If only the French…

What a fascinating juxtaposition. Yesterday CNN and others reported that the French foreign minister has called for “a new trans-Atlantic relationship” between the United States and its European allies. And yesterday evening I watched Godzilla (the 1998 remake with Matthew Broderick), and lo and behold, a FRENCHMAN is a key military hero.

If only the French were all as cool as Jean Reno. His cronies all got eaten, mostly because they panicked or froze up when confronted by 9-foot-long Mini-Godzillas, but Jean Reno’s character “Phillippe,” HE was cool. He saved the day. Admittedly, he had the help of the U.S. Military, which made the movie believable, but he also had the help of Matthew Broderick, which made the movie ridiculous.

(ASIDE: At one point Matthew Broderick turns to Jean Reno and says “Phillippe.” I turned to my wife and said “I see you brought your crossbow.” Ladyhawke fans may now giggle. She certainly did.)

France and the US certainly have some kissing-and-making-up to do if they want to accomplish anything meaningful together. I think that Americans are more likely to accept the French as allies if we can be convinced that they’re all cool, heroic types like Jean Reno. I prescribe a month of Americans Rent Godzilla, during which we can laugh as Jean Reno complains about our coffee, grin as he does Elvis impressions to get through military checkpoints, and stand up and cheer as he rappels from a press-box using a spool of audio cable.


62 thoughts on “If only the French…”

  1. NOTE:

    NOTE: Any political content in the above post is there by way of satire. Take a deep breath, relax, and repeat after me:

    “Phillipe, I see you brought your crossbow”

    (yes, yes… I just Googled the text of the movie. It’s LOUIS who had the crossbow. Matthew Broderick’s character was Phillipe.)

    1. Re: NOTE:

      BTW, sorry if you don’t like that it got so political below. Personally, I enjoy debating the issues, but I’ll gladly refrain from political tangents if you want this to stop.

  2. Um.

    Who would be at the helm of this ‘new trans-atlantic relationship’?

    If the French foreign minister is proposing it, we can all figure out who he wants to have control of it! What–is this yet another way to suck resources from the US and other western countries, while giving frankish companies preferential treatment?

    1. Oops. Upon rereading article, it seems he’s proposing more of a ‘let’s just get along’ thing. Nevertheless, he’s a politician proposing something…

      1. Well, he certainly doesn’t want the US leading things. He made that clear. “Allies are not subservient,” or something like that.

        That’s fine. Meeting in the middle is good. Of course, since the middle is somewhere in deep of the Atlantic, that’s kind of meaningless, at least geographically.


        1. I dunno… if we could get all politicians to meet in the middle of the atlantic that’d be sweet. Especially if they didn’t have any boats.

          Then we could watch the chaos of what happens when every government suddenly disappeared.


          1. I dunno – isn’t that pretty much what we have NOW? I think it’d be more along the lines of nothing happening for a time, before someone said, “Hey, I haven’t heard anything from Washington (Paris/London/Madrid/et cetera) for a while – I wonder what’s going on with the government wonks?” Of course, this assumes that all the press were invited along to cover – and participate – in events… not necessarily a bad idea.)

  3. Moving from the US, and not living in France, and rooming with Foreign Legionnaires, has taught me a lot about the differences. They are very few, except in national maturity.

    Slight exaggaration, but really not that much of one. I mean, the house I live in is one of the newer in town, and it’s older than the US. The ideas that built the country are the same as the ones that built the US, but much more mature and less corrupted by religion. We already did our “let’s use religion as an excuse to kill everyone” thing.

    1. Maturity?

      Old is not the same as mature, and religion is not the same as corruption.

      Sure, there are houses in Europe older than the US Constitution. There aren’t many European GOVERNMENTS that have been as stable, for as long, as the US government under that constitution, though.


      1. Re: Maturity?

        Not the same, no, but they tend to go hand in hand more often than not. And apart from being broken by wars, which I might add happened to the US government as well, they tend to be very stable all over the western world for the last few thousand years.

