Behind Enemy Lines

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I just spent my annual month in the National Review's nightmare world, and I can exclusively confirm the following:

* The French really don't seem to like that George Bush fellow.
* As such, a really handy phrase that you can use for just about any occasion, and with whatever mixture of sincerity and mockery you prefer, is "c'est la faute de Bush."
* Despite this, several people from whom I've previously heard pretty virulent and/or conspiratorial anti-hyperpower stuff volunteered that their country is suffering from a "virus" of anti-Americanism.
* There is still no adequate retort to "Yeah, but what about that hack Chirac?"
* Those in the Parisian tourist industry say they've been hurt by the dropoff in American visitors; meanwhile several French people I talked to said they were nervous about visiting the U.S. because of anti-surrender-monkeyism.
* It is universally accepted that the charismatic rightist Nicolas Sarkozy will run the country sooner rather than later. When I ask lefty pals why they don't like him, the worst they can muster is "he supports wild capitalism." (That, and he's made it more difficult to drive drunk.) When I ask them to name a single Socialist politician worth a damn, they run out of candidates after the mayor of Paris, whose electoral ambitions may be blunted by the fact he is openly gay.
* Lust for lefty dictators is still on display. Liberation ran a profile of a female former government member who was Castro's lover for a good swath of the '60s, and she described his caresses as "like being touched by the hand of God." This was presented matter-of-factly.
* They still have a different word for everything.

NEXT: Money Changes Everything

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  1. Blogging at its best. Thanks, Matt.

  2. NRO and the French. Good stuff.

    Shortly after 9/11, when they were on a "Clash of Civilizations" kick, a post appeared in "The Corner," titled "No One Here But Us Frenchmen," denouncing a newspaper for reporting on anti-semitism in France. The complaint was that the story didn't single out Muslims living in France as being the cause of the anti-semitic attacks.

    A few months later, when the adminstration was getting grief from the French for pushing for the invasion of Iraq, a post appeared in "The Corner" denouncing a NYT story about anti-semitism in France. This time, the complaint was that the story identified Muslims living in France as the perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks, and didn't sufficiently accuse native born Frenchmen of antisemitism.

    So you can pretty much wipe your ass with whatever National Review has to say about France.

  3. would this count as even more anti froggie, anti euro stuff from matt? *grin*

    and joe - believe me, you DON'T want to wipe your ass with the NRO, for any reason. apparently the condition is called "staple burn", but i shan't elaborate...

  4. There's something Emmanuel Goldstein about this whole France thing. We are instructed to hate it. We don't have to know why. Or if it even exists. But it doesn't matter anymore. Really, how many wars have we been in with France? Compared to pretty much any other major european country?

    Meanwhile we coddle Pakistan and our dear allies the Saudis and admire Putin's snow-white soul.

  5. Where's Jean Bart when you need him/her?

  6. Really, how many wars have we been in with France? Compared to pretty much any other major european country?

    Do trade and/or culture wars count?

  7. "So you can pretty much wipe your ass with whatever National Review has to say about France."

    [stern voice]What do you mean, "about France"?[/stern voice]

  8. "* They still have a different word for everything."

    I'm curious how their campaign to stamp out English words seeping into use is going. Like making them use some 50-letter french word instead of "email."

  9. C-o-u-r-r-i-e-l

    Eight letters.

  10. Oh, I thought they had to say "courrier electronique"

  11. My personal favorite is "zappeur" for remote control.

  12. I dislike France only because it is the only place I have ever been mugged. And because they produce virtually no music of any consequence that I like.

  13. Like making them use some 50-letter french word instead of "email."

    It's German the builds the huge long compound words. It's one of the things that makes it a really tough language.

  14. you're kidding, Issac? maybe keeping track of the appropriate genders and proper endings (maybe word order), but that's not a difficult part of the language at all...

    and it's sure easier to speak than french... 🙂

  15. * They still have a different word for everything.

    And that word is 'toute' {:^)

  16. The French are safe in America. We can't tell them from Canadians.

  17. I surrender! (waving white flag)

  18. OK, list all of the countries against which the United States has fought more than one war.

    Now list all of the countries against which the United States has been to war exactly once.

    Where does France appear fall in the above? Now which country is our "grestest enemy" of all time?

  19. Mexico? Nicaragua? Philippines?

  20. Can we count the Vichy?

  21. The Sioux Nation? The Cherokee? Haiti?

  22. drf

    Oh, I didn't mean to say that french was easy. Indeed French probably is the hardest language because the pronunciation is so totally foreign to an Anglo. I've heard it called "the mouth", sort of the way that you have shape your mouth is utterly alien.

