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France's Pre-Emptive Surrender

France's Pre-Emptive Surrender (term used by French writer)
Institut Hayek Institute as translated on Terror Watch

May 16, 2003

Françoise Thom

It's final paragraph reads: "Our foreign policy thus expresses a sort of preemptive capitulation. France takes the initiative of breaking with the Western camp in the hope of avoiding a battle of wills with its wild and fanatical youth after having failed to tame it. This profound cowardice is hidden behind the exhibited panache of a little country that oppose a big one. The myth of Asterix hides a decidedly more sordid reality. Anti-Americanism makes possible this fraud and the continuance of a policy that risks making us ill beyond repair and sinking all of Europe with us."

An essay from Institut Hayek Institute:

The choices French diplomacy made

Françoise Thom

Translated by Douglas Gillison

French original: "Les choix de la diplomatie française" at

(Institut Hayek Institute, 2003/05/06)

The choices French diplomacy made, by Françoise Thom*

France has taken being the land of the consensus too far. In no area is this consensus more visible than that of foreign policy. Yet, in no area should the choices made by French officials be subjected to greater scrutiny and debate, given their implications and probable consequences for the evolution of the country and for that of Europe.

Unfortunately, this debate is entirely impossible for the French are daily under fire from a press cemented together by Gallic leftism. They instinctively feel the dangers to which they are exposed by the attitudes that the Chirac Villepin duo has imposed on French diplomacy. They are ill at ease before the recent upheavals in international order and by France's internal evolution but their elected officials, intimidated by the monolithic thinking percolated through programs and articles, only rarely give voice to the deaf anxieties experienced by France's lesser castes.

Of what has been done, nothing can be repaired. But this is no reason to persist in our forward flight. The page is turning on the Iraq crisis. The moment has come to pause and take stock of our recent actions.

To evaluate a foreign policy, one must ask oneself two questions. The first is whether this policy favors the realization of the desired objectives. The second consists in asking whether those objectives correspond to the real interest of the nation.

The prime objective of French diplomacy is the unconditional containment of the United States.

Whatever the Americans do, France feels it is absolutely necessary to put a stick between their spokes. The neo Gaulists think that France will attain a role worthy of itself in the international scene if it takes the lead in opposition to the American hyper power.

Chriac's France is European because it views Europe as a rival pillar to the United States and it easily imagines itself in an hegemonic position in this anti American Europe.

Chirac's France champions the UN, which general de Gaulle once called a "contraption," because it thinks its seat on the Security Council is a privileged instrument for the containment of the United States while bestowing a certain gravity upon France in the international community, to which neither its economic successes nor its cultural importance permit it to lay claim.

And therefore the goals that Chirac's foreign policy has set for itself are the struggle against American unilateralism, the transformation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy from a statement of intentions to an institutional reality and the elevation of France to the status of a power whose voice is heard on the global stage.

In every one of these aims, France has obtained results that are the opposite of those it had been pursuing.

French obstructionism in the United Nations, the tour of 14 capitals taken by the minister of foreign affairs in the hope of preventing the use of force against Saddam, taken together with less recent snubs, such as Libya's election to the presidency of the Human Rights Commission, further accentuated the already pronounced penchant of the American administration for unilateralism. More than ever, the United States are losing interest in the UN. Yet past experience shows that without American power, the UN is only a formal entity. So the French attitude has sabotaged the United Nations, while Paris claimed to be strengthening it.

Furthermore, stalwart French efforts to undermine NATO seem to have borne fruit after the Franco German refusal of to give the alliance's military assistance to Turkey. Yet again, French behavior succeeded only in heightening the Bush administration's already marked tendency toward unilateralism.

Now let's examine the fruits of Chirac's diplomacy in Europe.

In reading an account of the numerous debates that animated the the European convention, one gets the impression that Europeans are united on one point only: the necessity to contain France's ambitions.

