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France's new-found appetite for foreign adventure

Matt Frei | 20:55 UK time, Monday, 11 April 2011

Almost exactly eight years ago, George Bush's America was marching into Baghdad and Jacques Chirac's France was howling with indignation that Uncle Sam had become an imperialistic bully.
Indignation there was matched by mirth here. Jokes dwelling on French cowardice became de rigueur.
One of the better ones was: "French gun sold on eBay. Never fired. Dropped once."
The French were famously described as cheese eating surrender monkeys.
Bill O'Reilly built much of his career on Fox News by chastising them. But only last week he was heard praising the French for showing some muscle. So what's got into Bill O'Reilly?
Or more importantly what's got into France?
It was the French, after an initially lukewarm response to the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, who led the call for enforcing Libya's no fly zone.
French jets launched the first air strikes. Before you knew it, France was pounding the headquarters of Laurent Gbagbo in Ivory Coast, a former French colony.
The diminutive Nicolas Sarkozy, who had enjoyed even more diminutive approval ratings, suddenly struts the world stage like another under-sized French leader with an over-sized ego.
Has Mr Sarkozy become Bonaparte? Those who are surprised by this transformation should remember that France has never been as lily livered as its opponents have made out.
The French Foreign Legion has long been a robust, not to say bruising presence at international conflicts.
I remember them well in Bosnia, wearing blue UN helmets but behaving with more clout than any of the other peacekeepers. The French military has frequently shown its muscle in former African colonies, like Chad and the Central African Republic, mostly on the side of embattled regimes.
Ultimately this new-found appetite for foreign adventure may have more to do with domestic woes.
Mr Sarkozy had hit almost historic lows in the opinion polls with an election looming. But it's also about France's continuing quest for the right role on the international stage, motivated by a nostalgia for grandeur that refuses to go away and a desire to be seen, unlike Britain, as a benign counter-point to the United States.
So when it comes to foreign policy it is now US President Barack Obama who is now being accused of smoking without inhaling, to coin a phrase.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Anyone who has looked at French history should realize that the jokes about cowardice are misguided and completely wrong. I remember listening to them seven years ago and thinking how far away from facts they were. France was bled dry in the First World War but continued with the fight to the end. WWII was not the same, but the country had been where all of the fighting was in WWI and was still exhausted. Overall, French history is full of some very viscous and difficult fighting and it should not be a surprise to anyone that that spirit and ability is still there. Furthermore, just because they were against the U.S. invasion of Iraq does not mean they were cowards, just a county that did not agree with U.S. policy at the time -- something that should be the right of all countries be they foe or friend.

  • Comment number 2.


    French military efforts appear more commendable than remarkable. Unilateral military efforts could be remarkable, but France appears to work in alliance with international coalitions such as NATO and UN. That is commendable.

  • Comment number 3.

    this is nothing to do with sarkozy's ethical foreign polcy. he was humiliated when his government tried to prop up france's friend,the tunisian tyrant. realizing he was on the wrong side of history,he's now gone to the other extreme and is intervening all the time.
    all countries foreign policies are hypocritical. britain and america support democracy but turn a blind eye to repression in bahrain,yemen etc.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    1. At 21:55pm 11th Apr 2011, boyle06 wrote:
    "just because they were against the U.S. invasion of Iraq does not mean they were cowards..."

    Absolutely. It meant that they weren't fools -- unlike the American neocons like Bush, Cheney and their friends.

  • Comment number 6.

    to the inept post of Jakew:

    just remenber, that at the last battle of YORKTOWN, the surrending british general tried to give his sword to the French General, not to Washington ...
    may be because he agreed that the real winners were the French ? no?

    Whashington admitted himself, the help of the French troops was decisive.

  • Comment number 7.

    The picture of the French as "surrender monkeys" only came about post-WWII. And frankly, even Hitler was shocked by how fast France collapsed. It may not be fair 65 years after the fact but given how central that event is to modern history, it will be many, many generations before that stereotype of France, which you'll find just as much on the Daily Show as on Fox News in America, passes.

  • Comment number 8.

    7. At 02:46am 12th Apr 2011, athena07 wrote:
    "...it will be many, many generations before that stereotype of France, which you'll find just as much on the Daily Show as on Fox News in America, passes."

    And isn't that a sad and altogether disgusting commentary on the content of the American character?

  • Comment number 9.