        And religion is not the same as corruption, of course not. But when religion dictates policy, it is *a* corruption. There are also others, such as bribery and favoritism. That is, for the governance to be democratic in the modern sense of the word. If that isn’t an issue, then sure, bring on theocracy and campaign contributions.

        1. Re: Maturity?

          If you’re suggesting for a moment that European governments have been stable for the last few thousand years, you’re obviously living in Amsterdam and smoking something legal in a coffeehouse. The only stable thing for the last 1000 years in Europe has been wars over land, religion, and succession.

          Yes, the US had a Civil War, during which the Constitution proved itself viable, and withstood what many consider its ultimate test. During that time all three branches of US Government remained intact, and FOLLOWING the Civil War the defeated secessionist states were brought back into the Union AS EQUALS. Barring the occasional dispute over Confederate flags, their secession is never held against anybody.

          Bribery, nepotism, old-boys networks, and hysteria are just a few of the problems democracies have worldwide. The suggestion that US government is more corrupt than others (which you APPEAR to be making, forgive me if you’re not) is patently absurd. Oil-for-food, anyone? What about Ukrainian elections, or the terrorism-tilted Spanish elections (an example of hysteria if ever there was one – score one for Al-Quaeda right there.)

          Better check your definition of “Theocracy,” too. There’s no particular religion dictating policy here in North America, but if we look to Iran, Syria, or perhaps Rome we can see that in full effect. Sure, Christianity in its hundreds of factional forms is the dominant religion in the United States, and citizens voting their conscience have put in place a government that reflects many of those numerous factions Christian principles (as they have in this nation for over 200 years), but nobody is standing up and saying that Their God is In Charge.

          And REALLY, nobody cares HOW old your house is. Except maybe the insurance company.


          1. Re: Maturity?

            terrorism-tilted Spanish elections
            I used to agree with you on this one, but I got an education while I was in Madrid.

            The Spanish would have probably voted the way they did anyway, even had the attack not happened. Over 90% of the Spanish people opposed their participation in Iraq, and the challenger ran on a platform that said he’d withdraw as soon as he could upon being elected. That right there was enough to give him the win.

            On top of that, the Spanish government lied, badly, to its people about the attack. They insisted that it was the work of ETA (the Basque separatists), despite the fact that such an attack would have been extremely out of character for them, and despite almost immediate evidence to the contrary. Nobody believed them, and that the government tried such a transparent lie sealed their fate.

          2. Re: Maturity?

            Fair enough. But the overall example still stands as an example of lies and corruption in European government — regardless of which party was in charge at the time. It really was a disgraceful, tragic affair.


          3. Re: Maturity?

            I’m suggesting there have been a lot of stability in the last thousand years, especially considering the vast amount of conflict going on.

            The US withstood the civil war because the north won; not because of any inherent superiority in government. Any republic would be in the same situation; and most that have had civil wars have been, at least since the days of Rome. In the same way, it’s just good political sense to bring the states back – the ones being punished are the leaders, not the people. And yes, I agree, that shows the strength of the republic the US is built from – but it shows the strength of the *republic*, which was already a well tested form of government. That’s why it was chosen for the US.

            I am suggesting that among western democracies, the US stands out with religion and campaign contribution created legislation and governance. The UK isn’t lagging much behind on the campaign contribution front, but in most other western nations, handing money to a politician will get you thrown in jail, not get you a law passed.

            As far as my (deliberately exaggarated) theocracy comment, it is based on such things as abortion, homosexuality and stem cell research legislation being dictated on religious grounds. That is rather unique among western nations. Religion is religion, no matter how splintered it is.

            It’s not my house, really, I just live in it. Just brought it up as an example, but jmaynard below expressed it much better with the 100 years / 100 miles comment.

          4. Re: Maturity?

            I am suggesting that among western democracies, the US stands out with religion and campaign contribution created legislation and governance.

            You also need to take into account the anti-religion influence that overwhelms in many other countries when stating this. Many places (and many in the USA) even having somebody related to a religion will discredit anything you say, because you must be *tainted* with religious doctrine. Anti-religous movements are just as bad as purely religious ones. They are also becoming very common, and powerful in the western world.

