While the president of the United States and H.M. Queen Elizabeth II were affirming in Washington, D.C., their countries’ common traditions and history, another pro-American leader was swelling the chorus of affection.
The newly elected president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, said he would have France’s "American friends" — that’s right, "friends," ami — know that "they can rely on our friendship."
Will wonders never cease? Even if they do, how pleasant it is to observe the effects of cordiality among ancient allies after three or four years of one-sided, European-generated bitterness toward the United States and its "cowboy" president. Too many European noses for too long have been out of joint, supposedly over Iraq — likelier on account of petty resentments and jealousies. At finding occasions to unload on the Americans, no European excelled President Jacques Chirac.
The French, to begin with, don’t like us (or anyone else for that matter) with the spontaneity you think could be coaxed from a people twice rescued by American arms. There’s the jealousy factor — namely, we’re big and rich, and their jobless rate is 9%, thanks to high taxes and the 35-hour workweek. On top of that is what might be called the ideological angle. A lot of Frenchmen are just plain left-wing: opposed to capitalism, opposed to religion.
All right, neither this precis nor any other does the French, a complicated people, total justice. The main point to take away from a discussion of French behavior and attitudes these past few years is the triviality and silliness of despising America and Americans at a time of growing danger to the West.
So the French didn’t — still don’t — like the war. They have plenty in common with moveon.org and Nancy Pelosi. Does that solve the problem of how to address and overcome Islamofascism? Naturally not. If anything, anti-warriors accord Islamofascism a kind of protected status as over and above those working to reproach it or divert it into another channel. Us, I mean. The Americans.
As long as you don’t like the Americans, you don’t want to imitate them in any particular, including economic, success. You don’t want to cut tax rates. You don’t want to deregulate. You don’t want to resist labor union power, wielded against the people at large.
The French, in other words, or anyway the top leaders they formerly elected, have been petulant for the sake of petulance, uncooperative for the sake of uncooperativeness. Quite a bit like Democrats.
That may be the most striking point here — the likeness of America’s critics in France and, well, in America itself.
You know who you are. "Why?" is the question. How come? Is it a matter of honest disagreement over war strategy, or is it something deeper — namely, hostility toward the country’s purposes in advancing American ideals? Is there something about American ideals that particular Westerners, including Americans, find objectionable? Is it something about capitalism and democracy and a generalized attitude of respect for religion?
France, prior to the late election, showed little attachment to competitive capitalism, preferring a model run by and responsible to the state — not wholly unlike those Americans who fret more about "the rich" than about the need to create more of them. An oddity in secular France has meanwhile been the country’s failure to support a war against the deadly brand of supernaturalism peddled by the suicide bombers and their cheering squads throughout much of Islam. You find the same failure of course over on the secular left wing of American politics. It is odd for sure. Another word is "irrational" — lacking reason, lacking good sense.
The French election — vive M. Sarkozy, before I forget — more than upends, for a spell at least, French anti-Americanism. It suggests that American anti-Americanism, too, could run its course on account of sheer irrationality. Elections have a way of deciding these things. The French just had theirs. Ours comes in 18 months.
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