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  • The French Have Always Been Like That

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on March 1st, 2003 (All posts by )

    There is an excellent review essay in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, by Walter Russell Mead. Mead is the man who gave us the term “Jacksonian”, a badge worn proudly by many of the denizens of blogspace, or at least warblogspace. He is among our more astute observers of current events, informed by a profound historical understanding. (See the links here to recent articles and reviews. And, of course, read his book.)

    Mead notes that French Anti-Americanism is less about America than it is “a self-referential Franco-French phenomenon largely untroubled by larger questions of fact.” Rather, this animosity is a very old phenomenon, which even precedes the appearance of America:

    If there is anything missing in these books, it would be a discussion of the relationship between French Anglophobia and French anti-Americanism. Both in France and beyond, new anti-Americanism is simply old Anglophobia writ large. Anti-Anglo-Saxonism has been a key intellectual and cultural force in European history since the English replaced the Dutch as the leading Protestant, capitalist, liberal, and maritime power in the late seventeenth century. The image of Anglophone “New Carthage” — cruel, treacherous, barbarous, plutocratic — that Jacobin and Napoleonic propaganda assiduously disseminated contains the essential features of anti-Anglo-Saxon portraits so familiar today. The humiliations and setbacks that France suffered at American hands in the twentieth century chafe so badly in part because they rub the old wounds that the British inflicted in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The British destroyed the empires of the Bourbons and Bonaparte; the rise of the United States established a new superpower league in world politics in which France can never compete. The dog-eat-dog competition of Anglo-Saxon capitalism forces French firms to adjust, and it steadily undermines France’s efforts to maintain its social status quo. The English language has replaced French in science, diplomacy, and letters; the list goes on.
    In other words, a permanent feature of the Anglosphere is and has been a hostile or at least resentful France. And France is not the only country which is troubled by the success of the Anglo/American political and economic model:
    France is not the only country in Europe or the world whose ambitions were frustrated by the British and American hegemonies. France is not the only country which, left to its own devices, would embrace a kinder and gentler, if slower, form of capitalist transformation than the one that the Anglo-Saxon model imposes. France is not the only country in which intellectual and social elites dread the restructuring and decentralization that the Anglo-Saxon model brings in its train. Nor is it the only country where the state fears the loss of authority and power to Anglo-Saxon-driven globalization, with its attendant requirements of low taxes, transparency, and equal treatment for foreign investors and firms.
    Rather than cutting and pasting more long quotes, I’ll just say: Read it all.

    Incidentally, Mead correctly points out here that the “end” of the United Nations is not upon us if the U.S. attacks Iraq without a Security Council resolution.

    The plain if slightly sad fact is that from the day the U.N. Security Council first met in 1946, no great power has ever stayed out of a war because the council voted against it, and no great military power ever got into a war because the Security Council ordered it to. So, whether or not Bush gets a second council resolution on Iraq, the outlook for the Security Council is more of the same.
    That’s right. No matter what happens, the U.N. is too good a boondoggle for too many people from too many crappy little countries, who want to drive recklessly in Manhattan with diplomatic license plates, for it to go away. (Unless, that is, the United States consciously set out to shut it down. But that is a post for another day.)