Michael Brandon McClellan has five reasons why Americans should cheer for France in today’s World Cup matchup against the Italians (also posted on his blog). He does this in spite of the fact that:
Since their failure to support us in Iraq, France-bashing has become almost as popular of a sport amongst the American punditry as America-bashing is en vogue amongst their French counterparts.
In this, McClellan implies that bashing the French is a recent affectation, when quite the opposite is true. One of the most beloved American authors, Mark Twain, did so frequently with quips like, “France has usually been governed by prostitutes”, “French are the connecting link between man and the monkey”, and my personal favorite:
A dead Frenchman has many good qualities, many things to recommend him; many attractions–even innocencies. Why cannot we have more of these?
Even Saturday Night Live agrees that it is time that we “got back to hating the French”.
With that in mind, let’s first tear apart McClellan’s reasons for supporting France, and then list a few reasons for why we should continue to loathe the French.
McClellan’s Reasons to root for the French:
Reason One: The Fourth of July
While it is true, as McClellan says, that France gave “French blood, treasure, and frigates”, let’s examine why.
King Charles XVI made few decision on his own, and no issue of any import bothered his dull mind for long. But his foreign minister, Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes, hated England with an intensity that rivals the most passionate anti-French American of today.
Nor was it a one-sided agreement: in return for military support the fledgling nation agreed to engage in commerce, trading agricultural products and raw materials for manufactured goods. In other words, France would now have access to the very thing that had given Britain its great wealth without all the trouble of trying to rule a populace across an ocean.
War between France and England was seen as inevitable, so by supporting the colonies the French hoped to divert English resources. Plus, should war erupt, there was the hope of carving off the West India Islands which was in British hands.
As for the Marquis de Lafayette (which McClellan mentions), his (and other idealistic young Frenchmen’s) participation in the Revolution was expressly forbidden. Indeed, upon hearing that he was preparing to leave a warrant for his arrest was issued. So don’t thank the French for giving us a general.
In fact, students of the Revolution know that France acted throughout with the most selfish of reasons — there was no altruism involved. Knowledge of France’s motives is really reason number one to dislike the French.
Reason Two: The Statue of Liberty
The statue is, as McClellan says, “no ordinary gift”. Yet it is hardly equivalent to the $2.3 billion that the United States “loaned” France under the Marshall Plan. I know that Britain finally paid off its debt (in May of this year), but has France?
Reason Three: The Middle of the United States
Ah, the bargain of the Louisiana Purchase. Yep, a good deal that stunned Jefferson and his negotiators. They had been willing to pay up to $10 million for New Orleans alone, but Napoleon offered them all of the territory to which the French laid claim for a mere $15 million, instantly doubling the size of our nation. Why?
Napoleon was losing control of Saint-Domingue (the Haiti of today) to a slave rebellion and thus didn’t have the forces to occupy and control the territory. He was faced with a choice: give up his dream of a New World empire or give up his dream of conquering England. As war with England was deemed inevitable (as was always the case with the French), it seemed likely that England would just take advantage of the conflict and take the New World territory anyway (via Canada). So why not? After all, they had given it to Spain once and only recently taken it back. And one-quarter of the money was poured right back into the American economy: 20 million francs was to be used to cover French debts to American arms producers who had suffered during the Franco-British war.
But the bottom line is that the sale had
little nothing to do with helping America, and everything to do with establishing an empire. A year after the sale, Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself Emperor. Motives again, which upgrades reason number one from a reason to dislike the French to a full-blown reason to hate the French, especially given the fact that the money helped finance a war on all of Europe.
Reason Four: World War I
Yes, it is true that the “French people fought for four years as the anvil to Kaiser Wilhelm’s war hammer,” and that this was tragic. But for this I should root for their soccer team? By that reasoning, I should take the side of the Iranians for having fought and died in chemical attacks perpetuated by Saddam Hussein. No thanks.
Reason Five: The Tricolor
The Tricolor marched against the imperial ambitions of the Second Reich, against the hatred of the Third Reich, and it stood, under NATO, against the Hammer and Sickle of the Soviet Union.
The Tricolor flew over ships that attacked our merchant ships and over soldiers that folded to the Third Reich in record time. The Tricolor flew over the collaborationist and counterrevolutionary Vichy France regime.
Today, the Tricolor stands with any tyrant willing to fill the pockets of the prostitutes in charge of France. It stands for mealymouthed diplomacy that has results in massive grants and concessions to anyone that threatens to build a missile or attack another country. It no longer deserves our respect. As far as I am concerned, the Tricolor and everything it has stood for (or not stood for) is reason number two to hate the French.
And so a review of McClellan’s reasons gives us two solid reasons to hate the French. But wait, there’s more!
AlphaPatriot’s Reasons to Hate the French:
Reason One: French Privateers
French perfidy came early in American history: by the summer of 1797, France had seized 300 American ships and broken off diplomatic relations, demanding bribes and an outrageous loan to the government just to begin negotiations (resulting in the rhetoric, “Millions for defense, sir, but not one cent for tribute!” How typically American!).
All of which led to the “Quasi-War“, the build up of the tiny American Navy, the reestablishment of the Marine Corps and, due to widespread hostility towards the French, the passing of the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts.
Reason Two: Rousseau
Although born in Switzerland, the French have embraced Jean-Jacques Rousseau as one of their own and you can find statues of him littering the landscape throughout France.