          5. Re: Maturity?

            It encourages selfish beliefs. If there is no hereafter, why bother worrying about others. It positions oneself as the center of thought, instead of a greater end/good/goal. It does not allow for anything beyond what a person may hold in their hand. It cannot comprehend the unquantifiable values.

            Obviously, this is a generality, but in the same respect as your generalities towards religion.

            Fact is only the extent of our own knowledge, in our own little existence. There is always more beyond our current ability to comprehend.

          6. Re: Maturity?

            Ever hear of secular humanity? That alone disproves all of your infactual statements. And it can perfectly well “comprehend the unquantifiable values”; neither morals, compassion, ethics or emotions are reserved for religion.

            And I never claimed that fact is everything. I claimed it is a bad thing to hold blind belief in the unknowable *before fact*.

          7. Okay, can it.

            You both make valid points. We’re obviously not going to get anywhere further with this discussion.

            I’m declaring it over. Put a cork in it.

        2. Re: Maturity?

          I beg to differ. The United States has had one major internal war in 228 years.

          The Germanies, for example, have been ripped by continous territorial wars until the late 1800’s – then had the two world wars. (Which weren’t internal)

          France (Gaul/Gaulle) was conquered by Julius Caesar in approximately 52 BC. At that point, you can start a developmental process. By approximately 700 AD, the Merovingian Latin had evolved enough to be a full separation, and development into a new language.

          Using Normandy (province) as an example, it was conquered by Caesar, overrun by the franks in the 5th century, raided by the Normans in the 9th century, given to the normans by Charles III in the tenth century, In the 11th century, the duke conquered England. Succession disputes then broke it up again until Henry I reconquered Normandy in the early 12th century. It then flipped back and forth a few times, and resulted in the Hundred Years War – 1338-1453.

          That’s one small portion. Europe has been a continual simmering battlefield for centuries, just like the Middle East. Peace is the exception, not the rule.

          (Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Saxons, Normans, Franks, Huns.. you name it)

          England itself is no better, with the internecine fighting between the Scots, Irish, English, and Welsh. Germany? Hah! After the Roman Empire mostly collapsed, The area was called “The Germanies”, being a region with dozens of ‘kings’/’duchies’/whatever, and free-form borders.

          The strength of Europe was its ability to change – something that the French have been fighting for years *cough* Language police *cough*. Throughout this period of combat, it went from an agrarian bronze-age society to our modern one, passing through several layers of industrial revolution and change.


          1. Re: Maturity?

            As he stated, Internal. At the time, the Indians were not and internal element of the us. If you did count them, you would also have to count the various mexican incursions/wars as internal also.

          2. Re: Maturity?

            And at the time, the elements he lists in wars in europe were not internal to the governments at war either. I fail to see your point.

          3. Re: Maturity?

            You managed to make your case, without even mentioning the various problems with the ‘former Yugoslavia’. What a great example of the problems of the world in a small region. Racial cleansing, Religious wars, language wars, you name it. It all happens in such a small region in Europe.

            And the world has been influenced many times over by this little area. (world wars anyone?)

      1. That’s very true. And to me, 100 years really *isn’t* a long time. My country, with variations of governments that finally evolved into the present, is over a thousand years old. And it’s an upstart in European terms – Ultima Thule was just wilderness and barbarians when the Romans conquered the existing civilizations in the rest of Europe.

    2. The ideas that built the country are the same as the ones that built the US

      You mean, “let’s sack and loot the Roman Empire”? Geez, I sure don’t remember that from History…

  4. I think you bring up a good point (in a very odd way): we’re more likely to accept the French as allies when they actually do something to our benefit. Right now, all the French government seems to be doing about us is declaring us savage boors.