    I am probably unusual in that I actually get compliments on my french accent. And not just from my French cousin and friends but total strangers (cab drivers and store clerks). And I still hardly understand a word. My comprehension of Italian and Spanish are better even tho my vocabulary is smaller.

    Perhaps I should have said "It's one of the things that makes it a really tough language for me."

  23. great article, but I need to point out to Rhywun that "Ca Plane Pour Moi" and Les Rita Mitsouko's "C'est Comme Sa" were great songs in my book.

  24. Any country that has produced such great food can't be all that bad, can it?

    This post made me wonder how Americans are actually treated in France, never having been there.
    Of course I've heard horror stories, but then again, a liberal friend of mine from SF complained about how incredibly rude the people are in Utah, so I take those stories with a grain of salt.

  25. Todd -- I've been to France maybe 20 times, spending a total of maybe around 8 months in the country, and I've never once been treated rudely for being an American, or a tourist, or a filthy hippy, or a guy who massacres the French language, or anything. Touristic Paris has a reputation for rude waiters & such, but I've never even experienced that (my brother is about the only American I know who has), and I can testify that rudeness by waiters & shopkeepers in Prague makes any Gallic huffiness look like child's play.

    There is a great book out in France, which is a translated U.S. Army manual from 1944 or maybe a bit later, explaining patiently to the American troops why the French might not smell so good, or why the waiters are rude, or what French girls expect, etc. Looking at the list you realize that many of our myths about the French were either A) based on specific war-related behavior (they didn't bathe much cuz they didn't have much water or soap), or B) were *always* mythical.

    They do really like Jerry Lewis, though.

  26. OK, list all of the countries against which the United States has fought more than one war.

    All of them?

    Yikes.

    Native Tribes (too numerous to count)
    Mexico (4)
    China (3)
    Algeria (2)
    Dominican Republic (2)
    France (2)
    Germany (2)
    Korea (2)
    Nicaragua (2)
    Panama (2)
    Serbia (2)
    Spain (2)
    United Kingdom (2)

    Now list all of the countries against which the United States has been to war exactly once.

    Afghanistan
    Austria
    Cambodia
    Grenada
    Haiti
    Hawaii
    Hungary
    Iraq
    Italy
    Japan
    Libya
    Mormons
    Ourselves
    Vietnam

    Where does France appear fall in the above? Now which country is our "grestest enemy" of all time?

    If you're only using numbers of wars waged, France is tied for fourth on the greatest enemy list.

  27. Though, if you count Vichy, France moves up to three wars and is tied for third on the greatest enemy list.

  28. If we could broaden the scope and look at the country responsible for the most deaths of american soliders, I think we could consider ourselves our own worst enemy.

  29. The contemporary French polity - and to a lesser extant, the rest of continental Western Europe - espouse an anti-American ideology...moreso than the PRC. We have ignored it as much as we should ignore it - now we should challenge it as much as it should be challenged: both are necessary.

  30. Excellent call on the Mormons T.P.G.!!

  31. Excellent call on the Mormons T.P.G.!!

    Outside of the war against Japan, fighting Mormos was probably the most justfied of all United States aggression.

  32. Yet another Steve Martin reset by Matt Welch. Sometimes I think these are just for me.

  33. ... this whole France thing. We are instructed to hate it. We don't have to know why. Or if it even exists.

    Oh, it exists all right. I can see it out the kitchen window.

    The contemporary French polity - and to a lesser extant, the rest of continental Western Europe - espouse an anti-American ideology...moreso than the PRC.

    Not anti-American.

    Anti-imb?cile.

  34. alkali -- I'm basically the Manchurian candidate of Steve Martin references ...

  35. Thomas - what 2 wars with France are we talking about? That French & Indian stuff? The USA didn't exist then.

  36. Brian,
    I'd count the French-Indian War, though we were Brits then. The Quasi-war in 1810 or 1811. Count fighting the Vichy and you have 3.

  37. Thomas - what 2 wars with France are we talking about? That French & Indian stuff? The USA didn't exist then.

    French and Indian, yes, who cares if we didn't exist, we, as a people were still fighting them, as a people. If you discount the french and indian, you have to discount the revolutionary war as well, and I will not, thank you.

    The second would be the quasi-war. The third would be WWII and the fight against Vichy.

