November 28, 2003

*Ask Jen

Mookie wants to know, "Why is there anger and resmentment between the French and the U.S.? Why is it a love hate relationship? Please explain why. Also if you could keep it in the 20th-21st centuries."

I was a little suspicious of this question. First, Mookie never asked me anything before. Second, it sounds like a high school assignment. And it is. I'd hate to take away the joy of learning by doing your homework, but on the other hand this could be a golden opportunity for a (cough) real dialogue on the topic. So I invite my readers to leave their reasons for the French-American rift in my comments.

Jim asks, "Where did the term "Black Friday" (the day after Thanksgiving) come from?"

It's a retail thing. This is the day they generally are supposed to know if they'll make or break sales and pull out of the red into the black.

Do you have a question for me? You can e-mail it. If I know the answer, I'll answer it. If I don't, I might make something up.

Posted by Jennifer at November 28, 2003 04:46 PM


I was planning on using you as a Resource!

Posted by: Rachael at November 28, 2003 07:15 PM

Well, you can do a search on this site and my old site for "France"...some of it is older than you're looking for, but some of it might be helpful. Will give you a start anyway. :-)

One thing you might want to look at is the French-Indochina War and the fallout from there.

Posted by: Jennifer at November 28, 2003 07:26 PM
"Why is there anger and resmentment between the French and the U.S.? Why is it a love hate relationship? Please explain why."
Hmmm. Okay, I'll take a crack at it.

France, for decades (and probably for two centuries), was considered by Americans to be a source of cultural sophistication. It probvably has a lot to do with the aid that Monarchical France invested in the American Revolution.
It probably has as much to do with the fact that the French are very un-English.

France = an old world nation.
Great Britain = an old world nation.
We secured our Independance from Great Britain with the aid of the French, but we were still very "Olde Isle" in our own Character.

But, the French have always seemed kinda "weird". They ate snails. They ate fish eggs. They didn't shave. They seemed to accepted "filth" as merely an honest way of being human.

To be fair, it wasn't just the French; it was all of Europe. Italians smashing wine grapes with their bare feet. Spaniards hand-smacking smelted iron for their swords. Pollocks scraping face muscles, snouts and entrails for their sausage.
Continental Europe seemed to be a disgusting slather of barbarism, feudalism and dysentery.

But the French were special. A nation ruled by a King had helped us to throw off our own Monarch. The peculiarity of Frenchness became endearing, but still alien.

A found kinship with strangeness is bound to lead to tension.

I remember an episode of "Family Ties" in which Mallory mentions: "The Statue of Liberty was gotten cheaply considering it was from France."
[This was funny because it played on our idea that France is all things cultured.]

But then I also remember an episode of "Frazier" in which Daphne mentions: "But then he was from France... and there's no explaining their taste.."
[This was funny because it played on our idea that eating snails and being French is wierd.]

I think that the hostility came into play during the Cold War, and it was on the part of the French first. They, having been rescued from a Europe that nearly self-torturedly bowed before the tyranny of Hilter (as they had the early Napoleon only 150 years earlier), seemed to have become resentful that it took some "new world" piece of shit continent to solve their problem.

I peg the germination of the rift at the post-war installment of General Charles de Gaulle.
De Gaulle was a "patriot" of legenmdary proportion. He resented his country's feeble response to Hitler and wanted -- more than anything -- to restore France's reputation as a world power.
We laughed our asses off.

The fact remains: America is the world, and France is a neighborhood somewhere in Europe.
Since World War II, and to this day, the French have been looking for ways to exist side-by-side with America as equals, and the Americans are looking for ways to let the French down gently.

So, y'see, the resentment cuts both ways. America -- being a brand spanking new nation --envied France's inherent oldness, and France admired America's "newness."
Now America is old and persistently in charge; and the French hate it.

So, as much as we honor France's ancient culture; we pity their unwillingness to defend an individual's Liberty.
Ans as much as the French admire our willingness to defend individual Liberty, they resent the success that that will inherently produces.

We try as hard as can to find a balance between socialism and jungle law. One leads to despair and purposefulessness; the other to tragedy and chaotic short lives.
Take yer pick.

Posted by: Tuning Spork at November 28, 2003 07:35 PM

One important point to note is that the French were never true allies of America - though individual Frenchmen were. They assisted in the War of Independence largely to annoy the English, with whom they were at war at the time.

Compare the revolutions of America and France for a disturbing insight into the national character of those two countries.

Spork is right on the money with de Gaulle and France's desperate post-WWII attempts to, well, matter.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at November 28, 2003 07:45 PM

I'm still angry at them over the Quasi-War of 1798-1801, then there's the material support of the Confederacy, the Emperor Maximilian affair, constant ingratitude, the NATO thing, the Libya stuff and their perfidity since about September 12th (there was that 24 hour period where I actually believed they felt bad for us).

Posted by: Bill McCabe at November 28, 2003 10:48 PM

Being of Mexican descent, I'm *really* torked about Napolean trying to install Ol' Maximllian as Emperor of Mexico. That's reason enough for me.

Those assholes.

I'll tell you about the French chef throwing my
Chinese cleaver in the trash another time.

Posted by: Victor at November 29, 2003 09:26 AM

Which, of course, brings us close to the present day.

