Thursday, February 20, 2003

Keeping It In Perspective

Dan Mahoney, a political science professor in Massachusetts, argues that we need to keep the current disagreement between the US and France in perspective. Most importantly, he notes that, while it can be fun to bash France, in the finaly analysis, the history of France has not been one of cowardice. In fact, millions of French have died fighting various wars across the continent and abroad over the last centuries. Mahoney also reminds us that it was those two American realists - Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger - who appreciated both the limits and the virtues of French foreign policy during the twentieth century. Indeed, for anyone looking to get a better understanding of the French, Kissinger's book, Diplomacy, is an excellent source (especially chapter 24).

Similarly, I don't think much can be gained in a war of words that accuses the French of being ungrateful for help provided by America during World Wars I and II.

This isn't to say that Mahoney agrees with Jacques Chirac's position. Interestingly, he identifies the problem with Chirac's decision to align himself, more or less, with Schroeder's pacifist stance during the Franco-German summit. It was this decision that set France on a collision course with the US and moved France from an independent foreign policy to a combative one. Mahoney argues that Chirac and the French government do have legitimate concerns, a point I also agree with. And yet, judgments must be made. In this case, I do believe France has taken the low road, and as I've said, based upon both history and sound politics, it is France that will come out of this the loser.


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