    For now we’re willing to bet that many French muslim women will stay indoors, in order to avoid being fined, a kind of perverse and perhaps natural reaction to a law that has perversely affected what it sees as perverse behavior…

    http://scallywagandvagabond.com/2011/04/french-muslim-women-arrested-for-defying-ban-on-head-garb/

  • Comment number 10.

    "And isn't that a sad and altogether disgusting commentary on the content of the American character?"

    No. That's a fairly extreme over-reaction of condemnation considering every nation holds strong historical biases about something. I am sure it will be many more generations before the French overcome their numerous myopic stereotypes of anything that is not French. At the least they could start off by realizing much of the world has far surpassed them in winemaking.

  • Comment number 11.

    10. At 04:26am 12th Apr 2011, athena07 wrote:
    "No. That's a fairly extreme over-reaction of condemnation considering every nation holds strong historical biases about something. I am sure it will be many more generations before the French overcome their numerous myopic stereotypes of anything that is not French."

    ---------------------

    Wait a minute... Are you saying that since everybody does it, it's OK? Or that American bad behavior ought to be excused because the French behave badly too?

    That seems like a pretty primitive position to me.

    Your original comment remains, in my view, an observation on the growing American tendency toward jingoism.


  • Comment number 12.

    #1

    "France was bled dry in the First World War but continued with the fight to the end."


    Hmmm. A bit of a different slant on the facts. France kept fighting because WWI had become a static affair and parts of France were occupied.


    "WWII was not the same, but the country had been where all of the fighting was in WWI and was still exhausted.


    Unlike the Germans?


    "Overall, French history is full of some very viscous and difficult fighting and it should not be a surprise to anyone that that spirit and ability is still there."

    You mean like Indochina (Vietnam, to others)? Indeed, the French bailed out of there, before the US became involved.


    It's not there and it hasn't "been there" since 1914. What is "there" is oil, in Libya.

  • Comment number 13.

    #11 "Wait a minute... Are you saying that since everybody does it, it's OK? Or that American bad behavior ought to be excused because the French behave badly too?

    That seems like a pretty primitive position to me.

    Your original comment remains, in my view, an observation on the growing American tendency toward jingoism."

    Perhaps you misunderstood my insinuation. Americans are no worse then the French, Japanese, or anyone else in letting historical biases influence their perceptions. What perhaps I did not make clear is I am not so pessimistic as you to label then all societies or any particular society "disgusting" because of this. And it does not at all fit the definition of "jingoistic" to have a bias about another particular country being militarily inept.

  • Comment number 14.

    History is written by the winners. The British won the World Culture War. The French, who have accepted their failure, finished second. I think british and american societies are brain-washed from school with national stereotypes, especially towards their former competitors: Germans are over-organized, French are arrogant cowards... This is a primitive view that you hardly find in jokes on any nation on french tv (even on Belgians). Maybe the special thing with french society, where racial stats are forbidden (is a mixed-raced person black or white?) is that they're not obsessed by their work, theur success, their money. So they have more time to think about a cause that they find right or wrong. Sarkozy, himself obsessed by this 'success culture', missed the point, and that's why he desperately look for action with only one goal: the 2012 elections.

  • Comment number 15.

