September 26, 2003

Questioning France

But it's not just Americans (and Brits) -- the French are themselves also asking if France has lost its way:

Doubts about Gallic supremacy have been a periodic feature of France for centuries. They have now returned, fed by economic gloom and amplified by best-selling books. France, according to the thesis hashed out in the media and around Paris dinner tables, has been overtaken by Britain and others because it atrophied as a centralised welfare state in the 1970s.

Before leaving to lecture the United Nations on the superiority of the French world view this week, President Chirac was forced to respond to the doom-mongers with a morale-boosting speech. France was bursting with health, he insisted to a provincial audience.

Back in Paris, the claim was given as much credence as his line that “France has no quarrel with the United States”. Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the Prime Minister, hammered home his boss’s message this week, saying: “I do not believe that France is in decline.”

A telling sign in itself, that a public statement of that nature would even have been made.
The words of the now unloved Prime Minister were undermined yesterday when he unveiled a 2004 budget that expects minimal growth, takes national debt up to record level and busts a hole in the EU’s ceiling for public deficits for a third successive year.

Big corporate bankruptcies and spring strikes by the public sector and entertainment workers preceded a summer of forest fires and a heatwave that was officially blamed yesterday for 14,800 deaths.

The mood is being fanned by three books that argue that there is nothing temporary about France’s troubles. With its chronic unemployment and dinosaur centralised state, France can no longer pose as a universal model of progress and civilisation, they argue. In L’Arrogance Française, Romain Gubert and Emmanuel Saint-Martin, both journalists, say that France infuriates the rest of the world with its discredited diplomacy.

In Adieu a la France qui s’en va (“Farewell to a France that is departing”) Jean-Marie Rouart, a novelist and member of the august Académie Française, says that France is losing its soul to mediocrity and needs a great leader to restore its grandeur.

Still pining for Napoleon. Oy vey.
The biggest splash is being made by La France Qui Tombe (Collapsing France), by Nicolas Baverez, an historian and economist.

Baverez says that, after three post-war decades of progress, France lost its way under the 14-year leftwing reign of the late François Mitterrand and eight years so far under his neo-Gaullist successor. Hostages to tyrannical state sector unions, farmers, subsidised film-makers and other interests groups, successive governments had squandered national wealth and heritage to maintain a protectionist Soviet-style state, he says.

He repeatedly draws unfavourable comparisons with Britain, the favourite destination for emigrants from France in the past decade. In a lament often heard in France, Baverez says that Britain has taken over the European Union, monopolising its top jobs and imposing a British stamp on the new draft constitution. France, in turn, has alienated its neighbours by playing fast and loose with the EU rules.

Abroad, President Chirac’s high-handed posturing had made a laughing stock of France. “In the Iraq crisis, France has suffered a diplomatic Agincourt,” he says. . .

Reaction to Baverez has largely split down political lines. The left is widely accusing him of “declinism”, an old rightwing obsession that that fed fascism in the 1930s.

Denigration instead of debate is a long-favored method of killing the messenger.
Attacks are also coming from the right. The conservative Figaro said: “This mood of ‘franco-pessimism’ is creating an unhealthy atmosphere which carries the stigma of the 1930s.” But it added: “The roots of the evil are in our statist culture, something that the British threw out ages ago.”

NOTE: If the comments function is running slowly, please be patient! Both Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan linked to this post nearly simultaneously, and our server is feeling the strain. . . .

Posted by David on September 26, 2003 9:59 AM


September 25, 2003

We invite you to hum along with our French Suite:

The Politics of International Criminal Prosecutions

The Irresponsible, Badly Brought Up, Infantile Dutch

Lara Marlowe: False Comfort

Lara Marlowe: Caps and Badges and Mindsets
The French Leave Us At A Loss for Words

Lara Marlowe: Fine Wine and Fine Distinctions

Bran at Blog-irish

Posted by: Bran on September 26, 2003 11:11 AM

Good post!


Posted by: James R. Rummel on September 26, 2003 11:12 AM

It's good to note that the Franch are perhaps beginning a reexamination of their roles in both the EU and world diplomacy. Now if they can only see the criminal Chirac removed from office, all will be forgiven and I will once again by French-made products and re-consider spending my tourism dollars in France.

Posted by: Sharon Langworthy on September 26, 2003 11:46 AM

This is a good article and analysis, but I'm afraid that absent some dramatic reversal and public atonement by France, my opinion of that miserable, cowardly nation will never change. France won't even fight to save itself. Why should we expect gratitude for having rescued it -- twice -- last century? And why should we be surprised at French resentment and perfidy, given their knowledge that only America and Britain have had the intestinal fortitude to stand up to monomaniacal dictators? Disagreeing with us is fine, even noble if we're wrong, but actively working to undermine us as a global strategy makes France an enemy of the United States, and it's high time we started to act upon this truth.

Posted by: Ed Morrissey on September 26, 2003 12:35 PM

Look, i would love to see the French return to sanity (presuming they were ever there in the first place) but I don't really see that much evidence of it in your evidence.