    (Incidentally, I don’t know what public opinion is right now in France, but when a friend was in the country right about when the US went into Iraq in 2003, he got continuous apologies from French citizens for their government’s behavior. So I’ll specify: we’re more likely to accept the French government as allies…)

    1. allies

      The interesting thing, is that most of these countries that everybody claims we’ve had such a falling out with, are still very stong allies. The US has not “turned it’s back to europe” and most of Europe is the same way. One difference doesn’t destroy so much of what we’ve built. Some countries who didnt’ support us in Iraq are still to this day supporting us in Afghanistan.

      I really think the ‘differences’ that are talked about so much, are really moot points. We still have so much we work together on, and are still friends. People need to get over it, and keep working on what we agree on.

    1. Okay, maybe I’ve got a skewed view, living with Foreign Legionnaires, but no force of arms, isn’t that stretching the truth more than a tad? Who’s got military presence in Africa to the point where they can reach any spot in Africa with armed forces within 24 hours? It sure aint the US or the UK, but it sure is Europe.

      Not relying on != not having. Even the tiny country of Sweden (8 million people is *nothing*) has enough armed forces to assist UN intervention with enough force to make a difference. The main difference would be that all US troops are under federal command, that is, under control of the central US government, while European countries have armed forces serving the needs and desires of the individual countries and not those common to Europe, or even EU.

      And this fact in itself reflects the same difference in culture; Europe can most certainly pool resources and kick major military butt if the need arises, but the inherent slowness in doing so makes it much easier to use diplomatic means. Not that this is necessarily a disadvantage; war ain’t exactly a desireable state of affairs, and gunboat diplomacy ain’t diplomacy.

  5. I’m admittedly heavily biased against pretty much all of the Bush administration and their policies, but would this even be possible? Bush took a really bullish “my way or the highway” approach to diplomacy in his first four years, and so far seems to be boasting that his reelection is validation of all of his policies (Iraq included). And he’s never seemed at all tolerant of dissent, even from other governments.

    So what are the chances of this administration concerning itself at all with relations with France? I would think the chances of that are almost nil unless something changes in the current landscape of international politics. Right now there’s no incentive for Bush, and I’d argue he actually has a negative desire (if that’s at all possible) to pursue this.


      1. They didn’t *demand* it, we *gave* it to them when setting up the UN and becoming part of it. But Bush is apparently above dealing with the UN, that’s only done for public and foreign relations reasons.

        Though, I do wholeheartedly agree, no nation should have veto privilege over our national security, but the fact remains, they were *right*. We went in at the wrong time for completely falsified reasons. Had we waited, and continued the inspections without military action, then ~1400 (I think) US soldiers would still be alive, 100,000+ Iraqi’s would still be alive, who knows how many civilians would still have their heads firmly attached to their shoulders, not to mention we would have sufficient military resources to devote to the continued hunt for bin Laden (oh yeah, he’s still out there, said hi before the election, even though this whole country seems to have already forgotten again), and the military might to threaten Iran and/or North Korea with *if* diplomatic solutions fail (though current events are suggesting Bush is again unwilling to wait for diplomacy, and plans to continue his one man crusade anyway).

        But yes, how dare the UN try to govern response to UN sanctions (and potential violations), don’t they know that when we gave other permanent members of the UN Security Council veto privileges as well, we didn’t want them to actually use it? That was just for us!

        Pardon my cynicism and sarcasm, but honestly, they weren’t trying to “veto” US policy, they were acting accordingly within the UN charter. The US was responding to sanctions made by the *UN Security Council*, and the UN Security Council had every right and responsibility to debate the merits of various potential responses. Now, they (obviously) can’t stop us from going in anyway if we want to, but the Security Council members would have been negligent not to debate whether to support the actions of the US and make it an international coalition, or to announce their disapproval and take a hands off approach. Which obviously did not “veto US foreign policy”, because we went and did it on our own. Obviously that was our loss, not theirs.

        1. The inspections had failed. The only reason Saddam even tried to allow them back in at the end was because he knew he was about to get hammered. Without that threat, he would have continued to stonewall.

          Saddam violated the terms of the cease-fire that ended the first Gulf War. He did so blatantly, repeatedly, and willfully. He deserved what he got.