  38. Tom Paine:

    You should definitely count Vichy France--they fired upon our troops in N. Africa during WWII.

    So they're tied for third.

    eh.

  39. "Outside of the war against Japan, fighting Mormos was probably the most justfied of all United States aggression."

    ???

    a clear and present danger from the moroni 5th column?

  40. Multiple Wars:

    Native Tribes (too numerous to count)
    Mexico (4)
    China (3)
    France (3)
    Algeria (2)
    Dominican Republic (2)
    Germany (2)
    Korea (2)
    Nicaragua (2)
    Panama (2)
    Serbia (2)
    Spain (2)
    United Kingdom (2)

    Single Conflicts:

    Afghanistan
    Austria
    Cambodia
    Grenada
    Haiti
    Hawaii
    Hungary
    Iraq
    Italy
    Japan
    Libya
    Mormons
    Ourselves
    Vietnam

    I'm also not counting the number of times we sent an expeditionary force to smack heads in Haiti.

  41. ???

    a clear and present danger from the moroni 5th column?

    No, but Mormons deserve a good bombardment once a decade.

  42. T.P.G.,
    How about our brief, mostly unknown fight against the Bolsheviks?

  43. T.P.G.,
    How about our brief, mostly unknown fight against the Bolsheviks?

    Shit. Good call.

  44. Each country in the War List should also have subtracted from its total one point for each war we've been allied with them in, wouldn't you say?

    Also, courriel ?lectronique is redundant; courriel is a contraction of courrier ?lectronique..

  45. dang, you guys did it twice in one day...

    a thread about hating France morphs into a military history lesson...

    OK, if it happens one more time today, i'll stop procrastinating and get a Reason subscription.

  46. Come on, how couldn't a "hate France" thread turn into a discussion of military history?
    Cest le guerre! (or something like that)

  47. "You should definitely count Vichy France--they fired upon our troops in N. Africa during WWII."

    You overlooked the little part about how they fired on us because we were invading them. Sheesh. You could with as much justice blame the Belgians for firing on the German troops in 1914. As the legendary sign in the Paris zoo said: "This animal is very wicked; when attacked, it defends itself."

  48. Seamus, I don't think right and wrong enters into the equation, and even if it didn't, alliance with Nazi Germany is a pretty strong indictment.

  49. France wasn't allied with Nazi Germany. It was defeated by them and had signed an armistice that required them to remain neutral. Allowing U.S. troops to land in North Africa would have been a violation of that armistice. When we insisted on landing anyway, the Germans decided that if we were going to run roughshod over French neutrality then they may as well do the same, and so they invaded Unoccupied France.

    I think the frogs can be forgiven for wanting to avert such an outcome.

    I would point out too that we went to war in 1812 and 1917 to defend neutral rights. (Just as the Brits--the people who were violating our rights in 1812--went to war to defend them in 1914.) I might also mention that if we had the right to force the French to assist us against Hitler, the Brits should have had the same rights to insist that we help them against Napoleon.

  50. What are the wars with China?

    - CIA training and funding of Tibetan resistance?
    - Opium War(s)?

  51. "What are the wars with China?"

    I suspect the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion would be one and the Korean War another. We weren't involved in the Opium Wars, and assistance to the Tibetan resistance doesn't really rise to the level of war, so I don't know what the third war with China would be.

  52. "I don't think right and wrong enters into the equation"

    No, it doesn't count if all you are doing is counting wars. (Though I wonder if Operation Torch really counts as a "war" with France. It certainly does if you're counting every two bit police action, like the ones in the Dominican Republic, but I think that's defining the term pretty loosely.) My objection (like that of the smarmy French police goon in the movie of "To Have and Have Not") was to rather to the tone of "they fired upon our troops." I took that to include an implied "How dare they!" If I was mistaken, and if all that was meant was that shots were fired, meaning that there was indeed a "war" under the loose definition that we seem to be using, then I apologize for jumping to an unwarranted conclusion.

  53. Make Iraq two.
    Are you counting Libya 19th century Tripoli or bombing the shit out of Kaddafi's family?

  54. Seamus,
    We weren't invading, we were liberating. The Vichy were a puppet government set up by the (invading) Nazis. They went along with whatever der fuehrer said so the Nazis could say "see the French-types agree with our little plan to ship the Jews, or build V2s or..."

    "When we insisted on landing anyway, the Germans decided that if we were going to run roughshod over French neutrality then they may as well do the same, and so they invaded Unoccupied France."