Posted by: A.W. on September 26, 2003 1:29 PM

Most French do not believe in basic equality - that all people are created equal. Its political tradition starts with the premise that anything French is civilization - the rest of the world are classified by how French-like they behave in varying degrees of barbarism. In France, the working classes accept their lowly positions to the elites, but exercise their power through Unions and recieve protection from socialist elites running the government. It is a bargain they no longer can afford.

Posted by: Paul Deffebach on September 26, 2003 2:16 PM

The very first thing France should do is buy some freaking air conditioning. It's unbelievable that 15,000 should die because its too hot. I can also imagine the stench over there right now. In addition to the dead bodies piling up you have a whole society that doesn't wash its armpits and its really hot. That combo of dead people stench and under arm aroma will probably kill off another 15,000.
Unless they're trying for some radical new population control its not too good an idea to let your citizens succumb to heat.
If France thinks there's a bright light at the end of the tunnel they are mistaken. Because of their arrogance they've hurt the UN the US and Iraq, not to mention themselves. They hurt the US because the US is standing by itself right now fighting a war that should have been waged by free nations, (isn't that what the whole purpose of the United Nations was in the first place, they REALLY hurt the UN because they are showing how useless and spineless the UN really is. They hurt Iraq because they gave Sadaam time while they held back the US to bury and/or sell and/or move WMD's elsewhere and at the same time allowed that murdering scumbag to keep his foot on Iraqi's knecks for decades more than they had to. All those mass grass are testaments to the UN and France playing hot potato with Iraq. No one did anything so the problem festered.

Talk about a phyric victory. America has egg on its face because France stabbed them in the back and left us holding the bag alone (even after swearing to Colin Powell that they would stand with us when writing 1441). Fine. See how you feel after 3 years of Americans not coming to France and tourism industry is dead. Or how we buy all of our wine from Italy or even California and continue to dump yours down the drain. Also, forget about all that money owed to you by Iraq when you helped arm Sadaam and kept him in power to rape and pillage for more than 20 years. Do you think Iraqis will forget the country that did the most to stand in the way of their freedom. Not only wont you get the money owed to you but you wont see a single penny from any deals with Iraq in the future if there's any justice.

France can go rot like their fermented cheese. Americans...never forget who your friends are and who your enemies are. France is our enemy. They're the "friend" who badmouths you behind your back, steals from you, calls you names and works against your interest at every turn. In other enemy. F France.

Posted by: JR on September 26, 2003 2:44 PM


But the first step is realising that you have a problem, no?

Posted by: crionna on September 26, 2003 2:52 PM

France doesn't matter anymore.

Posted by: t-bone on September 26, 2003 3:10 PM

I speak French well enough to be mistaken for a native-speaker and have lived and worked in various parts of 'la francophonie' for nearly fifteen years.

The core problem with France--notwithstanding its self-description as a democracy--is that since long before Agincourt it has been run by its /nobility/.

Just who happens to be 'nobility' in any given era has changed across the centuries, but the system has not. 1789 changed only /who/ was nobility.

In the Fifth Republic the nobility are primarily intellectuals and bureaucrates. The intersection of those two is to be found in the ENA -- the national school of administration. Its graduates are the modern nobility in France.

France is in particularly grave condition at present because the nobility have sought to impose a secular socialism that has never worked anywhere. After fifty years of it, Sweden would rank 51st if it were an American state.

France is headed the same direction. France will be a problem for America for as long as it continues with a nobility-based polity. Its love affair with socialism only magnifies its perennially besetting problem.

As long as mothers swell with pride, and say "Mon fils est bureaucrate." (my son is a bureacrat) ... France is on a road to nowhere and will continually try to undermine the successful in order that the contrast not be so readily apparent.

The French detest George Bush (as they did Ronald Reagan) because such men do not toady to nobility, and they will not undermine America simply to avoid rubbing French noses in the inadequacies of their system.

Posted by: Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) on September 26, 2003 3:14 PM

Another factor in France's future troubles will likely be demographics. For all of the US's challenges with immigration and the plight of African Americans and Hispanics, the French face a demographic time bomb from its large and growing Muslim population. Estimates range from 10 to 15% and growing.

The Muslim community's reluctance to assimilate socially, economically or politically--not to mention religion--into France's liberal socialism can explain some of Chirac's foreign policy. It's been joked that France will be enacting Sharia law within a few decades.

Posted by: paul on September 26, 2003 3:50 PM

Charles Martel doit tourner dans son tombe. (Martel must be rolling in his grave).

Once again, after nearly 1300 years, France finds itself on the margin of militant Islam. It is well said that "Islam has bloody borders."

Phillippines -- Moslems attack Catholics
Indonesia -- Moslems attack Hindu Bali
East Timor -- Moslems attack Catholics (and in Baghdad kill the UN official responsible for Timorese independence)
Malaysia -- Moslems attack Buddhists
India -- Moslems attack Hindus, Moslems attack Jains, Moslems attack Sikhs
Kashmir -- Moslems attack Hindus
Iran -- Moslems attack Baha'is
Israels -- Moslems attack Jews
Egypt -- Moslems attack Coptic Christians
Sudan -- Moslems attack Anglicans and pagans
Uganda -- Moslems attack Catholics
Central African Republic -- Moslems attack Catholics
Cameroun -- Moslems attack pagans
Nigeria -- Moslems attack Anglicans
France -- Moslems attack Jews (for now, but just wait)
Balkans -- Moslems attack Orthodox, Moslems attack Catholics
Chechnya -- Moslems attack Orthodox
China (western) -- Moslems attack atheists

Is there perhaps a pattern here?

