Erik over at Wax Tadpole takes me to task:
I also don’t think [the French] see it as a purely zero-sum game in which America’s loss is France’s gain. They vastly underestimate the contribution that America makes to world stability and overestimate the stabilizing effect of their beloved multilateral institutions, which leads them to be reckless in their attempts to launch a new cold war.
He goes on to add:
I do think that French policy makers place greater weight on the good (or glory) of France as they see it than on the lives of American soldiers. That leads to decisions that place Americans at risk, but I’m aghast at the suggestion that they’re actively trying to get Americans killed.
Well. First, I think it is easier to think that Chirac and Villepin are smart and can at least anticipate the consequences of their actions than to impute a “vast underestimation” to them. They are bright guys. They can see how the world works, and they can foresee the more obvious likely consequences of their actions. And they know perfectly well how much America does to create “world stability.” Ending the “world stability” which has been imposed by the United States and which exists on American terms is what they want to happen.
As to being “aghast” at the idea that they are trying to get Americans killed, I’m aghast too. But I don’t see any other rational explanation for their conduct. Getting Americans killed is, at minimum, a price they are willing to pay. How the Hell else can you read it. If you provide the sworn enemy of the United States with powerful weapons, or the means to make them, you have got to figure they might be used against the United States. That is culpable conduct, whatever they may hope or wish will happen. And if it is not intentional it is still culpably reckless. What I am aghast at is their brazenness.
I recall reading that if one person has a crazy idea, he can be talked out of it. But get two people to share a crazy idea, and Heaven and earth can’t shake them. They have gone from being lonely fanatics to being an embattled minority possessing the Truth. So you can imagine how relieved I was to see this piece by Ralph Peters entitled “Dead Americans.” Peters’s closing line: “… every American who dies in this war will have a French diplomatic bullet in his or her body.”
To be fair, Peters does not go where I go on France arming Saddam:
Although one of the many reasons the French do not want us in Baghdad is that they don’t want us going through Iraqi archives and uncovering the extent of their complicity in Saddam’s defiance of sanctions, the material aid French firms may have provided to Iraq is a trivial issue compared to the moral and diplomatic encouragement Paris has given Baghdad.
Like I said before: I hope I’m wrong. I hope that at worst the French are being mercenary and irresponsible and thoughtless. Still not a very good moral justification for assisting Saddam to obtain weapons of mass destruction. But maybe it would be forgivable.
But please, let’s try to recall one of the many “lessons of 9/11” – there are lots of people out there in the world who really hate the United States. Some of them do so for reasons which don’t make a lot of sense to us. But Americans for some reason continue to find this hard to believe, even though they are rich, powerful, loud, indifferent to the sensibilities of foreigners and generally make it clear that the rest of the world is their playpen. Then, when some foreigner wants to cut our throats, we are dumbfounded. We need to stop being naïve. Poverty is not the root cause of hatred of America. Wounded pride is the root cause of hatred of America. And that can exist just as well in the French foreign ministry as it can in some madrasa in Pakistan, or some wealthy home in Cairo or Riyadh, or any number of other places.
Whatever their real motives, Chirac and Villepin had better watch it. They have caused this country to go into a more difficult war than was necessary. The inevitable consequence is that more Americans and more Iraqis are going to die when the war starts. Whatever those two think they are doing, they are building deep and probably permanent animosity here.