The French connection

France has never been a nation to value the peace through strength paradigm very highly, excepting those instances in which its colonial interests have been involved. However, in light of the fruits of French conciliation in the face of Nazi Germany’s rise to power, one would think this tendency to frown upon supposedly archaic notions of realism would have been mitigated somewhat over the last 60 years.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case. Condoleezza Rice was not altogether out of line when she mentioned that the schism between the U.S. and the dissenting members of the Security Council (principally France) is “playing into the hands” of Saddam, and is reminiscent of the allies’ “appeasement” of Hitler.

In fact, the France of today seems bent on avoiding war at all costs, insisting that continued diplomacy is the appropriate solution to the Iraq dilemma, in spite of the monolithic body of evidence – circumstantial as it may be – to the contrary. Moreover, in pursuing this agenda, the Chirac Administration has gone out of its way to step on American toes, resolutely rejecting U.S. contentions that Saddam poses an immediate, substantial threat, and has been duplicitous, all along, in his dealings with Hans Blix et al.

France’s latest miscue, in which the foreign minister implicitly threatened that his government will veto any prospective United Nations resolution to wage war on Iraq, regardless of circumstance, has even unsettled dovish Secretary Powell. Opposing war on condition is one thing; opposing it on principle is quite another altogether, and smacks of naiveté, to say the least.

No doubt, Powell feels his diplomatic lease has expired as far as France is concerned, and with good reason – with statements such as the aforementioned, the French have given no indication that they’re willing to compromise with Anglo-American aims.

This obdurate position is all the more clear given some of Chirac’s other gaffes of late. In October, for instance, the president, in a resentful mood, unexpectedly deferred a key summit with his British counterpart. When the two leaders met at a rescheduled summit last week, it was in the shadow of France’s decision to invite Robert Mugabe, the infamous dictator (officially, president) of Zimbabwe, to a summit in Paris. Incidentally, the summit will convene for the first time on Feb. 19, Mugabe having been forbidden to set foot on E.U. soil in a stipulation that officially expires today.

More troubling, however, was the French posture in the recent NATO debate as to whether Turkey should be fortified in preparation for a prospective war with Iraq. Of course, the U.S. request to provide Turkey with defense equipment was purely a precautionary measure – a measure, moreover, designed to instill Turkey (one of the few Islamic states not wholly opposed to U.S. foreign policy) with a sense of security and confidence. Even so, France balked at the idea of doing anything that might foreshadow a possible military confrontation, in true Gallic form, without seriously considering the consequences.

As Mark Steyn of The Chicago Sun-Times writes, “To flip the finger at Turkey is to risk doing grave damage not just to NATO but to one of the few functioning Islamic states.” While France may have “no objection to NATO as a moribund talking-shop. . .but has zero interest in supporting it as a serious operational mutual defense pact,” Turkey, nonetheless, views NATO membership as “an indispensable component of its national identity – as a modern, secular, Western Muslim nation.”

France’s uncompromising opposition to “Anglo-Americanism” isn’t much of a surprise, however, insofar as French relations with its Western allies have become increasingly tenuous since WWII. A cursory glance at the foreign policy record of the resiliently “diplomatic” French government, in the wake of its salvation from the clutches of the Third Reich, reveals the extent of its shaky affiliation with the United States: “Witness a string of diplomatic clashes with America over the Suez campaign in 1956; over France’s colonies in North Africa and elsewhere; over France’s insistence on its own nuclear force de frappe; and over its decision to leave NATO’s military structure” (Economist, Feb. 1).

All of this begs the question: Are the French unconditionally opposed to war because they’re French (i.e. naïve), or are they simply against any foreign intervention on the part of the American superpower?

Despite Chirac’s claims that he is upholding the ideals of the UN charter and taking all measures necessary to ensure that war is a last resort, he has to be aware that Iraq has deceived UN agents – smoking gun or no – and will go on deceiving indefinitely if allowed to do so. He must realize that armed conflict is the inevitable and logical terminus of Iraq’s ruse, and he will most assuredly throw in his support when military action is taken against Saddam, as he did (albeit rather belatedly) in 1991. But in the mean time, he feels obligated, as unilateral-idealist-in-chief, to fight Anglo-American “imperialism” every step of the way.