Rousseau can arguably be blamed for communism because of his work The Social Contract which documented the concepts of “general will” and the belief that private property leads to greed, competition, vanity, inequality, and vice.
Rousseau even brought death and destruction to his adopted homeland. Napoleon is said to have exclaimed, “If there had been no Rousseau, there would have been no Revolution, and without the Revolution, I should have been impossible.”
Even if you don’t blame the French Revolution on Rousseau, there is little doubt that he made it worse. Indeed, Maximilien Robespierre was a fanatical devotee of Rousseau’s social theories, reputedly sleeping with a copy of Rousseau’s Social Contract at his side. One can remember Robespierre as one of the principal architects of the Reign of Terror, which ended with his arrest and subsequent guillotining. During the eleven months of “The Terror” over 200,000 French citizens were arrested, 10,000 of those died in pestiferous jails and 17,000 death sentences were handed down.
Rousseau was an adulterer, put all five of his children into orphanages (where most children died), was sexist, and eventually went insane and died. Yet we are still saddled with his horrid legacy. Worst of all, I had to read five of his books in one semester of my lone PoliSci course.
Aside: I have it on good authority that admiration for Rousseau is the reason that we have the phrase “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. The original read, “life, liberty and property”. Think of how the eminent domain issue would be influenced had Rousseauian thought not intruded.
So while Rousseau has given us many, many reasons to hate the French, we will only count him as one.
Reason Three: Napoleon
Right smack in the middle of the Reign of Terror, the “new” French promote Napoleon Bonaparte to Brigadier General — and the man wasn’t even French (nor did he ever learn to speak French particularly well!). But by 1800 he was a virtual dictator as First Consul.
And even though the French had just gone through a bloody revolution in the name of liberté, égalité, fraternité, they up and elected Napoleon Consulate for Life by 1802, after which he crowns himself Emperor of France in 1804. Beginning in 1803 and continuing for eleven years he waged war across Europe, crushing 70 million Europeans under his tyrannical heel.
Sure, he was eventually defeated and exiled to Elba. But when Napoleon showed up in Paris nine months later he once again took power without firing a shot. Yes, the French inflicted Napoleon on the world not once, but twice (but we will only count Napoleon as a whole as a single reason to hate the French).
Reason Four: Dien Bien Phu
The Viet Minh arose to throw off a hundred years of French colonialism and in 1946 the French creates a puppet government for South Vietnam. What followed was a long, expensive and bloody campaign to keep their colony until, in 1953, the French tried for a decisive military victory to strengthen their position at peace talks scheduled for the next year.
The place they chose was Dien Bien Phu, located in a remote Vietnamese valley near the border with Laos and China. But instead of a decisive victory, General Vo Nguyen Giap conducted a brilliant 56-day siege that ended with a French surrender of 11,000 men (of which a little over 4,000 survived captivity).
The French showed that a third-world country could defeat a western nation, giving hope to would-be communists everywhere.
And as a result, the French negotiated and withdrew their forces from Indochina, leaving a gap that Eisenhower felt the need to fill. If only the French hadn’t whimped out and accepted the two tactical nukes that Eisenhower offered.
Reason Five: Vichy Kills Allies
It’s one thing to fold under a Nazi blitzkrieg and set up a collaborationist government. It is quite another to spill Allied blood to keep on being occupied by a monster.
In 1941 a mainly-Australian Allied force entered Syria to prevent the Nazis from using it as a base for for attacks on Allied forces in Egypt and to protect the oil supplies coming from Iraq.
The Vichy forces, including elements of the French Foreign Legion, were instructed to fight against any Free French cause and did so passionately. Vichy forces lost about 1,000 soldiers. The Australians suffered about 1,500 casualties, including 416 deaths.
In 1942, an invasion of North Africa by U.S. and British forces is planned. Operation Torch was launched and (predictably) the French forces fired on us.
The French Resistance took control of key locations in Algiers in the hours before the invasion. However, American Consul Robert Murphy was unable to convince General Alphonse Juin (the senior French Army officer in North Africa) or Admiral François Darlan (commander of all Vichy French forces) to side with the allies and the Vichy retook almost all the positions by morning. (Of course, the entire city surrendered by six that evening when the Americans came to town.)
Reason Six: Oil for Palaces
This one is simple enough: Chirac supported the Oil for Palaces program even though he knew it was crooked. He opposed the liberation of Iraq because it affected the French purse. To hell with starving children or the fact that their daddies were being fed into plastic shredders or disappearing into mass graves in the desert. There was money to be made!
Reason Seven: My Experience in Paris
I spent nine hours in Paris and it was fantastic. I would live there, if not for the people.
At one point we jumped on a crowded bus, at which point I came face-to-face with Parisians. Or, I should say, nose to armpit.
The rumors of poor personal hygiene are absolutely true. I held my nose for two blocks before stumbling off, gasping, eyes streaming, forcing my traveling companions to walk the rest of the way because I simply could not take it!
Add to this the incredible French arrogance, the fact that they create a French word for every new concept rather than accepting foreign words into their language (“diskette” is “diskette” in every country except France), and those really really tiny portions they serve and we have another ample reason to hate the French.
OK, I’ve given nine good reasons to hate the French (two from McClellan and seven of my own. I figure the comments section will yield at least one more good reason to fill out the ten that I put in the title.