secondly, with backing from Belgium and Germany, they resisted the request of NATO ally Turkey to comply with their NATO obligation to provide Turkey with defensive aid against possible Iraqi attacks.
It does not matter that France voted in November for unanimous UN Security Council Resolution 1441, giving Saddam a "final opportunity" to disarm or face "serious consequences." As President Bush said last week, "The UN Security Council’s got to make up its mind, soon, as to whether or not its words mean anything."
Apparently, the French have made up theirs. At this point, their word does not mean anything-not to their old friend the United States, not to their NATO ally Turkey, not when solemnized in the UN.
There are deep ironies here, of course. NATO and the UN are, in essence, international alliances forged from the experiences of World Wars I and II, where American soldiers fought and died to preserve France.
Certainly, America owed France much for sending us Lafayette and deGrasse to help overthrow the British monarchy. But that debt was more than repaid in the Argonne Forest and at Normandy. Between the U.S. and France now there is only one consideration: national interest.
There are many guesses why French President Jacques Chirac, and his foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, believe it is in their interest to pursue an anti-American policy. They could be currying favor with anti-American Arab regimes. They could be worried about the sentiments of a growing Islamic bloc within their own country. The CIA says 5% to 10% of the French population is now Muslim. (Zaccharias Moussaoui, accused co-conspirator in the 9/11 attacks, is a French Muslim.)
Or it could be that as a weak power that would lose to California or Virginia in a war (both states are home port for more and better aircraft carriers), France is acting out a national inferiority complex.
To be sure, France has a right to resist and oppose America. But we also have a right to remember they did-and this time we should.
Next time the French need their chestnuts pulled from the fire it either will or will not be in our interest to do it. If not: Hard cheese, Jacques.