    I can't believe you wrote that. Where did you learn your history?

  55. I took that to include an implied "How dare they!"

    Well, if he won't imply, I'll come right out and say it. Americans died so they would no longer be ordered around by German soldiers. The invasion of North Africa was a necessary precondition to accomplishing the liberation of Paris. Every time some French soldier fired on a landing Allied soldier, he was in effect saying, "I love my German overlords and I think it's great that they ship all those jews off to concentration camps." "How dare you?" seems like a pretty mild response.

    Reading Winston Churchill's memoirs and his account of the reactions of Vichy leaders, it was striking how much they lived up to every worst stereotype of the French. Arrogant, condescending, self-centered. One leader's reaction to an American envoy was to say something about how "stupid" Americans were, and how they were "as stupid as the English". Yeah, a simple "thank you" would have sufficed.

  56. The book was 112 Gripes About The French--free download.

  57. TPG:

    We also fought a short war against Canada. They won.

  58. Oh, crap! The Bill that posted at 9:29 PM is not me! He's some new right-winger. I'm the Bill that has posted on-and-off since the beginning of H&R. I'll now go by the moniker:
    The Real Bill

  59. Damn no uniquely-identifying H&R software...

  60. Thomas et al,

    If you count the French-Indian War, even though you weren't independent at the time, then it should be counted as a war against Canada (or Quebec!), since the fighting was done between forces from colonies which became the US and Canada, with help from the mother country on both sides.

    As far as Vichy France goes, it was an independent country in name only. Moreover, I can't think of any significant engagement between the Allies and Vichy France. The only ones that I know of are the British sinking the French Navy at Mers El Kebir to prevent the Germans from seizing it, and the short resistance when the Americans landed in North Africa.

    So on my count, it's one war, and a quasi one at that.

  61. Yeah, but they shore do make good petaters.

  62. Count me as someone who had an enjoyable time in Paris. I have no problem with the French. The French government, however, has positioned itself as our rival and is working against us. Past wars are not the issue. In the current environment, France is working against us. Ergo, France is an enemy.

    The nature of their opposition, though, is more in the way of hindrance and annoyance, not a real threat. So I'm in favor of working around them and against them diplomatically and economically, as opposed to militarily.

    Bolie IV

  63. Each country in the War List should also have subtracted from its total one point for each war we've been allied with them in, wouldn't you say?

    Sure. So as long as I fight next to you, I can turn around and beat you upside the head each time?

  64. MK,

    "Ca Plane Pour Moi" _is_ a great song, but Plastic Bertrand was Belgian, not French.

  65. I see that on each of the lists of wars, Korea has 2 wars credited. I'm aware of the Korean War, 1950-1953 (which was also a war against China); which war do you count as the 2nd? If you mean WWII, they were a colony of Japan from 1910 until the end of WWII, not an independent country, so I don't think you can hold that against them.

  66. "Reading Winston Churchill's memoirs and his account of the reactions of Vichy leaders,"

    Winston Churchill on the French and Germans - now there's a 24 carat unbiased source. I wouldn't trust the creep any farther than etc.

  67. I see that on each of the lists of wars, Korea has 2 wars credited. I'm aware of the Korean War, 1950-1953 (which was also a war against China); which war do you count as the 2nd? If you mean WWII, they were a colony of Japan from 1910 until the end of WWII, not an independent country, so I don't think you can hold that against them.

    There was a trade squabble in the 19th century, which, I believe still has the record for highest kill ratio in military history.

  68. One leader's reaction to an American envoy was to say something about how "stupid" Americans were, and how they were "as stupid as the English".

    Of course the Anglos were stupid. Who told them to 'rescue' the French? They enjoyed killing off the Jews as much as Hitler did. In fact they started rounding up the Jews before Hitler demanded that.

  69. Any country that has produced such great food can't be all that bad, can it?

    Well no, if they would admit that the reason they produce such great food is that Italians who moved there taught them to cook in order to have edible food.

  70. So I'm in favor of working around them and against them diplomatically and economically, as opposed to militarily.

    Very generous.

    Sure. So as long as I fight next to you, I can turn around and beat you upside the head each time?

    I think vice versa has been the more usual order of things, TPG. By the way, you might want to add a tick to the UK ranking for the Civil War. No shots fired, but there was at least one naval incident, and they were after all allied with the enemy side in an all-out shooting war. (If you read histories of Canada, it was taken pretty much as read post-Civil War that, unless strong defensive measures were taken, pissed off Yankees were going to be massing their forces outside Montr?al shortly.) Surely one of our country's greatest nemeses.