Paris has harbored the delusion that it is resurrecting the Franco German duo. One has only to read the German press to realize that on the other side of the Rhine we are much despised for having exploited a difficult moment for Germany, the isolation in which Berlin found itself following an electoral campaign that resorted to anti Americanism. Germany is frightened by French extravagance.

"No one really knows what is pushing Chirac to oppose the United States to such a degree. This can only worry us. It is a frightening situation," Michael Glos said recently. He is a member of parliament from the CSU. (For the German attitude, see the article by Thibaut de Champris in Le Figaro of 28 March 2003).

Germany is struggling to persuade Washington that it does not share the French vision of a Europe opposed to the United States. When the CDU returns to power, France will pay the bill for the concessions it exacted last autumn.

The rebirth of the Franco German duo has also aroused grave doubts among the nations of central and eastern Europe who are candidate nations for European enlargement and who, since the Nice summit, had been counting on Germany to counterbalance Paris' hegemonic tendencies: these apprehensions were aggravated yet again by the crude diatribes of the French president, leaving it to be understood that the price of admission to the EU was total submission to the French view of an anti American Europe.

Since the Paris Berlin axis was completed by an understanding with Moscow, we can understand why the nations of the former Communist bloc wondered if it were really worth the trouble of joining a Europe where all the slogans of the bygone Soviet era (the struggle for peace, the struggle against Zionism, against imperialism, social benefits) have returned in force.

The dust up with London compromises the second project which is dear to French officials: the construction of a European army. Without Franco British collaboration there can be no European army worthy of the name. There again, Paris' anti Atlanticist orientation has not only nipped in the bud the attempt to put European defense on its feet, but it considerably weakened Tony Blair, the most pro European of British leaders. Nothing better serves the aims of the Europhobes on the other side of the Atlantic than the fracas of French diplomacy.

In brief, wherever it turned, France got the opposite of what it sought.

It wanted a united, anti American Europe and succeeded in dividing the continent more seriously than it had ever been before.

It had hoped to be the leader to this Europe and found itself isolated opposite an organized coalition of European states. It relations with Britain are moribund and contentious with its Latin sisters, with the dubious support of a hesitant Germany and a Russia that is more than ever given to double gaming.

It has earned the dangerous enmity of America without having covered its rear guard.

Strictly from the point of the goals France claimed to be attaining, Chirac's diplomacy is an overwhelming fiasco.

Now for the fundamental point, namely: to what degree does the attitude of French diplomacy correspond to the real interests of our country.

In its foreign policy, France has in a way put on the boots of the defunct Soviet Union:

* same obstructionist policy at the UN,

* same third world ist demagoguery,

* same alliance with the Arab world,

* same ambition to take the lead in a coalition of "anti imperialist" states against Washington.

France has resurrected Primakov's old Eurasian master plan, which consisted in creating a Paris Berlin Moscow Beijing axis against the Anglo Saxons, a goal in which Putin's Russia no longer believes but in which it encourages Paris because Russia sees it as a way of improving its position in negotiating with Washington.

The anti American obsession means that France is less than inquisitive as to the nature of regimes to which it lends its support in the name of multipolarity. Iraq, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Sudan: in a word, France seems to get on better with the rogue states and failed states than with the United States whose civilization it shares. It claims to defend international law by leaning on states that ignore all laws.

The comparison to the Soviet Union goes further than it may seem. In deed, French diplomacy is less inspired by a cynical Realpolitik (whence the failures mentioned above) than by an ideological view of the world. Its anti Americanism is the projection of its internal jacobinism onto the global stage. The unhealthy French communion in anti Americanism reveals the start of a drift towards totalitarianism in our country, which was already noticeable by the second round of the elections: Bush has replaced Le Pen in the role of enemy of the people. "Anti Bushism can be compared to the "anti fascism" of the '30s and '40s: it conceals an obligatory communist type consensus.