France, by nature, is incapable of dealing with the threat--or even recognising it--because its nobility are both anti-American and anti-Semitic. Because Israel is the intersection of those two, the French nobility will tend to side with the jihadis until it is too late.

If the roots of militant Islam (primarily Saudi Arabian) are not cut off in the Middle East, I predict that within 30 years the US and Britain will have to occupy France in order to keep its nuclear arsenal from falling into the hands of jihadis via a 'democratic' election.

Posted by: Bart (again) on September 26, 2003 5:00 PM

Ed Morrissey: yeah, you tell 'em! Who cares if they were invaded twice last century by the superior armed forces of expansionist German dictatorships? That's their fault because they're all cowards!

Those thousands of Frenchmen who died fighting the Nazis while America sat on its hands were just a bunch of devious betrayers, trying to con us into believing that they opposed Hitler. They'll stop at nothing to hoodwink the Anglosphere - not even their own deaths. Typical Frenchies!

Obviously, the events of 60-80 years ago mean that France is bound to agree with every single policy of every American government until the end of time, or else they're cheese-eating surrender monkeys. Why can't they be fine, upstanding global citizens like our friends Silvio Berlusconi and Pervez Musharraf? Long live our infallible President! And pour me another glass of that Polish wine!

Posted by: Jason Toon on September 26, 2003 5:29 PM

JR: "knecks"? "mass grass"? "phyric"? I hope you're not in too deep with those student loans, because they seem like a bad investment now.

Posted by: Jason Toon on September 26, 2003 5:33 PM

Bart Hall: Sweden "would rank 51st as an American state" by what measure? The UNDP ranked Sweden as the third-best country to live in on Earth, four spots ahead of the USA. I can point you to the report, if you like, chock full of statistical quality-of-life indicators. So let me see your evidence.

I realize you probably aren't often challenged to back up your kneejerk platitudes - not a lot of people sticking up for socialism here in the Midwest, or on blogs like this - but give it a try. You might learn something.

Posted by: Jason Toon on September 26, 2003 5:42 PM

"...statist culture, something that the British threw out ages age." That heartless bitch, Maggie Thatcher..........

Posted by: ed on September 26, 2003 6:30 PM

Jason: I went ahead and did the research. The World Bank lists Sweden's per capita gross GNP as USD 25,400 for 2001. [ ]

Per, it would outrank only Arkansas, Montana, West Virginia and Mississippi in terms of gross per capita GNP (or in the case of those four entities, Gross State Product).

I'm ignoring things like purchasing parity, but Bert isn't too far off. Quality of life is nice. To me, the choice that greater wealth provides is even better. Of course that's the real conflict, isn't it? Capitalists prefer choice. Socialists prefer security. The two mix about as well as oil and water. I've met a few Swedes who hate the lack of choice that socialism dictates. I know a lot of Americans that hate the lack of security that capitalism necessitates. Maybe we need a two state solution? At any rate, ideological arguments and insults solve nothing.

Posted by: a dude on September 26, 2003 6:50 PM


Is this what you are talking about?

That can be broken down into two parts. The first part is


and the second part,

............all the left-wing garbage
US.............who cares

Posted by: Jon Cohen on September 26, 2003 6:58 PM

“France has no quarrel with the United States”

As a citizen of the United States, I speak for millions of my fellows when I say that whether or not frogs have a quarrel with us is of less import than the nether end of your recently cloned rodent.

And Bart.

Je regret that we sat on our hands while thousands of Frenchmen died fighting the Nazis and even more thousands collaborated with the Nazis and even gave over their Jewish orphans to placate them.

Generations of Americans, survivors of the millions of soldiers who died so that frogs may continue to croak and not be forced to speak German, offer their apologies and vow that the next time Germany invades you, we'll get over there pronto to fight and die for the glory that once was France. You guys can go on vacation as planned.

I'm usually good with words, but words fail me in speaking of the unspeakable French.

Posted by: erp on September 26, 2003 7:20 PM

Hey Jason: We're not pissed at France because they don't agree with our every foreign policy decision. We're pissed off because they don't have the decency to get out of the way and shut up when they have nothing to contribute to the problem. Let them disagree, but in this case they went way beyond that and used all of their (waning, but significant) diplomatic power to make our efforts in Iraq as difficult for us to carry out as possible. They actively sought to return Iraq to the pre-Gulf-War status quo. For them, the war really was about nothing more than oil, and political domination, and they were willing to sacrifice Iraqi and American lives to see their selfish interests protected. Get a clue.

Posted by: TomP on September 26, 2003 7:58 PM

Jason Toon:

Jag talar svenska, och Du? [I speak Swedish, how about you?]

