February 21, 2003

The spirit of Lafayette lives on in the refusal of France to go along with the War Party

Two-hundred and twenty-five years ago, the French were instrumental in aiding the American revolutionaries in their fight against the British Empire. Today, they are once again playing a key role in aiding American fighters against another sort of Empire this time, one based in Washington, D.C.

As Dominique de Villepin, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, put it:

"The idea of regime change [in Iraq] introduces into international relations an instability whose consequences we have to assess. Whose job would it be to decide that a regime is good or that a regime is bad? What would be the first factor denoting an unacceptable regime? What would stop a regime being acceptable?"

As America crosses the Rubicon, and abandons the legacy of the Founders for a new age of Caesarism, the French, threatening to use their UN veto, stand in the way and the fury of the War Party has been unleashed, to often comical effect. Do you want to see hate? Take a gander at the cover of the [UK] Sun, a newspaper, nasty even by Murdochian standards, of the sort that gives tabloids a bad name. Chirac is depicted as a worm, and the editorial screeches at him:

"You were only too happy to welcome the Americans when France was crushed under Hitler's boot. But today you look down on the American people and their president, and you forget how many American and British soldiers, sailors and pilots gave their lives... for the freedom of this country."

But if the French are obligated to kowtow to the Americans and Tony Blair on account of a debt that can never be repaid, then what about the debt Americans owe to the French, whose aid during the Revolution secured our victory over King George III? The Brits don't want to bring that up, of course, but without the French we'd all be singing "God save the Queen" and suffering the ill effects of London's latest socialist scheme.

You have to hand it to the War Party, however: their hate campaign is not so much coordinated as it is choreographed, with radio "shock jocks" and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal dancing to the same tune of "Hate the Frogs." In Texas, a radio screamer stages a public bulldozing of French products, and, in Congress, the cry is heard to impose tariff penalties on our recalcitrant allies. Why, those effete French know-it-alls, they yelp, how dare they mock our rootin' tootin' cow-Boy Emperor.

John Fund, writing in the War Street Journal, approvingly notes that some dive in North Carolina has stopped selling french fries: "We now serve freedom fries," announces owner Neal Rowland, who also confides that

"The switch from french fries to freedom fries came to mind after a conversation about World War I days when anti-German sentiment prompted Americans to rename familiar German foods like sauerkraut and frankfurter to liberty cabbage and hot dog."

One wonders if that conversation touched on some of the other charming effects of World War I on the country: the lynchings of German-Americans, the closing down of German language and socialist newspapers, and the jailing of antiwar activists for "sedition." The teaching of German in the schools was banned, and the works of Goethe were burnt in the public square, while Wagner was banished from the opera houses. Yes, it was a great time for "freedom" in America and if you don't believe that, then you'd best shut up and eat your greasy "freedom fries."

Speaking of shutting up, that's exactly what the heroic Jacques Chirac told the so-called "Vilnius Group" of "ex"-Communist East European nations, when they issued their pro-war communique. "They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet," he quipped, and openly questioned whether the Easterners are ready to join the community of Europe. To Fund this is "blackmail" but why should the French and the Germans absorb economic refugees and debt from the East while the formerly Communist ministers of what used to be the Warsaw Pact cozy up to the new hegemon on the block?

The "Vilnius Group," largely made up of "reformed" Communist governments notably Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria (where the Bulgarian Socialist Party rules) ought to be renamed the Vassalage Group. Old habits are hard to break. Including the habit of not representing the wishes of their own people, who reject the idea of making war on Iraq even more emphatically than the West European "street."

What's really a laugh, however, is Fund's description of the French position as "bullying unilateralism." Welcome to the Orwellian world of the War Party, where threatening to not subsidize the Vassalage Group is the act of a bully, but claiming the right to preemptively attack any nation on earth is not. By the same inverted logic, a genuine aggression one that will claim many thousands of lives in the most horrible way is an act of "liberation." As long as it's committed by the U.S., and not, say, Saddam Hussein.

