How Times Have Changed: France, Not England, Joins US Coalition of Willing

Could anyone have imagined a decade ago a scenario when the United States would go to war with France by our side and England on the sidelines?

US-France-NATO

The British Parliament has decided war is not in the UK’s national interests. The United States and her stalwart ally, France, will press on.

Reuters (“U.S. and France prepare to act on Syria despite UK no vote“):

France said on Friday it still backed military action to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government for an apparent poison gas attack on civilians and Washington pushed ahead with plans for a response despite a British parliamentary vote against a military strike.

An aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, a close Assad ally, seized on Thursday’s British “no” vote which set back U.S.-led efforts to intervene against Assad, saying it reflected wider European worries about the dangers of a military response.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said his country would keep seeking an international coalition to act together on Syria, where hundreds of people were killed in last week’s reported chemical attacks. Syria denies using chemical weapons and says rebels perpetrated the attacks.

[…]

Any military strike looks unlikely at least until U.N. investigators report back after they leave Syria on Saturday.

The timing of any strikes may be complicated by Obama’s departure late on Tuesday for Sweden and a G20 summit in Russia. He was not expected to order the strikes while in Sweden or Russia.

French President Francois Hollande told the daily Le Monde he still supported taking “firm” punitive action over an attack he said had caused “irreparable” harm to the Syrian people, adding that he would work closely with France’s allies.

Britain has traditionally been the United States’ most reliable military ally. However, the defeat of a the government motion authorizing a military response in principle underscored misgivings dating from how the country decided to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Could anyone have imagined a decade ago a scenario when the United States would go to war with France by our side and England on the sidelines?

I anticipate English muffins being renamed Freedom muffins any day now. And jokes about kippers eating surrender bulldogs or some such.

More seriously, perhaps recent experience has provided us a rule of thumb: if Washington can not persuade both London and Paris of the advisability of military action, perhaps said action is inadvisable?

FILED UNDER: Europe, Quick Takes, World Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies 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.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Is that what’s happening? I can think of several other scenarios that fit the available evidence.

  2. Moosebreath says:

    “More seriously, perhaps recent experience has provided us a rule of thumb: if Washington can not persuade both London and Paris of the advisability of military action, perhaps said action is inadvisable?”

    Not a bad rule, but perhaps we should start by trying to persuade the American people first. Obama is a long way from succeeding at that.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    France has had some good military interventions lately, notably in Mali. They’re feeling frisky. The Brits on the other hand played major roles in Iraq and Afghanistan and may be feeling rather weary.

  4. John Peabody says:

    “Freedom Muffins”? Naah, it won’t catch on– The French / Freedom Fries were fantastic because of the fine alliteration, which allowed arrogant anchors to agitate acrimony among the allies.

  5. Dave D says:

    @michael reynolds: But as with Mali so is Syria France is merely trying to protect it’s former colonies. The same way Britain had an interest in going to war in Iraq. Notice whenever people talk about breaking these countries along ethnic lines the former imperialists always come out against it, preferring their poorly drawn political borders drawn during the height of the land grab.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave D:

    Apparently Mr. Sykes and Monsieur Picot still have their fans.

  7. DC Loser says:

    Most of the French forces committed to Mali were foreign legionnaires, who are made for these types of interventions. No French public outcry about their boys being sent off to foreign wars.

  8. Dave Schuler says:

    @Dave D:

    That’s precisely what I meant when I wrote “several other scenarios” above. Rather than James’s formulation “the United States would go to war with France by our side” it might be that the U. S. is going to war at French connivance to advance French foreign policy interests.

  9. James Joyner says:

    @Dave D: @Dave Schuler: A fair point. Certainly, France wanted to act in Libya much moreso than the USA; that’s quite probably the case here as well.

    @DC Loser: And, yes, I somehow always forget that much of the French fighting force isn’t French.

  10. Rob in CT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    This makes sense to me. The French avoided the clusterf*ck that was Iraq and did some stuff in Africa they feel went well, so they figure they know what they’re doing. The Brits have Iraq seared into their memories (including “Lapdog” which has go to push their buttons). We do too, but POTUS has been trying to pretend that doesn’t matter.

    The longer this drags out, the better chance we have of it being derailed. It may well still go ahead, but delay helps.

  11. François says:

    @DC Loser: In Mali “la légion étrangère” are some hundred of the 4500 troops engaged.
    Half of légionnaires are in fact french
    almost all the officers are french
    the only difference there are no woman in the legion

    since WW2 France was allied with the USA in :
    Mali
    Lybia
    Afganistan
    libération of Koweit
    Kosovo
    Serbia
    Bosnia
    Liban
    etc…
    USA don’t help France in the colonials wars and Suez affair
    France don’t help USA in Vietnam and Irak 2003

  12. george says:

    More seriously, perhaps recent experience has provided us a rule of thumb: if Washington can not persuade both London and Paris of the advisability of military action, perhaps said action is inadvisable?

    That’s not a bad rule of thumb.

  13. swearyanthony says:

    @François: um. The French were kinda quite heavily involved in Vietnam. They lost.

  14. Dave D says:

    @François: My question would be which colonial wars you speak of? Do you just refer to the massacres in Algeria? Because the Vietnam War is a French Colonial War it is fallout from the Indochina War starting in the ’50’s.

  15. François says:

    The colonials wars are Indochina and Algeria.
    Please go to Wikipedia if you want learn more about it my english is to bad for explain.

    swearyanthony : french lost the Vietnam in 1954 and the USA arrive in 1959, we never fight together in this area.

    Dave D : in Algeria there are massacres and torture in the both sides. The military situation was under the control of the french army and the FNL rebelion lost many fighter (see Algier battle) but after hards terrorists attacks in France the people want the end of the colonial adventure.

  16. Rafer Janders says:

    Let’s also remember that if it wasn’t for the French aiding us in the Revolutionary War we’d all still be speaking English today (or at the very least spelling a lot of words with an “ou” rather than a single “o”).