Study by Robert Gidehag, Chief Economist of Handelns Ultredningsinstitut [Trade Research Institute] published in the liberal Dagens Nyheter newspaper 04 Mai 2003.

Gidehag knows his stuff. His CV is available at

[English version, from the UK Telegraph]=====
Using fixed prices and purchasing power parity adjusted data, the median household income in Sweden at the end of the 1990s was the equivalent of $26,800 compared with a median of $39,400 for U.S. households, HUI's study showed.

"Weak growth means that Sweden has lost greatly in prosperity compared with the United States," HUI's President Fredrik Bergstrom and chief economist Robert Gidehag said.

International Monetary Fund data from 2001 show that U.S. GDP per capita in dollar terms was 56 percent higher than in Sweden while in 1980, Swedish GDP per capita was 20 percent higher.
"Black people, who have the lowest income in the United States, now have a higher standard of living than an ordinary Swedish household," the HUI economists said.

If Sweden were a U.S. state, it would be the poorest measured by household gross income before taxes, which measure was chosen to get around differences in taxation and welfare structures, Bergstrom and Gidehag said.

Sweden is pretty crummy in the crime department, too, quite aside from having it Prime Minister and Foreign Minister both assasinated within the last 20 years. So much for gun control, eh? Both were knifed.

A Dutch study, which you can find here : establishes Sweden has having one of the highest crime rates in the industrialised world. [and yes, I speak some Dutch, too]

In fact, eight of the top ten countries for crime are socialist / social democracies. The exceptions are Australia and Poland. The US didn't even make it into the top ten.

Sweden is right at the top for risk of sexual assault. Right at the top for property theft. 8% of bicycles are stolen there every year.

And as for the vaunted Swedish health care system, one Swede in six is now on long-term disability or early retirement due to chronic "illness." Or is it malingering, which would also explain Sweden's economic free-fall over the last generation.

So Jason, I think the case has been made that (as usual) the "kneejerk platitudes" are coming from your end of the spectrum.

If you can't run with the big dogs, you'd better stay on the porch, kid.

Posted by: Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) on September 26, 2003 8:12 PM

Crionna, of course you are right, but I don't expect too many more of the French to make that realization. And thanks for deleting my multiple posts, too!

And Jason Toon -- perhaps if you read about how France (and Britain) stuck a knife in Czechoslovakia's back in order to avoid fighting the Germans when they could have been easily stopped ... perhaps if you read William Safire to see how quickly the French caved to a German assault that was not significantly superior numerically, and see how the French Grand Armee never even bothered to destroy roads and bridges to slow them down ... when history shows how willing the Vichy government was to ship Jews off to the ovens along with the very small number of Frenchmen who resisted the Germans ... France (and Britain) had numerous opportunities, starting in 1934 when Hitler first abrogated the Versailles Treaty to Munich in 1938, to stop the "expansionist German dictatorship" throughout the 1930s but chose to do exactly what France decided to do this year about Saddam Hussein. But you may feel free to wallow in the historical fraud that perpetuates the notion that France is a defender of liberty.

And if you had read my post, I had explicitly stated that France has every right to disagree with us, as friends do, if they feel we are wrong. However -- France has not simply disagreed with us, they have overtly tried to undermine us, going so far as to threaten their neighbors economically and diplomatically for supporting us, something that even Germany blanched at. Polish wine, indeed! Or did you miss the French whine about younger EU nations not missing an opportunity to stay silent and leaving themselves open to 'consequences'? Oh, yeah, those French, the defenders of liberty, equality, fraternity, as long as you're French or you have a massive army parading through the Arc de Triomphe.

More to the point, France ran weapons to Saddam during the "sanctions" of the past dozen years (along with Russia and maybe Germany), and practically guaranteed war when it refused to even consider enforcing *17* UN resolutions for Saddam to publicly disarm and account for his WMD programs. After assuring Colin Powell that they would stand shoulder to shoulder with us, they instead insisted that they would veto ANY resolution calling for enforcement of 1441. Oh yeah, those French, our friends.

So let's recap: France sells weapons to a dictator with whom we are at conflict, signs secret futures deals with this dictator and tries to undermine the sanctions against him, encourages us to get a 17th resolution calling for the dictator to comply with the previous 16 on the basis that they will support us if that doesn't work, stabs us in the back when it doesn't and then publicly threatens our allies when they do support us.

Well, sure, I see now what a great friend the French are. How silly of me! Guess I'll go right onto and buy that French book about how 9/11 was really all an American plot to improve our economy. And right after that I'll drink my Kool-Aid like a good little internationalist.

Posted by: Ed Morrissey on September 26, 2003 8:33 PM

Interesting thread but two comments: The French cannot put air conditioners into all French homes because they don't have the electrical power to support it. They are a nuclear power country that gets a significant part of their income from selling their cheap surplus. The reason they have this surplus is that they DON'T have things like A/C eating up their power.

