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Friday, October 28th, 2005


Collounsbury was irked by several slams directed at France in a piece I linked and quoted from by Bruce Kesler and Col responded with some exasperation:

“First, with respect to the blog item, I am pained that you quote more of the simple minded anti-French tripe. Childish and rather outdated (as well as inaccurate with respect to the supposed connexions)”

Col it must be said, resides semi-permanently in a Francophone friendly region of the world and is, if I recall correctly ( and I may not), quite at home with the French language and culture. He is also correct that Franco-American relations have warmed up considerably since their nadir before the invasion of Iraq though this is neither well known outside of Washington nor covered much in the MSM over here. Bush and Chirac have made a concerted effort to retreat from the use of charged rhetoric and improve cooperation in the War on Terror; while the rise of Interior MinisterNicolas Sarkozy as Chirac’s possible successor, whose views on economics, terrorism and Israel are congenial to the USG, damps down any urge on the Bush administration’s part to do anything that could incite French voters and improve the chances of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin .

So why do conservatives and even moderate or apolitical commentators continue to take gratuitous rhetorical swipes at France ? Some of it has to do with news lag – the change in tone in relations really isn’t reported much, fireworks merit frontpage treatment not quiet diplomacy. Mostly however it is a combination of recent events and a long historical legacy.

In the family of democratic nations, the United States and France have the longest and most bitter case of ongoing case of love-hate sibling rivalry. Friction did not begin with Jacques Chirac and George W. Bush, it started with John Adams and Talleyrand.

France is the country that helped midwife the American Revolution, sent us Lafayette, Alexis de Tocqueville and the Statue of Liberty. The United States in turn sent the French Benjamin Franklin, Tom Paine,Thomas Jefferson, General Pershing and soldiers unnumbered who fell at Belleau Wood and Omaha Beach. America moved forward after WWII with the Marshall Plan and when America and the Soviet Union stood on the brink of nuclear war Charles DeGaulle backed the United States without even a single reservation. Even if the Russians moved on Berlin, the French President said ” “France will act in accord with you.”

Yet relations were seldom warm between the two countries in over two hundred years. Even in Washington’s time, relations soured with the antics of “Cititzen Genet” and French privateering. The diplomacy of France struck most of the Founding Fathers ( Franklin and Jefferson being notable exceptions) in particular John Adams as exactly the corrupt decadence of the Old World that America must stand as a moral example against. The French in turn loathed the rigid Protestant moralism of Woodrow Wilson and the parochial obstinacy of Truman and most of all, the outsized and loud ” Texan” presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and George W. Bush. Reagan too, was initially demonized as a “cowboy” but he and Mitterand bonded over a shared anti-Soviet outlook and over time, the Gipper managed to acquire something bordering on a cordial acceptance from the French, not unlike that given to an eccentric but respected elderly uncle who visits once or twice a year.

The French have habitually made snide remarks about American provincialism for two centuries and at times on matters of geopolitics their complaints were warranted. The failure of America to support the League of Nations in the 1920’s or the efforts of Prime Minister Leon Blum in the mid-1930’s to rally countries against Nazi Germany left feelings of great bitterness and, in some sectors of French opinion, justified Daladier’s later resort to appeasement. The collaboration of large portions of French society with the Nazis during Vichy, the robotic loyalty of Maurice Thorez’s Communists to Stalin and French military ineptitude in Vietnam, Egypt and Algeria did little to inspire confidence in Washington. Most Americans though, generally retained a benign attitude toward France in the postwar years and despite periodic squabbles, Paris always remained a prime draw for Americans headed for Europe.

There has been a sea change in attitudes over here since the invasion of Iraq which I don’t think is either well-understood or appreciated in Paris. Nor is it likely to change soon. For the first time in my life I sense real hatred directed at France, not annoyance at an ally but a hardening sentiment at the grassroots level that France is no ally at all. It is not a universal opinion but while it is centered on the political Right attributing this Francophobia to a delusion of the Freepers would be a huge error. It exists across much of the political spectrum now, only among hard-core Democratic, Bush-haters and the far-Left is Chirac’s performance admired.

It was not so much Chirac’s opposition to American policies -if anything Gerhard Schroedrer’s position was even more inflexible and unreasonable but he caught little popular disdain here – but the form that Chirac’s opposition took, the visceral feel that carried through the media shocked many Americans who were not particularly conservative and not a few who were critical of President Bush. ” Freedom Fries” was a particularly idiotic reaction but it was also a sign that the average joe who didn’t care a whit for world politics was engaged and very angry. Chirac’s message misfired here about as poorly as George W. Bush’s did among European Social Democrats.

These feelings and the frequency of these anti-French remarks will die down if France and the United States have occasion to work together in a common cause in a mutually supportive and very public way. Failing some kind of important symbolic gesture by Paris, one directed at the American people rather than at official Washington, the cooling off period may take years.


Bruce Kesler asked that I post the following comment as the excerpt above had been directed at his post.( Note: The link in this excerpt is mine though the quote is Mr. Kesler’s):

“Which part of the UN report released today documenting Frances’s politicians and companies as the most active corrupters in Saddam’s oil-for-bribes scam does Collounsbury consider “simple-minded anti-French tripe”? His comment is simple-minded French tripe, a childish denial of the broken vase at his feet, rather outdated from a supposedly grown person. –Make all the excuses imagined, and the facts still remain that France has been usually more trouble, and antagonist, or useless, than ally.”

