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Wednesday, April 02, 2003
Here's another translation of an op-ed piece from the French, this time from the left-center Le Monde. What I don't get is the writer's argument that the UK can only preserve its national identity by subsuming it in a greater European identity, one which no doubt will partake generously of the French national identity. Is it wrong of me to think that the European Union, at least as far as France is concerned, is a campaign by Chirac and his bureaucrats to accomplish what Bonaparte and his generals could not? Or are they thinking that the EU will form some sort of hygienic barrier against the contagion of American culture? Maybe they will raise tariffs on hamburgers, Britney Spears CD's, and baseball caps. I'd support the second of the three, but from what I've heard of Euro-pop, they need an infusion of old-school R&B with maybe some Ramones.

The original is here. Please note also that the article quotes some sources that were originally rendered in English. Having been translated back and forth, they probably do not bear much resemblance to the original.

Paris-London: Restoring the Tie

1904-2004: The so-called "Entente Cordiale" should celebrate its one hundredth anniversary next year. But will it? For the moment, Franco-British relations are somewhat frosty, even if Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair, pretending not to notice, met privately the day after the Brussels summit.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw had just publicly reiterated British grievances against the Elysée Palace, accusing them of having sabotaged the Anglo-Saxon efforts to give a cloak of legality to the invasion of Iraq.

The cross-channel popular press once more gave free rein to its aversion to the "frog-eaters," perhaps believing that Michelet was correct in saying, in his immortal "Tableau de la France": "The war of all wars, the fight of all fights, is that between France and England. The rest is incidental."

This is a judgement apparently shared by de Gaulle, since he was moved to say to Her Gracious Majesty's ambassador that their two countries "had always been at war, except when they were allied against a common enemy." Also, he had always opposed the entry of the United Kingdom into the Common Market, even if it meant provoking a trans-Atlantic crisis in 1963 by going against Kennedy's strong wishes.

The great difference between that crisis and the current one is that France then was somewhat isolated. At that time, Adenauer professed his solidarity with "the man of June 18" [de Gaulle] in the Elysée treaty, but the Bundestag also added a preamble diametrically opposed to the Gaullist vision. This preamble, much applauded by Washington, declared the necessity of Atlantic as well as European integration.

This time, Schroeder and Joschka Fischer had the comfort of finding a permanent member of the Security Council -- one owing its seat, it shuold be mentioned, to Churchill's insistence at Yalta -- that could support their people's profoudly-held pacifism, and that could encourage by its example the hitherto ultra-cautious Putin to raise the threat of a veto. Some went as far as to speak of the "Paris-Berlin-Moscow Axis." The General, who dreamed of a Europe extending "from the Atlanic to the Urals," must have felt the satisfaction in his tomb.

But he is doubtless less happy to hear the President of the Republic ceaselessly praise the UN -- which, to say the least, he did not treasure in his heart. And still less happy to note that France, instead of serving as the model for Eastern Europe, sees the ex-Warsaw Pact countries strongly supporting the coalition, at least verbally. The reason is simple: they feel safer with distant protectors than with neighbors of whom they have unpleasant memories.

It is not even certain that "the man of June 18' would even appreciate the estrangement between his successor and Perfidious Albion. Without her, after all, there would have been no free France, and he admired no one more than Churchill, his companion in the Liberation. He would have preferred instead that she forget what Churchill said to him before the Normandy Invasion: "General, if we must someday choose between Europe and greatness, we will choose greatness."

Truly, there is not much new here. Anthony Hartley quite rightly said in "England, a Self-Criticism" that in the last years of the 19th century and the Spanish-American War the British leaders were "resolved to do nothing that would offend the United States." Anthony Eden paid dearly for turning his back on this precept in the Suez crisis, and all his successors have proclaimed their wish for close ties with the White House. This did not always prevent squabbles, on Vietnam for example. Tony Blair himself has never hidden his reservations about George W. Bush's unconditional support for Sharon's policies.

Why then is he following so closely in the Iraq affair, ignoring the majority of his countrymen and a strong minority of his own party? Apparently, he is convinced in his heart that A) Saddam is a public menace, which is hard to argue with; B) that there is no way to eliminate him except through force; C) that he is in the best position, being sincerely attached to both his European and Atlantic commitments, to serve as a bridge between the Atlantic's two shores.


Nevertheless, can they be at once inside and outside, keeping the "special relationship" with the Americans? According to an insightful article by Prof. Niall Ferguson in the Financial Times of March 15 and 16, Britain has not gained much from the relationship, and it is really a bet that Europe will only protect its identity and those of its members if the United States stops dictating to it.

Another article, reprinted at length in the International Mail on March 6, shows the value of the stakes in this bet. The work of John C. Hulsman, a thinker with the Heritage Foundation, a heavyweight of the neo-conservative school and therefore also influential with the Bush adminstration, urges this administration to block the "neo-Gaullist attempt to construct an opposite pole to the United States." Otherwise, this would lead to the adoption of the Euro by London, the birth of a common foreign policy and common security worthy of the name, and the "greater harmonization of tax policies throughout the continent." The British have for a millenium taken the Roman tradition of "divide and rule."

Such a text should pursuade them that their great American daughter has taken up this slogan for herself. They will not preserve the identity of which they are so proud unless they help, without ulterior motives, to construct a European Union worthy of the name. Would it not be in the interest of France, which has so little in common with their military plans, to help them in this?

No one knows how the current war will end up, since its development bears so little resemblance to Washington's optimistic scenarios, but it is striking that Blair is opposed to the White House's pretension to having the upper hand in the reconstruction.

Regardless, it would annoy the Americans if their victory -- won at whatever price -- brought about a universal overlordship in which everyone must be given a share. It would be too much to expect of human nature to think that a world government, American or not, could guarantee the minimum of protection and fairness they have the right to expect.

Recently, Tony Blair has too often experienced the arrogance of the American neo-conservatives not to feel the need of a counterbalance. Sooner or later will feel the need to restore their ties, if they want to preserve their identities. The sooner the better.

André Fontaine


The same edition of Le Monde had a rather shallow thumbsucker about the disappearance of the world's languages. They managed to say not a word about the suppression in France of the Basque, Provençal, Breton, and Occitan languages.

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