The other point is the French Army at the beginning of WWII was the largest in Europe (bigger than Germany), their tanks were far superior to the German tanks of that time, and their planes whipped up on both the ME-109 and FW-190, meaning their pilots and planes were superior. They lost because their command had no confidence after WWI, stationed themselves 200 miles behind their own lines, and when the Germans cut the communications they had no way to lead troops. The Germans breached the Maginot line at one spot and there was no leadership because the leadership didn't know what happened. The French surrender was inexcuseable, but it happened. You can look up the French Army of 1940 anywhere, the Germans basically followed the tank warfare as laid out by a guy named De Gaulle in his book, and as another irony, the German general Guderian also co-wrote with De Gaulle THE book on infantry tank warfare.

And the French caved because their leadership caved.

Posted by: Howard Veit on September 26, 2003 9:00 PM

Howard, thanks for the specifics on the French armed forces prior to WWII. Another dynamic was the eight months of the "phoney war" between Septmber 1939 and May 1940, during which morale deteriorated significantly amongst both the leadership and rank-and-file of the French military. This was helped out considerably by French communists and socialists, under orders from Stalin (at the time allied with Hitler) to do whatever it took to undermine France's will to fight. Stalin was highly motivated to provide a weaker western front to Hitler for his expansionist eye, distracting him from eastern Europe. Of course, in the end, Hitler went both directions, but it only took him an embarassing SIX WEEKS to sack France, despite attacking a supposedly reinforced defense with slightly inferior numbers.

All of which has interesting and eerie parallels to today. The socialists and communists of the 1930s paralyzed the western democracies into inaction when the "expansionist German dictatorship" allied with the Soviets by promoting peace at any price and defeatism. There was talk -- sotto voce for the most part -- about how Roosevelt was surrounded by a cabal of Jews trying to force America into a war that was none of its business. Once the Soviet Union was attacked, however, the exact same people agitated for years for a Second Front in Europe, incensed that the West wasn't doing enough to prosecute the war.

These days, we have the radical leftists at International ANSWER fomenting defeatism at home, undermining morale, and whispers of Jewish cabals (if you don't realize that 'neocons' is a code word for Jews, you haven't been paying attention) surrounding the President forcing him into a war. The difference is that domestic opposition is buying into this, which significantly weakens our ability to project strength during this stage of the war on terror. It won't stop until the Islamofascists make the mistake of attacking France, which they eventually will. At that point, you won't have to hold your breath long before these same leftists start screaming that we aren't fighting on *enough* fronts.

That's the funny and tragic thing about history -- it keeps repeating itself, and on all the worst points. Unfortunately, these days anything that happened prior to last year's TV schedule doesn't seem worth studying, at least to the majority of the population. They'd rather just rely on the urban legend of French friendship and justice.

Posted by: Ed Morrissey on September 26, 2003 10:00 PM

Bravo to Bart and the other guy who schooled that other guy...

Posted by: me on September 26, 2003 11:09 PM

And let's not hear anymore about how the French helped us during the Revolutionary War. We were the club they used to batter their ancient foe, the English. Anything that weakened them made the French stronger. As soon as the war was over and the English kicked out, they connived with London to keep the fledgling Republic weak.

Posted by: Jerry on September 26, 2003 11:25 PM

Jason also fails to recognize that even the Socialists, under Mitterrand and Jospin, turned away from excessive state intervention in the economy and privatized and deregulated more industries more widely than any other EU government, including Thatcher's.

One should also note that applications to ENA, l'Ecole Nationale d'Administration, are down by half from previous decades due to the much greater interest shown by this generation in business and entrepreneurship. France is changing because it has to. Without massive immigration, its aging population will cause its economy to decline rapidly; with massive immigration, you can count on more Le Pens gaining more votes and causing France's old right-left schism on race (remember Dreyfus) to re-emerge.

Posted by: TBo on September 27, 2003 2:21 AM

Howard Veit - Why are you responding to a non-suggestion? Why should the French government put air conditioners in people's homes? What a bizarre notion that a government would be expected to supply people with home appliances!

The argument is that the French government, which runs the healthcare system, has never seen fit to introduce air-condioners (or icemakers) into French hospitals, nursing homes and retirement homes. Thus people already weak enough to be confined to hospital, and frail elderly people had no relief from temperatures that lingered for weeks between 95 and 112. Paris, in the north of the country, only suffered high temperatures for a week, but in the south it was 10 weeks. They couldn't even give their fragile old people iced drinks! Air conditioning was invented 100 years ago, but it's an American invention and therefore tainted. France has plenty of electricity from nuclear power. Hospitals and nursing homes supplying vulnerable people with air conditioning for two or three months a year wouldn't be that big a drain.

Posted by: Posie on September 27, 2003 7:23 AM

Will the myth of French resistance ever die? Packing Jews on trains like cattle to be placed in ovens in the hope that it will spare your country does not qualify as "resistance".

Posted by: Joe Marino on September 27, 2003 8:46 AM

Speaking of the French healthcare system. The dissident frogaman ( notes that his father is living in a nursing home in France with 145 beds and 3 bathrooms that double as storage closets. There is only one reality and the French are not in it.

Posted by: Joe Marino on September 27, 2003 8:51 AM

After reading this summary of contrarian literature and reflecting how France in my youth was everything we admired: the best food, the best in fashion, great literature and philosophy, a beautiful language—I can think only of James Lilek's recent line: "France is like a man who looks into the future and sees his life ending in a suicide, and then spends the rest of his days trying to make it look like a murder."