Thursday, October 27th, 2005


Jeff Medcalf, the esteemed proprietor of Caerdroia, offers a counterpoint to my gloomy assessment of 4GW wars morphing into 5GW decimation:

“The military is little more than the delegation of the power of self-defense against foreign foes to the State – the militia power, if you will. The police forces are nothing more than the citizens’ delegation of authority to the State to enforce the law (which all citizens are duty-bound to do). And so forth.

The practical result of this is that, at least in the US, the State can fail utterly at some task without leading to dissolution — even at the task of defense against enemies, foreign or domestic. Let us say, for example, that the police make a total mess of fighting against a domestic 4GW threat. While it’s possible the government could turn to death squads, it is unlikely (again, at least in the US). What is far more likely is that the armed citizens would organize themselves into a group and go solve the problem. There is a name for this: a Committee of Vigilance. Perhaps better known as vigilantes. While not the best solution — such groups tend to get out of hand — it is certainly better than giving up to death or at least chaos.”

Jeff is following in the footsteps of William Lind on this issue. Private militias or Vigilantees are a potential ” popular” response to 4GW. Jeff is analytically on target ( a good response to 4GW – that is open to debate – probably context matters here).

Thursday, October 27th, 2005


New blog up. 3:43 am postings. Webmastering for Tom Barnett . Reaching out to others And a big day job at Enterra.

I’m feeling lazy in comparison :o)

Thursday, October 27th, 2005


Myke Cole, a consultant with CACI who sometimes appears at DNI as well, has some ominous speculations about 5th Generation Warfare in an excellent article the latest issue of The Small Wars Journal. An excerpt:

“Written in 1988, “V” proves chillingly prescient in light of the strategies 4GW actors are enacting as they maneuver to defeat large states that they cannot hope to defeat on conventional grounds. Historian and 4GW guru William Lind notes “Police departments in some large American cities would be quick to note that they are already facing Fourth Generation opponents on the streets.”In another article, Lind points out that “it is happening in some American cities. Police officers are being killed — assassinated, really — not because they get in the way of some bank robber but because they are symbols of the state. A Fourth Generation fighter, usually a gang member, simply walks up to a police cruiser and shoots a cop.

…Moore’s “V” gives a glimpse of a subnational enemy who has realized that his power rises and falls in direct proportion to the cohesion of state authority. In realizing this, he understands that the destruction of the state altogether creates the kind of power vacuum where his sort can thrive. “V for Vendetta” warns that perhaps it is not a change of tactics, but of the scope of the enemy objective that defines the fifth generation war evolving around us. It suggests a generation of enemies dedicated to the ultimate destruction of the state in totality, not just as means for seizing power in Iraq or driving US forces from Afghanistan, but for inaugurating a new world order where the cohesive, central power of the state fails in the face of an enemy it cannot define, cordon off and defeat on its own terms, until its citizenry loses patience and withdraws its collective allegiance. “

Several comments from me:

First, I have just begun Philip Bobbitt’s Shield of Achilles – for those out there who have finished the book, how does Myke’s scenario fit in with the idea of Bobbitt’s Market-state superceding the Nation-state ?

Secondly, I can forsee an exceedingly grim response by States where the ruling elite retains the will to power to contest their destruction.

Confronted with persistently successful 4GW/5GW actors – particularly those on the loose end of the organizational spectrum such as virtual cells or a cell organized around a superempowered individual – a major state power will inevitably go the route of setting up a small off-the books clandestine unit – essentially a death squad without the pyschopoathology – and begin quietly disappearing people based upon probalistic estimates.

You don’t really need very many people to do this either. The yezhovschina purges ( which were not secret and were designed to instill terror rather than suppress it) in 1937
were accompished by about 200 handpicked professional killers who in turn were themselves easily liquidated by Stalin after they had served their purposes, being too few in number to offer effective resistance or mount a coup on their own.

4GW actors are interdependent with the state they are attacking and their effectiveness correlates with the self-restraint of the state actors being concerned with the political calculus. If the State actors are indifferent to political concerns or can achieve mastery over it via secrecy, then the asymmetrical relationship becomes unfavorable to the 4GW actors.

4GW and 5GW threats are dangerous because they threaten to push the State into a great leap backward in moral terms even when the 4GW actors lose the game.

Wednesday, October 26th, 2005


There will be a post later tonight, most likely on American conservatives and France ( inspired by Collounsbury). I’m feeling somewhat pressed for blogging time however as I have a ” facilitation” meeting where I have to lead for semi-unwilling co-workers on Monday that requires planning; and a major project for Zenpundit that I am deep in to putting together and hope to unveil early next month.

And tonight, some kind of Father-Son pumpkin carving event at my son’s pre-school. The Son of Zenpundit wants to make a 10 lb pumpkin look just like Batman ( and not the Adam West version either but the edgy, dark, Frank Miller kind), something that is going to require some artistic license on my part.

To the Batmobile !

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