DANCING WEASELS REDUX

DANCING WEASELS REDUX: For some reason, backBlog crashes when I send long posts. Rather than send my reply to Doug Spirduso’s thoughtful opening comment to the previous post as four or five mini-bursts, I’ll just do it here:

I dispute Doug’s variation on the analogy as applicable. Let’s talk about the actual situation rather than the analogy lest we get too convoluted. The US bailed France out big-time in WWII and again thereafter with the Marshall Plan. Since at least the de Gaulle administration, French political leadership has thumbed their noses at US leadership, including refusal to be full partners in NATO, all the while paying a tiny share–even compared to relative GDP–of the cost of defending Europe. The also put us at pretty great risk in the Libya retalliation attack in 1986 by refusing to grant us flyover rights. Now, in their defense, they have done their fair share in peacekeeping operations and similar exercises and were a partner, if a reluctant one, in Gulf War I. Germany has actually been a very staunch ally until the Shroeder regime. I suspect they’ll come back around.

Furthermore, I don’t mind any state opposing the US if their interests and ours conflict. Governments have an obligation to their polity first and foremost, above any international obligations. I only object to the sneering tone of the French and the nonsense Haider and Co. pulled during the election. Opposing US policies is fine; anti-Americanism isn’t, especially when they’ve lived in freedom and prosperity under our protection for so long. (Insert Jack Nicholson rant from A Few Good Men here. Ignore, in this specific context, my previous rant against this rant.) Actually, I’ll just insert it, saving you all the trouble:

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I prefer you said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand to post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to!

The drunken driving and “older and wiser” business actually annoys me, which it probably shouldn’t as many times as I’ve seen it. For one thing, the only European players that oppose US action are France, Germany, and Belgium. (Russia and China pretty much always oppose us, but that’s understandable given their history.) While it’s true that the US is a “young” country compared to France, we’re actually quite a bit older than Germany, which didn’t emerge as a state until 1870. Belgium didn’t emerge as an independent state until 1830. Furthermore, we’re markedly older than any of the significant players here in terms of having established representative government. We did it in 1776, with the present Constitution effective since 1789. France didn’t get to their present form of government until 1955. Germany got there earlier, in 1949, because we wrote their constitution for them and imposed it after defeating them in war. Twice. (With a lot of help, the first time, from France, and the second time from lots of people, notably Russia and the UK).

The bottom line is that the US has been a world power for over a century and the most powerful country on the planet at least since the 1940s, probably since the 1920s. The only other country with any living memory of being a world leader is the UK and they’re on our side. (The Soviets were a superpower with global reach, but their leadership was almost entirely owing to their nuclear weapons, not economic, cultural, or moral power. The Chinese have been a regional hegemon since long before North America was “discovered” by Europeans, but only a regional power.) One can disagree with our foreign policy stances, but I think it’s disengenous to argue that we make them as drunken teenagers. The nature of global leadership is that we have much more wide-ranging interests than anyone else. And it means we have to move when others are too timid. We were too war-weary and isolationist to fight Hitler in WWII until shamed into it by the UK and finally forced into it by Pearl Harbor. Isolationism was a dirty word. Now, we’re in the role Churchill was in prior to the Poland invasion and acting as he did–and we’re criticized, essentially, for not being isolationist.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.