Posted by: Right Brain on September 27, 2003 9:22 AM

French culture is still there, it hasn't gone away. France is still beautiful and its society and culture the one of the most sophisticated of modern times. So I wouldn't write it off although demographics and politics conspire to make the future not so bright. Its been written off many times and has bounced back. Let's not forget that in 1945 it was all but destroyed -economically and socially- but managed to rebuild itself into one of the 6 largest economic powers of the world. I was in Tokyo recently and was surprised to see that signs of French culture were so omnipresent - not only the usual Chanel, Vuitton or Dior stores but all the art galleries and hip stores were playing Piaf or Aznavour or Gainsbourg or Jane Birkin or more contemporary French techno trip-hop stuff. Little French-theme cafes have sprung up all over Shibuya or Aoyama. Bookstores showcase Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze. So its quite astonishing that France continues to wield a cultural influence quite out of proportion with its political power. Something the critics will never admit, of course.

Posted by: eclectic on September 27, 2003 11:18 AM

Howard, could you clarify one point?

I was always under the impression that the Germans went *around* the Maginot Line. Your post implied that they went through it as well.

What exactly happened, may I ask?

Posted by: Steffan on September 27, 2003 2:56 PM


They went around the Maginot Line. And then, just to prove they could, they went back around and punched through it.

Posted by: Brian Tiemann on September 27, 2003 4:31 PM

A few points re: French military history in World War II.
The Maginot Line was broken at Saarbrucken and Colmar on the 14 and 15th of June 1940, but that was only two days before Petain asked for armistice on 17th of June. The German's granted the armistice on 22 of June.
The French army fielded eight types of tanks but most had one-man turrets, which overworked the commander. The German tanks had three man turrets, which gave the commander the time to lead his team.
Generally, the French units fought well and thoroughly thrashed the Italian offensive even though they were outnumbered. Many French units fought bravely to allow over 300,000 Allied troops to evacuate at Dunkirk. The French leadership was slow moving and suffered from low morale. Their biggest problem, however, was the fact that the Germans, having lost World War I, decided to fight the next was differently. Against a less capable enemy, the French would have done quite well, as their experience against the Italians proves. All that being said, the French could have done more. The tiny navies of the Netherlands, Poland and Norway fled to England to continue the fight. One Norwegian and one Polish destroyer were sunk screening the Allied fleet during operation Overlord, the D-Day invasion. Some ships from the French Navy fought on after the Armistice but once again, the French leadership couldn't deal with the situation. Most of the French fleet was sunk by the British or scuttled by the French to keep it from falling into German hands. So we see, it was not so much the cowardice of the French soldier that led to their defeat but a lack of competence, resolve and forethought on the part of their leadership. The parallels to this century are uncanny.
For a great reference book of World War Two I suggest “World War II, a Visual Encyclopedia” by John Keegan. The Ballantine’s Illustrated History of World War II books were published in 40 years ago when many veterans could still be interviewed. They sell for about $5.00 (US) or so in used bookstores.

Posted by: Harmon Ward on September 27, 2003 6:04 PM

France was let down by its leaders but another important factor was that the country's morale had really not recovered from WWI -the war to end all wars- which it had barely survived and which had left it depleted in many ways. And the fierce battles between left and right of the 30s had created a fractured political landscape which contributed to the general weariness. So while the Germans were playing offense and eager to fight French morale was very low .

Posted by: ahab on September 27, 2003 9:08 PM

Bert Hall,
Jag ocksao tala svenska aussi bien que le francais
I live in Sweden and have lived and worked in Paris. Your analysis of both countries' dire economic straits is correct. A friend in Stockholm just had his operation (for an extremely painful condition) scheduled...for 2007.
That's four years. The wait for a simple cataract removal is only two years.
Ain't "universal" healthcare great?

Posted by: jeanne on September 28, 2003 3:40 AM


In Europe, where I live, it’s only ladies who lunch who use Vuitton, Chanel. But it’s hard to see what expensive handbags and shoes has to do with culture.If pop music is culture, the USA is the most cultured country on earth. And if Derrida and Deleuz are your examples of culture, the U.S. university English departments have an embarras de richesse..

You probably think smoking is culture… as long as it’s Gauloises cigarettes.

France is like an ageing Hollywood actress, gazing in a mirror and finding herself still beautiful, desperately seeking a role. French culture died a long time ago.

Posted by: zazi on September 28, 2003 5:16 AM

Jag ka' ik' taler Svensk men Jeg taler Dansk (Københavnsk).

To all you guys pining for scandanavian social welfare is not there. The system is crumbling, at least the Danes have had the good sense to elect a moderatly right coalition government and started paring back on this nonsense.

hows this for good socialist soak the rich fun - I paid 49% income taxes at my minimum wage dishwashing job in Dragør. Then I lost 1/3+ of everything else to sales tax. All for access to (not utilization of) a failing healthcare system and programmes of dubious merit.

socialism baaaaaaaad.