    hey enough of the american bashing, as many times as england and France and Germany have started wars intervened in wars and provoked wars, for 100yrs all Britain did was invade countries and absorb them into their empire from china to the boar war, the US has bailed France and england and yes bailed you out of two major wars, help with YOUR POST- COLONIAL DRAW DOWN, play police man, kept the big Russian monster away and all you do is whine, ENOUGH my grandfather got his first wound in WW2 from a French man in North Africa not a German! I am old enough to remember France and Englands little Suez adventure! my grandfather lived through england murder of millions of Indians and my father remembers France little lovely war in Algeria! The Eu are just doing in Lybia what I and others in the US said Since the end of WW1 ( where by the way my Irish great grandfather, and on moms side African- american great grandfather fought to make englands and france empires bigger! and Yes the reason we didnt sign or join the silly league of nations was the way england and japan and France and Italy grabbed up parts or the german empire) they are on the move colonial again. The british after lockabie sure didnt attack then nor did the French, and this time you cant say the us is after the oil, we didnt let a terrorist go to make BP richer which is a english company! The world crys about Iraq which is no different than Libya same government same guy different name. Funny thing the best tanks Libya has are French AMX 30s which Q is holding back. and he is yet to attack with his precious mirages F-1 or 3s, no once again French imperialism is back soon you will see the french in Rome again, rolling across the belguim border but this time with the germans coming the other way for gods sake in the name of Peace DISARM EUROPE TOTALLY AND FORBID THE EUROPEANS TO LEAVE THEIR COUNTRIES EVERY MAJOR CONFLICT IN MANS HISTORY STARTS WITH FRANCE AND GERMANY AND RUSSIA ITS A FACT! The french are always bold when someone else pays and it senses the lust for empire, how many republics do they need to have before they leave their neighbors and the world alone! Will this be a indo china, algeria, or a suez, or maybe a falklands or the thousand year occupation like Ireland or India, or maybe like britian did the dutch in the Boar war! love to her a group of mass murdering serial killers talk about how bad a jay walker is, this is why the BBC needs to do a poll on what America thinks of Europe The answers should shock you our distrust of you is total and your hypocracy is nauseating, sorry if I offend but all of you offend me and the millions of your former citizens who fought to free you and aid you and today the problems we have are from you decolonizations, god I remember the Congo and the French shooting black children, Russian tanks in prauge, budapest, the Iron curtian, hands collected in baskets in the congo, paras over suez, Irish terrorist taking planes and blowing up children, england invading the Falklands, come on get real CLEAN UP YOUR OWN HOUSE FIRST! finally all revolutions arent good look at the horror of the French revolution, the English Revolution, the russian revolution, for every so-called good their are 5 bad! To end this indignant rant dont get in a major war with each other this time I and mine are coming!

  • Comment number 16.

    thsbn, the real story and please read history was the british gen. gave the sword to adm. rochampbeau or tried to, to avoid admitting defeat to the Rebels and so that he wouldnt have to acknowledge the Americans independence what the symbolism was that the americans were just part of the French army not an independent combatant when it was refused the french were admitting that washington was the superme comander of all french and US forces and that France and The US were allies and the US was a equal partner, and yes the US was very and still is grateful for French Help and have repayed it a billion fold, are you as grateful for the liberation of France as were are for the revolution I want even mention WW1 were we paid you in full plus!!! oh I am sure my grand father is grateful for the bullet in the chest from the Vichy!

  • Comment number 17.

    most of the jokes about the french are to hide the betryal the US felt during WW2 by the French who the Vichy fought savagely for the germans, France sent troops to the Russian front and killed and deport millions of jews, communist and foreign nationals to germany, The french even on liberation as a brit or pole or american or canadian or aussie or others entered a french village or city you could still find Nazi flags under beds or in closets, fact is two thirds of france collaborated, the main ones who didnt were the communist! and after the War charles de Gaule kept up the hatred by his constant hating of anything not french and his pulling out of Nato, twice, and the supply by France of americas and Britians enemies, mirages to Iraq, France built the nuclear reactors for Iraq, supply tanks and aircraft to Libya and refusal or overfly permission, supporting of Argentina during the Falklands, aiding viet communist during our portion of Vietnam (which you made a mess and left it) again! no the jokes hide a betrayal and lack of trust for the french and a contempt concerning the french character I mean when the foreign minister of new poland has to yell and remind that French that Napoleon is dead, leads many in the US not to trust. The US likes the French we just dont trust you and the lack of trust is deserved, I mean we have fought 2 wars with england and have dealt with their arrogance for almost 250yrs but we trust them because they dont switch sides or supply our enemies or just quit. Yes they are arrogant more than the French but they most of the time are not out for themselves and when they are they tell you right up not slink away and lie, yes I remember Bosina and the FRench and remember the legion having their rifles taking from them like they were school children, and I remember seeing my grandfathers wound!

  • Comment number 18.

    Dear Mr Zapbrad, it’s easy to pick up in the past whatever you want to support your arguments on this debate… For instance, in every african country, you can find a group of people who tried to colonised the other, too (cf the Mali Empire). This is the history of humans, not only Europe. It happened that the europeans won, but it could have been the chinese or the arabs…

    You are right about the crimes of colonial Europe, crimes that the european-americans shared. I love the USA, this country is simply a New Europe with the same people. Who carefully ethnic-cleansed the locals at a continental scale (which France or Britain didn’t do, yet).

    The big difference between USA and continental Europe is, that thanks to this genocide and geography, the USA has never been invaded and occupied by an overwhelming force. Who tells you that two thirds of the american population wouldn’t collaborate?