  71. Well, if you boys are going to get misty-eyed over a country that venerates fascistic corporatism even more than the Republicans do, my opinion about both the French and "libertarians" as a "movement" are confirmed in spades.

  72. Moynihan -- Thanks!

    Ernest Brown -- I must have missed the mist.

  73. Re: Greatest enemy and the count of conflicts. Are we including the XYZ affair where the French demanded that Americans pay $250,000 before the French government would even have diplomatic relations? This was followed by an undeclared naval war ensued between France and the United States.

  74. Well if it wasn't for the King of France we'd all be looking forward to Prince JugEars becoming our Head of State.

    And look at how we repaid that favor.

  75. As a french man I wonder why there's such animosity toward my dear homeland.
    Does France matter that much ?
    According to french bashers it doesn't, so why are they wasting their time picking on us ?

    To complete that list of craps, I got some additional commentaries,

    - French ppl, just like the whole planet hate Bush.
    - "La faute de Bush" is indeniable when it comes to some fabricated crisis.
    - Again, anti-americanism isn't an appropriate term, you should rather say anti-bushism.
    - None in France has forgotten chirac is a crook, just wait he leaves his office.
    - Sarkozy is not an option, he got no talent except convincing himself he is a new leader.
    Delano? is by far a much better choice, his First lady won't cost anything.
    - Lib?ration quotes might hurt puritain feelings, I think it's pretty funny to learn about Castro's mistress' sexual revelations...
    - We got words for almost everything and everyone, by my dictionary G.W.Bush's french name is Georges Buisson.
    - And I almost forget, I don't fear to go back to the U.S. I won't just go as long as you won't kick Bush out of the White House.

    Au revoir et merci for reading.

  76. Hey good for you Joss, you got through a whole paragraph without surrendering once.
    Is that sound in the background someone crashing through the Maginot line again? I should let you go.

  77. There's something Emmanuel Goldstein about this whole France thing. We are instructed to hate it. We don't have to know why. Or if it even exists. But it doesn't matter anymore.

    I think France is being used as a proxy hate figure for liberalism in Europe, if Blair wasn't being such a useful idiot I think it would be the British instead.

    Here in Britian there has been no uptick in anti-French sentiment, we feel the same about them as always, if they stopped being the way they are I would feel disappointed, like they had given up on life.

    Here's a few arguments for the anti-British postion: The British burnt down the Whitehouse along with a lot of other goverment buildings in D.C. We like to suck on fags, and expect children to use rubbers in the classroom.

    (fags=cigarettes, rubber=eraser)

  78. The British burnt down the Whitehouse along with a lot of other goverment buildings in D.C.

    And you were doing us a favor.

    But here is the bottom line, folks: The French are great because they made the best porn. (Past tense because nobody has made good porn since about 1983.) And the French made the best porn because they had Brigitte Lahaie.

    And Brigitte Lahaie is great because... well you can Google that yourself... only don't try it at work.

  79. What's all this about Vichy being a puppet government? The French themselves voted in the Vichy government, rather than continue to fight the advancing Nazis. True, a prime minister resign over the decision to seek an armistice with Germany, though the rest of the government ministers of consequence were for it, with some insisting forcefully. The French National Assembly itself voted the "Third Republic" out of existence and established the Vichy regime, under terms negotiated with the Germans. No one was holding a gun to their heads, well not directly anyway. They could have fought on, the whole country was not yet occupied, etc. (In fact, even after reaching its accord with the Germans Vichy retained the French navy.) But, well, surrender (excuse me, armistice) was so much more expedient at the time. And the Germans weren't so bad really, unless you were a Jew, and well too bad for them anyway, right? The Vichy Prime Minister was appointed by the elected President of the Third Republic, not installed by the Germans at all, by the way.

  80. "No one was holding a gun to their heads, well not directly anyway."

    Although reasonable people might find the presence of panzertruppe in their backyards & gardens rather persuasive.

  81. Sinon vous allez bien ?

  82. You're right Franklin, mon ami, Brigitte Lahaie was the best. All my childhood! Vive la France! But I also miss Tracy Lord. I have a dream that one day, Misses Lahaie & Lord would be gathered for once and help to restore a true Franco-US fraternity.

  83. TPG, don't forget the Barbary pirates, or the "Weekend War" against Corea (as it was called then) c. 1872 if memory serves me.

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