Posted by: fnyser on September 28, 2003 7:56 AM

Jerry, thanks for that tidbit about the Revolutionary War, which I hadn't known. One of the many petulant elitists at the Boston Globe was whining this summer about how ungrateful us frog-hating Americans were for General Lafayette and the Statue of Liberty.

It says something that one must look back 120 years to find an example of the French doing us a favor. Not to mention the popular (half-)jest that they certainly didn't have any use for the Lady of the Harbor.

Posted by: Reginleif the Valkyrie on September 28, 2003 8:34 PM

Seems to me I read somewhere that is was against the law to have air conditioning in french hospitals. Reason being the exchange of air could spread disease

Posted by: Raymond Donahue on September 29, 2003 5:15 AM

Bart -- the Swedish Prime Minister was in fact shot dead.
So much for gun control indeed

Posted by: Dave F on September 29, 2003 8:04 AM

Thanks for the correction, Dave. I had conflated the two assassinations.

The important irony in all these discussions is that it is not normally difficult to run a place the size of Sweden -- its population is about the same as the state of Georgia, and heck, even Jimmy Carter could figure out how to run Georgia.

When you apply socialist policies at a larger scale you get ... well, California. The Democrats there used to crow that "Now that we finally control everything in this state, you'll finally get to see what we can do with government." I guess so, eh?

Or how about a couple of side to side comparisons, in case Jason and his friends are still paying attention.

North Korea - South Korea
East Germany - West Germany
China - Taiwan or Hong Kong

All ethnically uniform, like Sweden, so the only differing factor is the economic system imposed (or allowed) by the government.

Posted by: Bart on September 29, 2003 8:38 AM

Note: above link not to my site, but to a good site on France in WWII.

An earlier post indicated that much of the French fleet was sunk by the British to keep it out of the German hands. It is important to note that the French Navy was given the opportunity to join with the Allies and refused.

The first troops the British fought against in Syria were French.

Only 60% of France was on the winning side of WWII.

What single event in WWII increased the size of the French Resistance tenfold? Germany's surrender.

Posted by: Chad on September 29, 2003 10:44 AM


Good post, hope you don't mind me adding onto your train of thought here. When the French armed forces collapsed in June 1940, the British and the Americans urged France to transfer their government to their African colonies. They refused to do so and instead surrendered. The British begged France to hand over her navy prior to surrender so that the Germans couldn't get their hands on it. France refused, and then had the nerve to be outraged when the British sunk their fleet.

And so, in 1942, when our boys fought their first battles against Germany in the Mediterranean theater of operations, the first country to kill Americans was ... France. Despite several clandestine attempts to get the local French commanders to switch sides, the French elected to serve their German masters and fight the invasion. They fought for three days, killing Americans and Brits, while their commanders negotiated to take charge of all Allied forces in Africa!!

So you see, when I say that the French are worthless as friends, I speak from a strong historical record.

Posted by: Ed Morrissey on September 29, 2003 1:39 PM

Anyone who want's to know why the French were beaten so quickly, should read Heinz Guderian's excellent autobiography, Panzer Leader. Heinz Guderian was the main architect of the tactics used by the Germans against Poland and France and participated in both campaigns.

Posted by: Chris on September 29, 2003 2:29 PM

Here's a fun little history lesson a friend sent me a couple of months back.

The Complete Military History of France

- Gallic Wars
- Lost. In a war whose ending foreshadows the next 2000 years of French history, France is conquered by of all things, an Italian.

- Hundred Years War
- Mostly lost, saved at last by female schizophrenic who inadvertently creates The First Rule of French Warfare; "France's armies are victorious only when not led by a Frenchman." Sainted.

- Italian Wars
- Lost. France becomes the first and only country to ever lose two wars when fighting Italians.

- Wars of Religion
- France goes 0-5-4 against the Huguenots

- Thirty Years War
- France is technically not a participant, but manages to get invaded anyway. Claims a tie on the basis that eventually the other participants started ignoring her.

- War of Revolution
- Tied. Frenchmen take to wearing red flowerpots as chapeaux.

- The Dutch War
- Tied

- War of the Augsburg League/King William's War/French and Indian War
- Lost, but claimed as a tie. Three ties in a row induces deluded Frogophiles the world over to label the period as the height of French military power.

- War of the Spanish Succession
- Lost. The War also gave the French their first taste of a Marlborough, which they have loved every since.

- American Revolution
- In a move that will become quite familiar to future Americans, France claims a win even though the English colonists saw far more action. This is later known as "de Gaulle Syndrome", and leads to the Second Rule of French Warfare; "France only wins when America does most of the fighting."

- French Revolution
- Won, primarily due the fact that the opponent was also French.

- The Napoleonic Wars
- Lost. Temporary victories (remember the First Rule!) due to leadership of a Corsican, who ended up being no match for a British footwear designer.

- The Franco-Prussian War
- Lost. Germany first plays the role of drunk Frat boy to France's ugly girl home alone on a Saturday night.

- World War I
- Tied and on the way to losing, France is saved by the United States. Thousands of French women find out what it's like to not only sleep with a winner, but one who doesn't call her "Fraulein." Sadly, widespread use of condoms by American forces forestalls any improvement in the French bloodline.