    Libya and Iraq? Do you see Britain or France invade and occupy Libya for a decade and be responsable for the death of at least 110000 humans? Don’t you think there could have been a tunisian-style revolution in Iraq who could have been bloody but not as much as the Bush War? Not talking about the cost on the world economy today…

    The past is not to be forgotten, but it’s just a tool, not a rule. It helps to spend a little more time outside in the world of today to be more balanced.

  • Comment number 19.

    Dear zapbrag,
    Your opinion would count for more if it were in any way based in fact. Sadly you appear to have a rather limited understanding of actual events.
    Regards

  • Comment number 20.

    The current French activity is no doubt largely due to domestic concerns. This in itself does not make the actions being undertaken any less commendable, as post #2 by tuulen points out particularly as the action is not unilateral.
    Many events that are later seen as "good works" started for reasons other than a desire to help.
    The US revolution was not the great ultruistic endeavour for the common man that it is often portrayed as, neither was the French or the English. Indeed many of the people who were in positions of power prior to the event remained in those positions post it, particularly in the US revolution.

  • Comment number 21.

    Friend pterox, please get your history right, first hati was a French colony and the native indians were wiped out and replace by black slaves by the french, france murdered and killed millions in taking Canada away from the Indians, and louisanna, and yes France occupied Syria until the end of WW2, INdo china and I have seen you take a country and stay a decade and kill more look at Ireland, India, pakistan, Iraq, algeria, tunisia, egypt, china, morroco, hati, cuba, mexico, poland, belgum, spain, the list is endless, PLEASE PICK UP A HISTORY BOOK FOR ONCE YOU HAVE ALREADY OCCCUPIED LYBIA ITALY DID SINCE 1912, WHEN THEY STOLE IT FROM THE TURKS, ONCE AGAIN FRANCE SUPPLYed Iraq with war material during the long war with Iran, and all of west africa was colonized by France, Once again europes hand are bloodier than all others you cant change it less than 60 yrs ago genocide was commited and France hands were in it, and the war in Algeria went on from 1954-1964 and over a million algerians were killed and 2 million peid noirs were forced to give up there homes and flee, and i want even go into Indo china from 1946-1954, just ask a cambodian, or Gandih about the brits or any Irish man today, or Jew about germany quit trying to justify your own cimes and the war in Iraq once again is no different than the French in Libya which you still avoid!

  • Comment number 22.

    itzig66, please explain, and its not only opinion point out the wrong and if you can prove i will correct but I dont think anything i have written is not accurate, but maybe thats why you failed to point it out. With respect

  • Comment number 23.

    20. At 11:02am 12th Apr 2011, itzig66 wrote, In answer yes the Revolution in the US was the least bloody for a aftermath, no military dictatorship was formed, no cromwell or lenin or stalin or god forbid rossipieare and napoleon please even the worst Revolutionary dreams of a ending like we had in the US, most of the loyalist who chose to stay were compensated and those who left britian compensated, it wasnt like france were acts of cannbilism were common on the streets of paris where, heads were displayed as trophys or thousands were slain on a single day after all we didnt have to invent a execution weapon like the guillotine so that we could mass execute our enemies, and I stand by my Claim the war in Libya is to enlarge the French empire and for the oil the Libyan s have!!!

  • Comment number 24.

    Dear zapbrag,
    Your ranting is clearly selective in the details that you choose to base it upon. It rather appears that most of your opinion is based on comic books.
    As for the request to show you where you are not accurate; amongst many other inaccuracies, to pick a more modern example France did not support the Argentines during the Falklands conflict, in fact the reverse is true.

  • Comment number 25.

    Mr Zapbrag, why are you saying « They »? Aren’t you a European yourself? Aren’t your ancestors’hands full of blood like anybody? You probably chose to Hate The French, which is your right, and you'll find anything you can in history books to fuel this impressive hate. Anybody could do that with the Germans, the British, the Turks, the Japanese, the Chinese, the Australians, or the Americans!

    Comparing the amount of blood each nation has brought to History is useless, my friend. Build the future!