Fund cites the outraged cries of the various Vassals, including Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, the Polish Foreign Minister: "In the European family, there are no mummies, no daddies and no kids. It is a family of equals. In particular, there are no kids who are not mature enough to be partners with other members of the family."

While it is only natural for an "ex"-Commie apparatchik to mouth the rhetoric of egalitarianism, in this case it seems the minister is a case in point as to why Polish "democracy" still has a lot of growing up to do. It was Cimoszewicz, after all, who barely survived a no confidence vote in the Polish parliament for unilaterally surrendering Polish sovereignty at the EU bargaining table completely contrary to the instructions of the Poles' elected representatives.

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit and Charles Paul Freund of Reason magazine both cite a Romanian newspaper's angry retort to the French: "Communism wrung our neck while the honorable democracies issued communiqués." Yes, and the same Commies are still wringing their necks and ours, too. If these former fans of the Red Army are so eager to see Iraq "liberated," then let them send their own armies in to do the job, perhaps in conjunction with the Israelis. Let's put the cheerleaders on the field and see how they score!

Jonah Goldberg calls the French "cheese-eating surrender monkeys," a trope borrowed from "The Simpsons" and informs us he considers this "a funny ethnic slur." For someone who considers the term "neocon" or neoconservative to be a libel right out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, his "bandying about" as he puts it – of ethnic slurs is awfully bold. But Goldberg, when he gets over the obligatory joking, has a serious point to make. He claims that the European model of slow, peaceful transition to the international rule of law is only a confession of weakness:

"Their own military capacities are woefully deficient, and so they champion peace at any cost in part because they're loath to admit they couldn't fight if they wanted to."

That France does not have either the capacity or the will to invade, conquer, and occupy Iraq means what? That they would if they could but they can't? This is about the level of analysis one might expect of someone who gets his foreign policy views from a cartoon show. Cartoonish is the best way to describe the neocon view of history, as expressed by Goldberg:

"It's a classic free-ride [sic] problem. The Europeans have benefited from the global stability provided by the United States. But the Europeans – or at least the French and Germans – now take that stability for granted and berate the United States for doing what it sees as necessary to ensure continued peace and prosperity. Unfortunately, the idea that violence never solves anything is a fraud. Violence ended the Holocaust; in the U.S., it freed the slaves. And, in 1998, American-led violence ended slaughter in the Balkans while European paper shufflers stood by paralyzed."

The "stability" provided by the U.S. for half a century was the stability of perpetual terror the terror of Mutual Assured Destruction, and several bloody wars fought on the Asian landmass (Vietnam, Korea, and the battle for China), none of which we won. Some "stability"! In the post-cold war, post-9/11 world, it is the U.S., and not the French or the Germans, who want to plunge the entire Middle East into chaos and spark World War IV.

The idea that "violence ended the Holocaust" seems oddly disingenuous: after all, with large scale moral catastrophes of this sort, the point to note is that World War II did not and could not prevent the Holocaust. That war, in any case, was not fought to stop the Holocaust, just as the Civil War was not fought to end slavery, but to keep tariffs high and enslave the separate states to the federal government. As for ending the alleged "slaughter in the Balkans," will somebody please tell me why a known Clinton-hater like Goldberg swallows this particular Clintonian fib with such Lewinskyan alacrity?

Goldberg and his fellow neocons, including Freund and Fund, miss the most interesting aspect of the
"New Europe" versus "Old Europe" split: the ideological coloration of the combatants. The nations that have lined up behind the American hegemon are all ruled by parties of the Left, from Tony Blair's "New Labor" to the "former" hard-line Stalinists who now run Poland. On the other hand, Jacques Chirac is a Gaullist, a stalwart of the French center-right. What divides these two Euro-tendencies is different approaches to the question of national sovereignty.

To the ex-members of the Warsaw Pact, internationalism trumps national independence which is why, as late as the 1990s, the current Prime Minister of Poland was openly bemoaning the exit of the Red Army from his country. Certainly Blair attaches no importance to such an outmoded idea as nationalism: he is currently trying his best to submerge the British nation in the Euro-colossus and transfer sovereignty from London to Brussels.

