The French Betrayal
Weren’t French men and women captured on film crying in the streets of Paris in the wake of 9/11? Did not, just one year ago, President Bush stand overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy on America’s Memorial Day and say, “Here where we stand today, the New World came back to liberate the Old, a bond was formed of shared trial and shared victory. … Our security is still tied up together in a trans-Atlantic alliance with soldiers in many uniforms defending the world from terrorists at this very hour”? (www.cnn.com, May 27, 2002).
French President Jacques Chirac echoed similar sentiments in Paris last September when, in a New York Times interview, reflecting on New York’s terrorist disaster, he said, “It’s true that when the tragedy took place, my first reaction was to say, ‘We are all Americans.’ And I want to say today that those feelings haven’t disappeared; on the contrary, they’ve grown even stronger with the anniversary …. [W]hen the chips are down, the French and Americans have always stood together and have never failed to be there for one another. That’s been the case since Yorktown and it still holds true today. That’s the reality” (www.info-france-usa.org; emphasis mine throughout).
It was hardly surprising, then, when Chirac declared that he would veto the U.S. in a United Nations Security Council meeting over going to war with Iraq, that tempers flared.
The American press took the betrayal personally. France-bashing reached new heights, even surpassing previous bouts, such as in 1986 when France refused overflight rights to American bombers for a military operation against Libya, and in the spring of 2002 over anti-Semitic acts in France. The reaction of many Americans to Chirac’s about-face was summed up in a front-page spread in the New York Post that had a photo of a Normandy cemetery and a large headline blaring out, “They Died for France But France Has Forgotten.”
Chirac’s rash anti-American behavior stirred up a hornet’s nest against the U.S., but the causes behind France’s stance go much deeper. American journalist Robert Lane Greene realistically pointed to France’s fierce national pride when he wrote, “Like Americans, the French believe that their 18th-century revolution more or less gave birth to modern liberty …. Like the rest of us, the French realize France is not the global power it was 300—or for that matter 100—years ago. … And, realizing the strength of the competition … they play their trump cards—among them a veto at the Security Council and a nuclear arsenal—to wield disproportionate influence on the world stage. They don’t do this out of a desire to humiliate or frustrate the United States, but out of a desire to prove that France still matters. The worst fate the French can imagine is to be ignored” (New Republic, Feb. 11).
Of course, France has obvious reasons for not wanting to go to war with Iraq: Arab immigrants lobby a powerful vote within France; the French at present benefit considerably from the food-for-oil project with Iraq. A more sinister reason is the aid that Chirac has rendered, in concert with Germany, to develop Saddam Hussein’s biological weapons capacity.
But there is a deeper reason for France’s stand against the U.S. over Iraq, which France shares with the EU. The issue is not really Iraq at all, but whether the world should be expected to revolve around Washington—a prospect which the Trumpet has demonstrated repeatedly isn’t in the EU’s agenda. U.S. military goals in Iraq go against French grand strategy. (Grand strategy is what causes world powers, for example, to support and even arm certain nations they typically wouldn’t want anything to do with to balance another, more threatening nation.) France and Germany were opposed not to military action, but to American-led military action.
Over 3,500 years ago, Jacob declared to his oldest son, the patriarch of the modern nation of France, “Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel …” (Gen. 49:3-4).
France has too often demonstrated character “unstable as water”—volatile, voluble, ever changing and shifting—a fault that has remained true down to this age.
The word dignity in verse 3 comes from a Hebrew word that can mean to “raise up self.” The epitome of this arrogance was the megalomaniac Napoleon seizing the imperial crown and naming himself emperor of France in 1801! He met his Waterloo just 10 years later. The French can be very dignified in the expression of the fine arts, culture and cuisine. But too often this dignity has bred an arrogance for which their reputation has suffered internationally. This arrogance, combined with a certain volatility of natural temperance, has led to the nation never being able to excel as a leader of nations.
Six years ago, Roger Cohen, Paris correspondent for the New York Times, described France as “hankering for grandeur” (Feb. 11, 1997). He also declared that “France has set itself up as perhaps the nearest thing the United States has to a serious ideological rival in the last decade of the 20th century” (ibid., Oct. 20, 1997). This has dangerous overtones for France’s old allies.
Anciently, Reuben was guilty of a compromise that ended with his brother Joseph, progenitor of the English-speaking peoples, being sold into slavery (Gen. 37). There is a striking parallel between the Israelite Reuben’s behavior in the past and that of France today.
The bottom line is, France’s betrayal of the U.S. over Iraq is only the precursor of a much bigger betrayal yet to come. During the final round of world war, France will not fight at the side of its former allies, nor in underground support of them as in World War ii.
France’s future is already committed to the EU hook, line and sinker. France is determined to get back into the limelight through a position of influence in the EU. To do so, it has simply aligned with its old foe, Germany, against its old allies, the U.S. and Britain.
Britain and the U.S. should wake up to the reality that their former ally has become a scheming opponent in a powerful European combine that soon will engulf them in its maw!