          When the French said they’d unconditionally veto any military action to force Saddam to obey the terms of the cease-fire he agreed to, they unilaterally attempted to take control of US foreign policy. We told them to butt out, and were completely right to do so.

          1. The inspections had found nothing. That is equivalent to failing if there was anything to find, but it turns out there wasn’t. So how had they failed?

            Remind me, which cease-fire terms had Saddam violated? (I honestly don’t remember if he was accused of anything other than failing to sufficiently disarm.)

            But I don’t question that he got what he deserved, I agree that he did. I just don’t believe that the ends justified the means.

            When the French said they’d unconditionally veto any military action to force Saddam to obey the terms of the cease-fire he agreed to …

            Key correction: veto any *U.N.* military action. Which they did, and had every right to do if they felt it was the right thing to do (which it turns out to have been).

            When telling them “to butt out”, we basically said “we’re either doing this with you, or without you” (you == UN). Their response basically boiled down to “without us”, and we said okay, and did it without them. At *no point* did they try to say we couldn’t go in on our own anyway. They vetoed the *UN* support of the action, which is exactly how the UN Security Council is supposed to work.

          2. The inspections had found nothing. That is equivalent to failing if there was anything to find, but it turns out there wasn’t. So how had they failed?

            The terms required him to account for all the known existing weapons. He never did. Yes, we didn’t find the weapons that everybody did *know* he *had* (were well documented in inspections before). So where did they go? Many of these were things you couldn’t just blow up, or bury.

            Remind me, which cease-fire terms had Saddam violated?

            The armistice he signed at the end of the first gulf war. He signed a lengthy agreement of what he would do militarily, and what we were required to patrol, etc. Within a very short amount of time he began breaking this, little by little. According to the terms of the armistice, we really were supposed to use military force the first time he did it. We just waited until now.

            That was one of the points that really got my goat when people would exclaim it was an illegal war, because according to the terms, we (all the un coalition forces, including France) were supposed to have done it a long time ago.

          3. Well, we “knew” quite a lot of other things, too.

            The armistice he signed at the end of the first gulf war. He signed a lengthy agreement of what he would do militarily, and what we were required to patrol, etc. Within a very short amount of time he began breaking this, little by little.

            Yes, I realize that, but I was trying to ask which portions of that armistice were violated in which ways?

            Within a very short amount of time he began breaking this, little by little. According to the terms of the armistice, we really were supposed to use military force the first time he did it. We just waited until now.

            Yes, but that would’ve been tantamount to going to war over jay walking if we’d done it at his very first step out of line. There’s such a thing as a *proportional response*. In retrospect, it looks like his worst offense against the agreement was to give us a lot of attitude about it and make our (UN members) jobs difficult.

            France was just one of many nations who felt the evidence of violations wasn’t sufficient to justify that scale of a response, they just fought it harder than most of the others who opposed the idea. Good for them, they were right. Not that this administration will ever admit a mistake.

          4. Well, France was also one of a few nations to whom Saddam owed very large amounts of money. Not surprisingly, those nations — France, Germany, and Russia — were the ones most strenously objecting to any action that could result in a regime change.

            And don’t forget the “oil-for-food” thing, which seems to indicate that the UN itself was marbled nicely with tasty, tasty graft.

            After all, the best politician, the most honest politician, whether in Europe, Asia, Africa, or the Americas, is the one who stays bought.


          5. I was under the impression the UN was looking pretty innocent in the problems with the Oil-for-Food program and was pretty quick about starting an investigation when the problems became apparent. The only blame I’d heard placed on that yet was on an American in Virginia who has already plead guilty.

          6. oil-for-food

            Actually, most of the UN/Other countries have not allowed reveiws, or any form of real investigation. Yes and american was recently nailed (and thank goodness). The reason was, we’ve actually got people looking into it, and trying to prosecute.