Like those in the USSR of Brezhnev, French leaders compensate with a ruinous foreign activism for their inability to begin crucial internal reforms, which are impossible because they would call into question the socialist dogma at the foundation of the French state. In both cases, foreign activism both accelerates and accentuates the internal crisis. We saw what became of the Soviet Union.

In France, the evidence of the decay of the state has been mounting for two years and the Iraq matter acted to reveal this.

French leaders have sought to justify their position on the question of Iraq by emphasizing that France rejected the "clash of civilizations" and consequently favored the integration of French Muslims.

True, president Chirac was hailed in the Arab quarters. But the official anti Americanism has favored the explosive mixture of a virulent Trotskyite movement, an Islamist movement, an anti Globalization movement and a third world ist movement. This poisonous cocktail feeds not only the youths of the Arab neighborhoods but the high school students sent out to demonstrate for peace by their leftist teachers in the name of "activism." In this sense, the orientations of French diplomacy only reflect the strident third world ization of France, starting with the third world-ization of minds. President Chirac defies Bush but gives in before to the ghettos.

In a telling way, Dominique de Villepin told parliament that the French position was to bring about the failure of "anglo Saxon liberalism." Like most of their Arab interlocutors, French leaders feel the need is more urgent to stand up to the United States, even when they are right, than to start down the path of reforms which could save the state from bankruptcy.

The most serious part of all this is that anti American passion has numbed the French to the consequences of this deliberate break with the Western camp.

Consequences which were already perceptible in the excesses of the peace demonstrations, in the fact that the French state is less and less able to guarantee the security of goods and persons, starting with that of our Jewish fellow citizens. In the media, the view of the first days of the war in Iraq, often as overtly pro Saddam propaganda, was clearly irresponsible, to the point of alarming officials with the Ministry of the Interior: according to one of them:

"The depiction of the coalition's shambles in Iraq is in some areas feeding a form of arrogance which the police on the ground are now witnessing... Just a spark and the anti Americanism of the ghettos will feed uncontrollable violence" (Le Figaro 3 April, 2003).

Foreign observers wonder at the causes of French madness.

At the moment when the fragility of the French state is becoming visible to all, in the absence of any credible European defense, is it really wise to break with our American ally, to the point that it now views us as an enemy? Even Russia has understood that it has an interest in not stirring things up with America, precisely because of its own internal weaknesses. Russia remains anti America at bottom but it is keeping a low profile, happy to see France be the lightning rod for Washington - and this strategy is paying off: the American media, for which no word is too harsh in condemning France, find every excuse for Putin.

The first explanation for the behavior of our leaders is irresponsibility - they believe that they will not have to answer to anyone.

This irresponsibility is driven so far that they seem to be surprised at the consequences of their acts: thus they were not expecting the flare up of francophobia in the United States, convinced they could persist in their provocations of Washington without risking retaliation. The habit of impunity in internal politics ended up giving rise to a disastrous foreign policy, as was exactly the case for the late USSR.

In the case of France, one must add futility and vanity, permanent factors in our diplomacy.

Chirac's foreign policy is due in part to the anxiety of the political class before the increasingly obvious failure of "republican integration." Rather than face the danger, we take refuge in denial.

We declare that France does not believe in the "clash of civilizations," as if denial were enough to erase it. For greater security, we go as far as abolishing the idea of civilization. This is why we seek to deny at all costs the fact that France shares the same civilization as the United States, by cultivating with some fanfare our overflow into extra legal zones. Anti Americanism plays a central role in this mechanism.

Our foreign policy thus expresses a sort of preemptive capitulation. France takes the initiative of breaking with the Western camp in the hope of avoiding a battle of wills with its wild and fanatical youth after having failed to tame it. This profound cowardice is hidden behind the exhibited panache of a little country that oppose a big one. The myth of Asterix hides a decidedly more sordid reality. Anti-Americanism makes possible this fraud and the continuance of a policy that risks making us ill beyond repair and sinking all of Europe with us.

* Senior lecturer at Paris IV Sorbonne

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