  • Comment number 26.

    wrong sir they supply the exocert missles and the protest of the war and comic books tell it to a pied noir or a algerian muslem once again you resort to insults and I am not ranting to pick a more modern example as if that washes away the blood how about the intervention by the legion in the congo in 1978 thousand of blacks were killed to restore order, "if its black it dies" comment by the legion commander! or the way the sengalize were treated after fighting all of frances wars, and no the reverse is not true I sat on a ship in the med headed for Lebanon during it was able to talk to many french during it so you are wrong please once again pick up a history book and how modern do you want to get once again how many civilians are you killing now in Libya only at the end will we find out but may be you want to discuss the french helping to place Bokassu in the CAR oh wait I guess your Idea of modern will be after the french invasion and I must say it again and again the history of Frances conquest and savagery is legion if you doubt ask any arab or jew.

  • Comment number 27.

    pterox, I am pointing out that non are totally innocent but the europeans of the past 40yrs have commited crime after crime but wont admit it or change, but are quick to point out anothers fault the hypocracy drives one mad in a manner of speaking, today europe abuses minoritys, fights unjust wars but will scream about someone elses supposed injustice and no americans are not europeans, I am Irish, Indian, african, Jewish, and english, like most americans and people of non-european stock who comprise about 40% of the us pop, we dont think like europeans or act like europeans, and I get a little tired of the bashing of my country, The US donates more to world charites than any two nations combined, we stayed in Europe to prevent the Russians from steamrolling our exhausted allies, and to prevent the Germanys and french from starting another war, WE the US demanded that Germany admit wrong during the war and WE the US demanded the End of the European Empires and Because of our Saciface in Frances and Germanys TWO WORLD WARS yes aided by Britain and her Empire, but France and Europes arrogance and jelousy is just too much sometimes and again FRANCE is fighting for oil and empire again, when will europe learn you cannot trust FRANCE!!!

  • Comment number 28.

    zapbrag.

    You grasp of history is as tenuous as your grasp of punctuation.

    Anybody can cherry-pick atrocities. Picking atrocities from history is easy.

    But claiming that the US would never have committed such atrocities thanks to some sort of superior moral compass is the height of ignorance and quite sad.

    BTW. The American revolution was not the gentlemenly military encounter that you have been led to believe.





  • Comment number 29.

    All right, Mr Zapbrag, to close the debate on my side, I will play this little game with you just once, just in the last 40 years: the USA betrayed the Hmongs in Laos (the mosted bombed country in the whole history per inhabitant by the US, who doesn't care to remove any unexploded ordnance there, today), the USA betrayed the Iraqis who raised against Saddam to the call of Bush in 1991, etc. etc. Stop being naive, the USA has no lesson to teach in betrayal. And by the way, a lot of our african and indian ancestors have blood on their hands, too.

  • Comment number 30.

    27. At 12:19pm 12th Apr 2011, zapbrag wrote:

    "pterox, I am pointing out that non are totally innocent but the europeans of the past 40yrs have commited crime after crime but wont admit it or change, but are quick to point out anothers fault the hypocracy drives one mad in a manner of speaking,"

    Sorry. Since 1970 ?

    "today europe abuses minoritys"

    Er. Who exactly ?

    "fights unjust wars"

    War. What war ?

    " but will scream about someone elses supposed injustice and no americans are not europeans,"

    Which is patently obvious ...

    "I am Irish, Indian, african, Jewish, and english,"

    Quite a mix. But isn't Judaism a faith, not a race ? Not sure. Hang on a second while I check with my oppressed Irish, Indian, African workmates.

    "like most americans and people of non-european stock who comprise about 40% of the us pop, we dont think like europeans or act like europeans,"

    ... which has to be one of the most daft things I have ever heard. How do you know ??

    " and I get a little tired of the bashing of my country, The US donates more to world charites than any two nations combined,"

    Technically correct. But as a percentage of GDP the US is way, way down the list in 19th place and behind practically every other developed country. Sorry. Look it up.

    "we stayed in Europe to prevent the Russians from steamrolling our exhausted allies,"

    ... so it wasn't for US self-preservation then ? Keeping the Soviet missiles out of range of US soil ? And if I remember, the Soviets (not just the Russians) were even more "exhausted" at the end of WWII than perhaps the Germans.

    " and to prevent the Germanys and french from starting another war,"

    ... just bizarre ...

    "WE the US demanded that Germany admit wrong during the war"

    Actually it was the allies. Remember them ? They were on 3 of the 5 beaches in Normandy ?

    "and WE the US demanded the End of the European Empires"

    Er. No. You didn't. The European empires collapsed without any US "demands".