            The oil-for-food scandal is very real, and some countries/entities are more tied in it than others. The big difference with this american, is he was acting on his own (business) trying to scam some money. This is a very bad thing, yes, but even worse is countries representatives using that same graft to influence their policies, or other countries policies.

          7. armistice

            There are a few things he broke. Some of the first ones:
            Full access to UN weapons inspectors – they weren’t given full access most of the time, usually led around in circles.

            Targeting/Firing at UN patrol craft – They reguarly targeted and shot at UN aircraft.

            Military action against people who had supported the invasion – I’m sure you’ve seen the many stories about kurds, and the marsh-arabs (among others).

            These are just a couple of the things he broke, there are more, I just don’t remember offhand.

            And I don’t think that attempting to shoot down planes, or killing very large numbers of people would be considered along the lines of jaywalking. Personally, I think his attacks/destruction of the marsh-arabs alone should have prompted attention on it’s own (genocide).

          8. we really were supposed to use military force the first time he did it.

            We were supposed to, and under Clinton, we did. When Saddam was really intransigent, Clinton even built up forces in the Gulf for a possible invasion.

            Not miring the U.S. in an unwinnable war does not equal not taking any action whatsoever.

    1. Right now there’s no incentive for Bush, and I’d argue he actually has a negative desire (if that’s at all possible) to pursue this.

      This goes both ways. Chirac has long been known for anti-american tirades (Yes, before Bush was in office). This is the same guy that said in a speech that the US was leading the world into a loss of culture.

      I’m just saying, an alliance is a two way street.

      1. Sure, but having anti-American sentiments isn’t a crime. Most of the world seems to have them, if not before, then certainly after Bush’s first term. What are we going to do, censor anyone in the world who doesn’t agree with us? Or just put them on terrorist watch lists to prevent them from flying or sending money.

        After 9/11, the US was probably held in the highest esteem by the rest of the world since WWII. Amazingly, Bush managed to flip that around and piss the rest of the world off enough that we’re now more despised than we ever have been before, especially in the Middle East, which is why terrorist attacks have reached new highs since we invaded Iraq, we created a perfect little terrorist incubator full of death, poverty, hunger, despair and hatred towards us.

        To eliminate the terrorist threats, yes we need to eliminate those committing these attrocities, but we also have to work on fixing the cause of the problem too, and that means working on international relations. As long as hatred of us is so widespread, there’s still going to be more extremists cropping up who’re willing to resort to extreme measures against us. That threat will never even be diminished with our current approach.

        But yes, of course it’s a two way street. We have constant harsh reminders of that while watching the Israelis and Palestinians try to make any progress towards peace talks (or hell, even trying to just agree *to* talk). There could be far worse hurdles to overcome than those between the US & France.

    1. Re: Jean Reno is cool!

      I will second this observation and further more move that we make it a fact, giving it all the rights and responsibilities of other facts. Including but not limited to, a national Jean Reno is Cool! Day (I suggest today be that day), the development of a “Department of Cool Frenchmen like Jean Reno”, and that an education package be developed for our high schools with many of Jean Reno’s movies. 😀

  6. A few simple comments:

    1. My famorite line from that version of Godzilla is when Jean Reno’s character gets up after (I beleive) the stadium full of mini Godzilla’s is blown up. and as he is dusting off he says, “I could use a coffee.”
    I have no idea why I love it so much but his is just so cool in that movie.

    2. Perhaps it is ignorance but the EU as it stands right now reminds me of the early american states and what some of the founding fathers seemed to have in mind when they built our constitution. I would love to jump ahead a century and see how it has developed.

    3. What this world really needs is a Schlock Mercinary Movie! Just don’t let them make it into a TV cartoon series. They always Veer too far from the original matarial and ruin them when they do that unless it is on some channel that a Gentlemanly Christian Fellow such as yourself would not want to be associated with.

    4. I see you brought your Crossbow. (Ladyhawke was an excellent movie!)

  7. Diving In Without Reading What Has Gone Before…

    I love Jean Reno! I first saw him in Big Blue, then in La Femme Nikita and the Cleaner. He is just so, so, so cool.

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