- World War II
- Lost. Conquered French liberated by the United States and Britain just as they finish learning the Horst Wessel Song.

- War in Indochina
- Lost. French forces plead sickness; take to bed with the Dien Bien Flu

- Algerian Rebellion
- Lost. Loss marks the first defeat of a western army by a Non-Turkic Muslim force since the Crusades, and produces the First Rule of Muslim Warfare; "We can always beat the French." This rule is identical to the First Rules of the Italians, Russians, Germans, English, Dutch, Spanish, Vietnamese and Esquimaux.

- War on Terrorism
- France, keeping in mind its recent history, surrenders to Germans and Muslims just to be safe. Attempts to surrender to Vietnamese ambassador fail after he takes refuge in a McDonald's.

The question for any country silly enough to count on the French should not be "Can we count on the French?", but rather "How long until France collapses?"

"Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion. All you do is leave behind a lot of noisy baggage."

Or, better still, the quote from last week's Wall Street Journal: "They're there when they need you."

The frogs are also enraged that we by and large produce better wine and with more consistency than they do. In fact many of the "Wine Spilling Cheese-head" Frenchies now come to the barbaric US to study the latest in wine making technology.


Posted by: Tank64 on October 4, 2003 3:07 PM

Mes Amis,

Thanks for the History lessons provided in your posts.
Regarding the WWII I always thought that Pearl Harbor was the origin of the American participation in the conflict. Bah, you may have forgot this little details!
Anyway, It sounds always wrong to me when I hear that Americans and Brits went to war to save France. Who in the world would believe that his Psychopath Hitler would stop his trip in Paris! That the world would have been just perfect with Germans on one side and Anglo on the other side. Open your eyes: You fought because it was the only things to do against this Evil dictator.
I wish someone could recall how did Germany end-up with such a silly guy (ex-jail prisoner convicted).
Regarding our Cowardice during the occupation!
Can someone recall me what did Americans to end-up the conflict with Japan although the latter could not have fight long after the Germans were defeated.
The war is just a horrible things and I regret to say that France does not have the monopoly of it!!!
Regarding Iraq: I must confess that Chichi (we call him like that in France (Chichi for Chirac) was not very smart and even less a good diplomat. But at least we can’t blame him for lying to the World!!!
Regarding the WMD: I here must recall that all the democratic country (US the first) sold to Saddam WMDs to fight against Iran. Following the Gulf War, no weapon were sold to the Iraq by France or any other Countries (but Russia via clandestine network)

Kisses from France!!!

Posted by: Maurice DUPONT on January 29, 2004 10:50 PM

x-jail prisoner convict was there because of his failure to overthrow the existing government of Bayern, not for stealing money.

chichi went against dubya because dubya was arrogant, rude, and attempting to subdue (hegemonically) the whole world. Even soviet communists didn't do such brazen things.

morons posting patriotic trash are the same type of guys hitler used to promote his cause. All they learned in high school is how to play football.

and I am very saddened with all of this.


Posted by: politcentr on April 26, 2004 8:06 PM

Chrirac provided Saddam a nuclear power plant which was bombed by Israel. France sold Saddam weapons during the so called UN embargo including planes and missiles which were fire at US soldiers.

The French and others took money in the Oil for Palace program. Money was being stolen that was supposed to provide food to starving children in Iraq.

The French are now makings deals with the Syrians and the Communist Chinese. They participated in war games with the Chinese to intimidate Taiwan. 120 million people died under communism in the 20th century but it doesn't bother the French to sell them weapons that will be used against the US.

The US has never been an empire. All the nations that we defeated were returned to their own people. We helped rebuild Europe with the Marshall Plan. Germany and Japan became economic miracles. All the American people want is to be left alone and not have mass murder in our largest cities.

We freed Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, and we held back the Soviet Union and North Korea. For all of our trouble we get a stab in the back.

Chrirac is the arrogant person. He is punching above his weight class. The American people have a long memory. The next time they are invaded America will not care. I always knew NATO was a one way street.

Posted by: Anonymous on June 11, 2004 2:05 AM

I think 1st Lt. Mark V. Shaney USMC said it best when he said:

"...this is not defined as an absence of war. It is the presence of liberty, stability, and prosperity. In the face of the enemy. Don't buy into the pessimism and apathy that says, "It's hopeless," "They hate us too much," "That part of the men and women serving here in Iraq the enemy wherever you are. You are a mighty force for good, because truth is on your side. Together we will ultimately fail. That is why I am asking for your support. Become a voice of truth in your community. Wherever you are fight the lies of the men and women serving here in Iraq the enemy wherever you are. You are the soldiers at home fighting the war of perception with the media and American people. Our enemy has learned that the people in the highest regard. We love to criticize ourselves almost to an endless degree, because we care what others think. "

Raymond Onar
And as always: "Quidquid excusatio prandium pro!

Posted by: Raymond Onar on July 14, 2004 9:42 AM
Post a comment

  Remember Me?

(For bold text to display correctly, please use <strong>, not <b>)