    "and Because of our Saciface in Frances and Germanys TWO WORLD WARS yes aided by Britain and her Empire"

    Oh, how gracious of you to say that Britain and its empire merely "aided" the US in WWII. After all, what DID India, ANZAC, Canada, free French and Polish, African and Carribean countries and others too numerous to mention do in the war, exactly ? Perhaps they were not willing to "sacrifice" ?

    "but France and Europes arrogance and jelousy is just too much sometimes and again FRANCE is fighting for oil and empire again, when will europe learn you cannot trust FRANCE!!!"

    ... which didn't seem to worry the American revolutionaries too much. So, what exactly IS your beef with France ?

  • Comment number 31.

    Zapbrag,

    You obviously have an agenda, So your grasp of History is understandable.
    One minute you state that the French cannot be trusted then you say how grateful you are to the French for their help in the first American civil war. By the way your rosy coloured view of the war of independence doesn’t stack up. 20% of the population cleansed is hardly better or worse than the French revolution. Yes you’re right you did not need to invent the guillotine but When Judge Charles Lynch announced that all loyalists should be executed and burnt out of their homes the “Lynch mob” was born.
    As for ask an Irish man what they think of Britain well if you know anything about the History of Ireland it would depend on which Irishman you asked. I’m sure Ian Paisley or any other Ulsterman would confuse your simplistic view or the Irish Guards serving in the British army fighting your wars in Afghanistan.
    I’m Israeli and I can tell you my opinion of Germany is not what you presume it would be, nor am I angry that the USA refused to accept any Jewish refugees at the beginning of WWII for not wanting to offend the growing tied of anti-Semitism in the USA at the time.. Good old Walt Disney and his pro Nazi views.
    What I’m saying is “get over it”,.. Otherwise you can never move on.. So on that note don’t also become to melancholic about the anniversary of the civil war. The south lost that’s the way it goes, even if some people might want to refer to the confederates as “steak eating surrender monkeys”

  • Comment number 32.

    There are 2 things the author has to understand here.

    1) The United States is one of the most nationalistic societies on earth. This nationalism has been carried over to the military. Americans are so convinced that American ideals and culture are the only correct way that they see any US military action as a way of bestowing their idea of freedom, progress and culture to the rest of the world. Therefore a military campaign is worth any price because America is fighting for what is right.

    You can criticise the government. You can criticise sections of society. But you cannot criticise America, its ideals, or its military.

    Americans are programmed to believe that "being American" is an integral part of their identity. Thus any words or actions against America or its ideals is a personal attack against this person. Anyone who contradicts the nationalistic line it is treated very badly.

    2) Taking what I said in #1, when anyone contradicts this American ideal, Americans react badly. The line was that America is fighing for the right ideals in Iraq and so if France is against this fight, it means they are against the pure ideals of America. If they dont have the same ideals as us, then they are the enemy.

  • Comment number 33.

    This is Sarkozy's new-found appetite for French adventure. This is his "Napoleon" imitation to win back a little popularity at home. (Pardon the play on the word "little".)
    Sarkozy's Waterloo will be Libya where he will be unable to unseat the forty-year guardian on Libyan propserity, Muammar Gaddafi.
    Is there anyone who does not doubt that Sarkozy is playing "little me" to Obama's big fool - the fool who failed to consult Congress (break of United States Constitution) and very literally used the UN to his own ends.

  • Comment number 34.

    Americans basically love the French; if they are a bit annoying at times, well, that is what makes them so easy to make fun of. Anyway, bravo for doing what needed doing in Ivory Coast and Libya. They have earned their freedom fries this time.

  • Comment number 35.

    It would be great if the British and the Americans evolved just a bit, giving up their primitive national stereotypes "humor" to fight idiocracy and build a slightly better world... Making fun of the military, everywhere, any time, of course.

  • Comment number 36.

    13. At 07:05am 12th Apr 2011, athena07 wrote:
    "Perhaps you misunderstood my insinuation. Americans are no worse then the French, Japanese, or anyone else in letting historical biases."

    Perhaps you're just more willing to accept "the norm" as a standard of behavior for your country than I am.

    Meanwhile, I think the most important thing we can say about the AMERICAN military experience over the past century-plus is that we've had more of it than any other nation. And that alone ought to be grounds for speaking out in strong terms for a higher U.S. standard of behavior and expression.

    Given all of the evidence available to me (including your own anecdote), I'll stick to my assessment of an upward and very unpleasant trend in American jingoism. I respect that you disagree.

  • Comment number 37.

