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Thursday, September 18, 2003

Pushing Back

After reading today’s puerile little anti-French screed I am forced to conclude that anything insightful Tom Friedman ever wrote was a fluke.

He says the French are our enemy because they have not magnanimously offered to “assemble an army of 25,000 Eurotroops, and a $5 billion reconstruction package, and then saying to the Bush team: Here, we're sincere about helping to rebuild Iraq, but now we want a real seat at the management table. Instead, the French have put out an ill-conceived proposal, just to show that they can be different, without any promise that even if America said yes Paris would make a meaningful contribution.”

Yes. That’s the smart way to deal with the Bush administration. Put your best deal on the table and let them up the ante. They are soooo trustworthy and honest in their dealings that you needn’t fear that they will screw you. Being above board in all things is their watchword.

And the French are little pink bunnies who were born yesterday.

Friedman relays the following as if it were a sacred truth as passed down from Moses himself:

Let me spell it out in simple English: if America is defeated in Iraq by a coalition of Saddamists and Islamists, radical Muslim groups — from Baghdad to the Muslim slums of Paris — will all be energized, and the forces of modernism and tolerance within these Muslim communities will be on the run.

And we know this because we’ve already seen how cowed terrorists are by our magnificent military might and democratic motivations in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The entire Arab world is trembling in fear and yet are simultaneously terribly impressed with our benevolence, kindness and generosity; they are particularly moved by the competence we’ve shown thus far in the post-war aftermath. Needless to say, like everyone else in the world, they are very likely bowled over by the expertise and skill of our intelligence services with their preternatural gifts for knowing if they’ve been bad or good (so be good for goodness sake!)

Just today we hear reports that Saudi Arabia is thinking of putting out feelers to buy a small nuclear bomb or two from our other close ally Pakistan.

Oh yes. The plan is working perfectly.

It doesn’t occur to Friedman that this magical kool-aid formula that he and the neocons are swilling by the gallon just MIGHT BE WRONG. Maybe this administration’s continued insistence on running things in Iraq after our blatant lies and mistakes leading up to the war are the very things that are making this beautiful flowering of democracy IMPOSSIBLE.

Nobody believes a fucking thing we say anymore, whether it’s about WMD or civil liberties or transforming Iraq into a non-drinking version of Tennessee. This is not France’s fault and it isn’t the EU’s fault and it isn’t the UN’s fault. It is the Bush administration’s fault and whether or not the French “want us to fail” is of little consequence. We are the one’s who are failing.

The question is whether France has an obligation to involve itself in a terrible mess, against the will of its own people, that they were on the record opposing in no uncertain terms and which they do not believe is going to be successful under the leadership of a bunch of bungling megalomaniacs.

Even more importantly the question is whether they might think they should try to put the brakes on this neocon fantasy called the Bush Doctrine before something really, really bad happens. Although it's somewhat in doubt that Friedman has bothered to read it, we can be sure that the leaders of France have, as well as the numerous underlying writings that fully explain its goals, something Tom Friedman should also do before he start throwing around stupid accusations about the French launching “Operation America Must Fail.”

Long before any such (non-existent) French perfidy was conceived, fellows like Charles Krauthammer were writing in his article Universal Dominion: Toward a Unipolar World: "America's purpose should be to steer the world away from its coming multipolar future toward a qualitatively new outcome--a unipolar world" shaped and led by American power. Ben Wattenberg wrote: "We are the first universal nation. 'First' as in the first one, 'first' as in 'number one.' And 'universal' within our borders and globally.A unipolar world is a good thing, if America is the uni." link

It may be that the disagreements between Europe and the US aren’t about some unhinged French hatred for America, as Friedman seems to think, nor are they necessarily the natural consequence of European cultural hedonism leading to military weakness, as Robert Kaplan asserts in his unctuously condescending article, Power and Weakness.

It’s just possible that the French and others, based upon their historical experience as well as a clear reading of the intentions of the US government, have decided to push back for bigger reasons than thwarting the onanistic mid-east fantasy of a bunch of delusional neocons.

They may believe that enabling the US to run the world as a “hegemony” is not in their best interest. They may sincerely believe that a real multi-polar world is preferable, not because they are weak and flabby, but because they know that when a nation’s leaders start talking about “global military dominance” it has always translated into bad results for ordinary people, no matter who does it.

Maybe they have learned from their own mistakes.

Friedman would do well do at least consider that France’s intransigence is born of something a bit more nuanced than petulance, greed and bad temper (although they, like everybody else, have ample amounts of them.) The logical reason for their behavior is that they don’t trust this government and its newfound enthusiasm for using its huge military as far as they can throw it.

And in that they are joined by millions and millions of others all around the world, many of them right here in the Homeland itself. A few of us have read the history of Empire, too. We don't have to actually live it to learn its lessons.