On the other hand, independence is the chief guiding principle of the Gaullists, and always has been. Their politics are not anti-American, but pro-French, and revolve around a profound sense of French national identity and a modified but recognizable market economy. Chirac, in short, is a market nationalist, one who sees the relations between nations as governed by the rules of commerce and diplomacy, rather than power politics and threats of invasion.

While the American model is imperial, hegemonic, and impatiently unilateral, the Franco-German alternative is pacific, collaborative, and evolutionary. The EU is socialistic, bureaucratic, hostile to all forms of nationalism, and just as potentially hegemonic as its American rival. Yet, Chirac and his European allies, whether they realize it or not, are defending the mortal enemy of bureaucratic internationalism -- the idea of national sovereignty – against the American "hyperpower."

In his Los Angeles Times screed against the French, Goldberg inverts the leftist canard that "it's all about oil" and points to French oil contracts with Iraq as evidence that Chirac's anti-war stance is motivated by mercenary interests. This should have been followed by the standard Seinfeldian disclaimer: "Not that there's anything wrong with that." Goldberg is supposed to be a pro-market conservative: so why shouldn't the French take their own entirely legitimate commercial interests into account?

As long as Bin Ladenism and other even more gruesome opponents serve as the ideological counterpoint to American neo-imperialism, the "us against them" mentality of the Bush administration makes a crude sort of sense, at least as a propaganda theme. But as the U.S. embarks on a course set for Empire, its main adversaries will increasingly be found among its closest allies those with whom it shares the legacy of Western liberalism, and the values that are the very foundations of our civilization.

Market nationalism, transnational "progressivism," and American hegemonism these are the three principal contractors bidding on the building of a new world order. The first would uphold national sovereignty and some variant of the market economy as the twin pillars of international relations: their first principle is decentralism. The "tranzies," as they're called, are internationalists, and socialists to boot: their guiding light is the UN, which they believe should rule the world (in a power-sharing arrangement with the NGOs, of course). The American hegemonists, for their part, see Washington, D.C. as the New Rome, and Bush 43 as the first American Caesar and that is what this war is all about.

The outbreak of war in Iraq will mean that the hegemonists are on the offensive, and, at that point, only a united front of the market nationalists and their tranzi allies will be able to stop them. Whether this is possible, let alone probable, is impossible to tell. But the refusal of France's "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" to surrender to American demands is an encouraging sign, and a stand that is fully and rightly appreciated, at some level, by the antiwar movement in this country. At the recent protest rally in San Francisco, France was lauded from the speakers' platform, and with that I can only concur:

"Vive la France!"

At the height of World War II, when the Americans landed in Normandy, and proceeded to liberate France, their battle-cry was "Lafayette, we are here!" Today, as the French step in between us and some who wish to recreate the Anglo-American empire of King George III, they are once again rendering us invaluable aid. A great debt is being repaid: our friends abroad may yet save us from a fate far worse than befell the British.

– Justin Raimondo

comments on this article?

 Please Support Antiwar.com

520 S. Murphy Avenue, #202
Sunnyvale, CA 94086

or Contribute Via our Secure Server
Credit Card Donation Form

Your contributions are now tax-deductible

Antiwar.com Home Page

Most recent column by Justin Raimondo

Archived columns

Vive la France!

A 'Toxic' Meme

Rallying for War

Rally Against Fear

One Battlefield, Two Wars

Antiwar Breakthrough!

The Lying Game

Free Taki!

The Kook Factor

Our Reds, and Theirs

Beware the Ides of March

Growing Up

Israel's Amen Corner

Target: Scott Ritter

Listen Up, Soldier

Watch Your Back

Going Crazy

Turning Point

War Party in Retreat

Hail Caesar?

Korean Ghosts

Do Neocons Exist?

Happy New Year?

Previous columns

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

Back to Antiwar.com Home Page | Contact Us