France and the Bush Doctrine
February 11, 2003

by Joe Sobran

     "Either you're with us, or you're with the 
terrorists." This is the Bush "doctrine," and it is 
dangerous nonsense. It's a piece of moral blackmail, 
designed to force the people of the whole world to choose 
between false alternatives. It means that if you refuse 
to play ball with America -- George W. Bush's America, 
that is -- you deserve to be treated as a member of 

     Many people want no part of either; others -- the 
French and Germans, for example -- are willing to give 
the United States qualified support, but they draw the 
line at war on Iraq. They prefer not to put themselves at 
the mercy of Bush's judgment. Who can blame them?

     For months our blowhard patriots have been throwing 
vitriol at the recalcitrant Europeans, especially the 
French. The French, it seems, are ingrates who have 
forgotten that we saved their bacon in two world wars, 
plus the Cold War. They are petty, snobbish, envious of 
our wealth and power, humiliated by the loss of their own 
empire, and determined to frustrate us out of sheer 
spite. Furthermore, they think Jerry Lewis is a comic 

     Oh, and they are also venal and cowardly, we're 
told, because they have commercial ties to Iraq that also 
motivate them to oppose our war. So maybe it isn't all 
anti-American spite after all, but a sense of their own 
interests. But it isn't permissible for the French to put 
French interests above American interests. They are 
insubordinate members of the American Empire.

     Well, that may be why we should listen to them. The 
French may not have much of an empire left, but they 
refuse to be an American colony. Since the days of 
Charles de Gaulle they have been prickly allies, 
insisting on going their own way and pursuing their own 
interests. They have enough self-respect to maintain 
their independence. They are proud to be French. And if 
there is one thing an American patriot can't stand, it's 
a French patriot.

     Anti-American? When the terrorists struck on 9/11, a 
Parisian paper ran the headline "We are all Americans 
today." That instant, generous sympathy spoke for most of 
Europe -- the people who are now accused of hating 
America. Maybe it's just that America -- Bush's America 
-- has badly overtaxed their patience in the ensuing 

     The other day, one of our semiliterate conservatives 
accused the French of "appeasing Hitler." Well, they did 
surrender to him -- but only after losing 100,000 men in 
a few weeks of furious fighting. Cowards?

     You can now make nasty generalizations about the 
French in polite society that would be called bigoted if 
you said them about anyone else. But even this is a sign 
of our grudging respect for them. They don't see 
themselves as victims, but as responsible, civilized 
people with a matchless record of cultural achievement. 
That is exactly what they are, and that is how we think 
of them, even when we abuse them. They have too much 
dignity to be wounded by American sneers.

     Anyway, nobody can out-sneer the French. They aren't 
always tender about other people's feelings, as I learned 
when dealing with a Parisian policeman, but this is 
largely because they put objective reality ahead of 
emotions and have limited patience with euphemisms. This 
is another reason why we should pay attention when they 
criticize us. They may be telling us something we need to 
hear about ourselves.

     Tony Blair of Britain is said to be our "reliable 
ally"; but he may be a little too reliable. We sometimes 
need a good Dutch uncle to scold us. And since the Dutch 
are no longer producing uncles as they used to, we must 
cherish the French when they try to save us from our 
follies, even when they do so in their own interests. If 
they want no part of our war, we ought to be asking 
ourselves why.

     The French are often accused of cynicism, and the 
country that begot La Rochefaucauld can't quite escape 
the charge; cynicism has produced much of France's wit, 
wisdom, realism, and even energy. It's inseparable from 
the French genius.

     But nothing can be more truly cynical than the Bush 
doctrine and the phony American "idealism" that treats 
doubters as enemies of the human race. The French don't 
pretend to speak for anyone but themselves. If that's 
cynicism, we need more of it.


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