Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Title: Frog Talk, part I

Hi Everyone, Bell Curve and Mrs Bell Curve are summering in Paris, France (and before you francofiles out there complain about the title it was Bell Curve's idea, Mr. and Mrs Bell Curve are both Franco-Americans and I don't mean that they like canned pasta). Anyway, he's having trouble posting and asked me (Raised by Republicans) to post this for him. The following are Bell Curve's impressions from France:

This is the first in a series of reports from France.

Hi everyone. Bell Curve reporting with a few random thoughts from France. Here goes:

1. Great move by the Bush administration to hand over sovereignty a few days early. Had they done it on June 30th, everyone would have talked about how it was a meaningless gesture. This takes everyone by surprise, and even here the journalists can hardly say anything negative about it.

2. The general feeling here seems to be that Kerry cannot win the election, since he doesn't have enough charisma to beat Bush. This comes from a people who badly want Kerry to win, thanks to his familial French ties, but are just terribly pessimistic about everything...remember, these are the people who brought you such life-affirming ideas as existentialism and Calvinism...

3. I don't know how much this is getting reported stateside, but Chirac does not want NATO to get involved in Iraq. I can hardly disagree with him, seeing as how Iraq is not a North Atlantic country. He also talked recently about French-American relations, which I thought was interesting: he essentially said "France and America are allies, and as allies we can disagree. We disagreed on Iraq; it now appears this was the correct decision, at least for the French people." Feel free to interpret that as you like.

More to come...

33 comments:

US West said...

Ah, RBR, this was aimed at me, I am sure. So I will take the bait. France is doing what France always does. There is a saying in French, "un cheveau dans la soupe" which is like saying a fly in the ointment.

The French have long sought to counter US power. (remember the force de frappe, and the calls for a joint EU military arm?) Politically, Chirac is doing exactly the right thing for several reasons.

1. It is what his electorate wants. He was elected without a mandate, and the Bush Administration has provided him with the perfect opportunity to play tough for the French public.

2. It is in accord with the national political and economic interests of France. In fact, France is there to remind the US that other nations have national interests, too.

3. He now has a perfect platform in NATO and the EU to make France’s voice heard. And the mantra that “We are friends of the US and when you see your friend being unwise you tell him, even at the risk of making him angry,” is probably true on one level, and political on another. It is a way for France to take the high ground as the steady hand, big brother, wise uncle. It allows Chirac to speak calmly, smile broadly, and remain aloof. And the friend mantra plays well in France, and among those Americans who disagree with the Bush policy by personalizing the issue and making it something people can understand.

But the whole thing goes much deeper than that. There is a strong individualistic and independent strain in the French mentality, equal to that here in the US. And this is what makes, for me, the French so compelling. They are our mirror. We are too much a like to get along, too much in love to break it off. I was once told that the Americans have a messianic notion to democratize while the French have the same messianic motion to civilize. If we could ever join forces for the same goal, we would be a formidable team. And that about sums it up. I am sure I will have more to add when I have more time to properly formulate the ideas.

Raised By Republicans said...

Hey, don't pin this on me! I swear it was all Bell Curve's ideas in the posting! All I did was relay the information.

RE: EU military wing. It'll never happen. And if does they'll be politically incapable to deploying effectively anywhere. The French and Germans are the biggest supporters of the idea of a Euro-military and I doubt they could agree on how to use it. The French would want to go galavanting around in Africa all the time and the Germans would want to use it only in Europe - especially the Balkans - and maybe the Caucasus (Russia permitting). And how would the Italians, Spaniards, Scandinavians (the Nordic Brigade was probably the best peace keeping unit in Bosnia), and Central Europeans fit into this? Not to mention the Brits!

Raised By Republicans said...

A comment on the early transfer of sovereignty in Iraq. It sure looks like a great move for/by Bush. But in the end, the proof will be in the pudding. US troops are still patrolling the streets enforcing a de facto US martial law throughout the country.

Max Weber defined a sovereign state as that authority which has sole legitimate authority to use force inside set borders. The Iraqi government does not satisfy that definition - neither do US forces. In Weber's framework, Iraq is a stateless zone. In this context, talking about who has sovereignty or not is somewhat pointless.

US West said...

I agree that it will never happen. The both the French ad the Germans are loathe (for very different reasons)to fire a weapon. I didn't mean to imply that an EU force would be good, efficient or even useful. It was simply a fact of French policy, one that they dreamed up and that other EU nations were never really into. We all know how effective the Europeans were in Bosnia, don't we.

The whole idea was an attempt to counter balance the US through the military. But it seems that simply speaking out and refusing to go along is proving effective enough. And le tme point out that neither the Ducth ir the French did such a great job protecting SREBRENICA!

The French will always take the other side or play devil's advocate to make a point. You see it in their conversations and discussions. They love to play that way. It doesn't always make them popular, but it does keep things interesting.

Raised By Republicans said...

Yes, Srebernecia was supposed to have been guarded by the Dutch peacekeepers. The Dutch troops there just stood by and watched the massacre. Its unclear if that was because of Dutch unwillingness to fight or because they were not given permission to shoot back by the UN envoy. Of course, The Netherlands is not in Scandianavia and so the Dutch were not in the Nordic Brigade. The Danes, Swedes and Norwegians of the Nordic Brigade were in a different part of the country. The big reason for the Nordic success in Bosnia was that they would counter attack against the Serbs without asking for permission from the UN envoy.

US West said...

You're right! The Dutch are hardly Nordic. My goodness, I'd have every Viking this side of Oslo after me if my Norwegian friends even thought I had implied such a thing!

The point was to agree with you that a collect EU force would not be effective.

The Law Talking Guy said...

It seems harsh to blame Srebrenica on the Dutch and French. Ever since the Suez crisis in 1956, Europe looked to US leadership. Bush provided none, and Clinton only got active after Srebrenica. It was not reasonable to expect the Europeans to mount a military campaign without US leadership. That was a decade ago. Since the end of the cold war, the '90s economic boom, the expansion of NATO, and (under GWBush) the fraying of the alliance, Europe is now staking out its own territory.

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