The French Aren’t Funny

David Warren’s latest essay got at least two Chicago Boyz really, really mad. Not at him. At the French:

The French et al. smell blood, they are not going to back off now when they see the prospect of doing real damage. Their strategy was from the beginning to split the British from the Americans by humbling Mr. Blair, to delay the inevitable full-scale attack into the Iraqi hot season, when the fighting would be more difficult and thus the casualties higher; to isolate the U.S. diplomatically; to galvanize the international peace movement against the Bush administration; and to improve Saddam’s prospects for creating a catastrophe when war comes.

Whoa. I wrote a really long, really angry rant after I read this. Then, I had some leftover meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and began to see things in a more calm perspective. Plus, everybody is ranting about the French. I decided to try to add a little light instead of superfluous heat to this issue. Here’s what I came up with.

The main lesson to take away here is that the French are not misguided. They are not nave. They are not “surrender monkeys”. They are hostile to the United States. They are allies of Saddam, who is their client and customer. Warren is right their policies will, and are meant to, cause more American soldiers to die once we go to war in Iraq. Again, the purpose of French policy is to cause more Americans to die, as many as possible. There is no other interpretation which makes any sense.

The French have provided Saddam with weapons, or the tools to acquire weapons, which they knew were meant to be used against the United States. They either willfully or with reckless indifference have supported Saddam’s effort to obtain nuclear weapons. Since they willed the means, they should be assumed to have willed the end. The purpose here is to thwart the United States, and to put the lives of millions of Americans at risk. That is a risk and a threat the French were willing to cultivate and direct against the United States, through their client and ally, Saddam. At minimum, the French assistance to Saddam was meant to make Saddam’s hideous regime secure and unassailable and undeterrable. That is malign enough.

Why would the French be willing to take steps which logically and practically could very well lead to the destruction of American cities with nuclear weapons? Why are they willing to push things in that direction? Why are they willing to take that risk? Because they see the world as a zero sum game in which what is bad for America is good for France.

We have trouble understanding this. Putting morality aside, we see that a badly damaged United States would lead to a major contraction in the world economy, and all kinds of negative consequences for political and economic freedom worldwide. To us, it looks like simple, rational self-interest should make the French at least tacit allies of the United States. But that is incorrect. The French have always despised the Anglo-Saxons for being materialists. A great destruction of wealth is a price they would be willing to pay to make France relatively more strong and influential. There is no price too high, to the French leadership, for a chance to damage the hyperpower, to weaken it, to reduce its military and economic and political and cultural influence, to leave the world an open field without any hegemonic power, to create a world in which France can compete as an equal or near-equal, for position and advantage, for the “greatness” and “glory” which they believe to be their historical birthright.

We also see that increased terrorism will lead to harsher police measures and a degradation of personal freedom. We want to stamp out terrorism, especially the risk of nuclear terrorism, to preserve our freedoms. The French, again, are willing to pay the price of a much more intrusive government and loss of personal privacy and freedom. To them, the Anglo-Saxons have always over-valued Liberty compared to Equality and Fraternity. A world which was less free, but in which there was greater equality and greater social solidarity, one in which there was less individualism and “savage capitalism”, would be a positive from their perspective. So the destruction of the free and open world economy, and the erosion of personal freedom, which Americans think would be a disaster, looks like a positive to the French elite, or at least a price they are willing to pay.

The “West” is a historical unity, but there is no unitary “West” as a current political matter. The French do not think like Americans. French political values are not our political values. Their interests, or at least those of their political elite, are antithetical to our own. Their vision of the world of the future is contradictory and hostile to ours. And, it seems, they do not see coexistence as a possibility. Either the United States is cut down to size, or they lose their identity, and the future they want to build, primarily in Europe.

As Rod Dreher notes in this article, the French have a unique and in many ways admirable and appealing way of life. Many people fall in love with the place. One of my favorite writers is A.J. Liebling, and several of his books are love letters to France, French culture, French women, French food. The French leadership is acutely aware of this unique quality. I have grudging respect for the French leaders, for being willing to go to great lengths to preserve their country and its culture, if that is what they really think they are doing. I’d expect no less. I can also see why they see the United States as a threat to that way of life. Maybe they are right. Maybe it is. They are better judges of that than I am. But if protecting France means doing or allowing harm to us, if it really is “us or them”, then hard cheese on them. But do not doubt for a minute that they mean to prevail. Give them that much. Chirac and Villepin are not buffoons. They are serious, ruthless and aware of the stakes. They need to bring us down, and they are working hard to achieve that.

Before 1939, most Europeans could not believe that Hitler was serious, even though he repeatedly said, explicitly, what he meant to do. We should not be surprised that the French leadership, being less forthright than Hitler, and quietly playing a weaker hand, is not yet taken seriously as the menace it is. But the time is well upon us to wake up, to pay attention, and to coldly do what we must to prevail over the French in any forum and in any manner in which they oppose us.