In the 1980s, several US servicemen were killed by a terrorist bomb in a German nightclub frequented by military personnel. We discovered that the bomb was planted by agents of Libya's dictator, Colonel Qaddafi. President Ronald Reagan decided to bomb military and government installations in Libya in retaliation. Our planes were to take off from Great Britain and attack Libya. If you look at a map, the quickest way to do that (and the safest) is to fly over France. However, France refused to allow us to fly over, as Qaddafi was a client of the French at the time for military equipment, a theme which would repeat itself later on.

This forced the US to take the long route over the Atlantic and back into the Mediterranean, greatly increasing the risk of detection and therefore magnifying the danger; it also required two mid-air refeuling missions, which leaves pilots as sitting ducks. Due to the now-extended nature of the mission (and, I believe, the weather), pilots had considerably less time for target selection -- this was before most smart-bomb technology -- and so we did not hit everything we aimed for. Also, the French embassy was hit and damaged extensively. The French protested, and we replied that if they had allowed us overflight priveleges, we could have had a lot more time to properly identify targets. No one over here was terribly saddened, however, an attitude that the French saw right away.

In the 1990s, when trouble erupted in the Balkans, the French were among the leading voices demanding American involvement, as French and German military power had been greatly scaled back; this lack of military investment allows the French and German to fund their cradle-to-grave social systems. When it became clear that the UN Security Council would never approve a single resolution calling for the removal of Slobodan Milosevic, the French were only too eager to have us act within the auspices of NATO instead, to bypass the UN. (Please note that we are still putting servicemen in the Balkans to keep the warring factions -- who have been at each other's throats since the 14th century -- separated.)

As far as Iraq goes, however, it is a completely different story. While France supported the effort to expel Saddam from Kuwait, they eventually dropped out of the coalition that kept pressure on Saddam to comply with the ever-increasing UNSC demands to completely and verifiably dismantle its offensive weapons programs, including chemical, biological, and nuclear systems, as well as certain missile technologies. When it became clear that Saddam would never comply, and after 9/11 when we discovered that playing around with Saddam could be extremely dangerous for us, we demanded that the UN force Saddam to comply or to declare the 1991 truce violated. France convinced Colin Powell that if we got one more UNSC resolution (the 17th) and Saddam failed to fully comply, France would support us in taking action. Instead, France insisted on using that resolution as an excuse to mutate the UNSCOM inspection program -- which was only supposed to verify data supplied by Saddam on the destruction these weapons systems -- into detectives, looking all over Iraq for "clues" to its capabilities, which would have taken decades to accomplish anything. Even at that, they discovered missile programs in clear violation of UNSC resolutions.

At this point, we asked France to honor its commitment to us, and it refused, saying it would never agree to military enforcement of UN resolutions. Not only that, but the French began offering economic deals to other countries to oppose us, and not-so-subtly threatened Eastern European countries that supported us. Why? Because Saddam was its biggest arms client, and after we overran Saddam's forces, we started finding French materiel of very recent manufacture, in violation of the arms embargo.

Put frankly, the French are more than willing to put a knife in our back if it means that they get to become power brokers, in a sick attempt to recapture some long-lost glory as a "great" nation, which they know gave up the ghost for all time in June 1940, when they could not surrender fast enough to Hitler. They resent the necessity of their rescue, and so they resent their American (and British) rescuers. They ceased being allies decades ago, and it is only a curious historical romance that leads people to believe that they continue to be our friends.

Hope this helps!

Posted by: Captain Ed at November 29, 2003 09:42 AM

Lot of answers in here that border on good, but drift a little into cynical.

France is NOT our enemy....but sometimes they are our opponent. There's a difference.

France, while not quite an empire, was generally the premier power in Europe for many centuries. It was only European alliances that prevented them from gaining territory. Somehow, though, they lost all of that, and became, frankly, a third-rate power. A nation with the trappings of greatness and the power of, say, Mexico.

So France excercises its power in the only way it forming alliances to prevent other powers from becoming too powerful. It has been a part of that game for centuries...."balance of power politics". France simply seeks to secure their own interests, just as we seek our own.

If you'd like more, I've blogged about the topic.

Posted by: Jon Henke at November 29, 2003 12:58 PM

Aw, hell, Jon ... I drift a lot into the cynical. :-)

But I think that what France did diplomatically in the run-up to the war goes beyond opposition. I have no problem with opposition. Opposition clarifies and it challenges, which results in better policy. Selling arms to Saddam in violation of UN sanctions, bribing other countries on the UNSC to vote against military force, and threatening other EU members who supported our position is more than opposition -- it's a form of diplomatic war, very similar to what we experienced with the Soviet Union. In any event, I don't know that I'm completely sold on the idea of France being our enemy, but I am certain that France is not our friend.

Posted by: Captain Ed at November 30, 2003 12:29 AM

I really like your site!*) Could you maybe tell me a little about France's Government. And i really like this one guy in my computer class,and if he keeps on messing with your mouse & one time he said I'm gonna get high. I'm gonna get high with Jackle? Please post it on your web site:*( P.S. Jacklw is a pretend name! Thanks

Posted by: Jackle at January 20, 2004 12:05 PM