    "It would be great if the British and the Americans evolved just a bit, giving up their primitive national stereotypes "humor" to fight idiocracy"

    Not a chance. Stereotypes are way too funny to give up.

  • Comment number 38.

    @#26
    Dear zapbrag,
    Thought it might be Exocets you came up with...
    The Exocets (and Super Etandard aircraft) were sold to Argentina prior to the Falklands conflict. During the conflict the French provided no support for these weapon systems.
    The truth of the matter is that French airforce Mirages trained against British aircraft after the commencement of hostilities to provide the British forces with experience of fighting the type of aircraft the Argentines fielded.
    Are you aware in your extensive knowledge of these matters, with particular regard to the Falklands, of the Type 42? I suggest you go and do some research if you are not.
    In summary you have clearly provided evidence that you have little knowledge of the subjects you are pontificating and ranting upon.

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 40.

    @33 Since when has the President had to consult the Congress to make a decision? Shaky grasp of executive powers on display there.

  • Comment number 41.

    American's characterization of the French as being cowardly never was fair, in my opinion. It stems largely from their having been overrun by the Nazis in WWII. That's an easy criticism for us in the US, protected as we were from the fighting by two oceans. The US was as unprepared as any of the allies at the start of the war, but our industries were inaccessible to our enemies. Had we shared a land border with Nazi Germany, it would have been much more difficult for us.

  • Comment number 42.

    zapbrag (26), itzig66 at (24) is correct. The Exocet missiles and Mirage fighters were sold to Argentina long before the Falklands war. During the war, France gave UK assistance in countering them.

  • Comment number 43.

    Jpp799 (32) appears to be speaking for Americans generally, which, of couse, he is in no position to do with any authority. Perhaps he is not old enough to know, but believe me there was plenty of criticism of the US military by Americans during the Vietnam war. More recently, there has been quite a bit during tje Iraq war, as well as all of the minor wars in which we seem to get involved from time to time, although nowhere near that during the Vietnam era.

    There is also no shortage of criticism by Americans on such matters as the power of corporations, the military-industrial complex, incompetence or corruption of government, and so on. We have freedom of speech here, and it is exercised widely and vigorously.

    Jpp does not say exectly in what way he (or anyone) has been treated "very badly" for expressing an unpopular (or foolish) opinion. Does he mean that someone deigned to contradict him?

  • Comment number 44.

    Itzig66 (40), Article 2, Section 2 of the US Constitution requires that the President seek the "advice and consent" of the Senate to make treaties and certain appointments. It is common for presidents to consult with Congressional leaders on many other subjects as well, and Obama is no exception. Only Congress can enforce any unconstitutional conduct; it is pointless for others to complain that there has been a violation of the "advice" requirement.

    The power to make war is where it gets complicated. Congress has the power to declare war, but has not done so formally since WWII. Nevertheless we have been in all sorts of military actions which everyone calls "war" since then. Again, it is entirely up to Congress to decide what they require in such situations. In 1973, Congress passed the War Powers Act, overriding a veto from President Nixon, to clarify this matter, so they seem to have decided that a formal declaration isn't always necessary. Here is a link to an excellent report on the War Powers Act:

  • Comment number 45.

    For some reason my links are getting dropped. Here is the link which belongs with (44): http://www.fas.org/man/crs/RL32267.html

  • Comment number 46.

    With only a couple of exceptions (and usually to directly counter anti-USA comments) I have not noticed USA jingoism. I picked up that the USA is not the only nation to commit the sins that America has made in the last decade (and some claim are exclusively American), that few nations have learned from their mistakes, and since our civil war until Iraq every major conflict we were involved in was started by European imperialists (French especially).

    At the moment I'm not going to try to back this up at the moment because I don't have verified facts on the top of my head and can't spend too much time researching them at the moment. But I do know my perception and why I feel both gratitude for our past ally and anger at the leader of nay-sayer forces.

  • Comment number 47.

    @46 Oh dear. Lets deal in some facts shall we?
    World War I, Germany instigated, US decided to get involved for commercial reasons; World War II, Germany / Japan instigated; Korea, North Korea; Vietnam, US decision to get involved; Various shady involvements in South America, US decision to get involved; Lebanon, definately not European instigated.
    Don't see much evidence of French instigation of any of those.
    Which other "major" conflicts did you have in mind? 1870? The Boer War? The South Africa / Angola Namibia conflict?

  • Comment number 48.

    @46 again; what do you characterise the contributions by zapbrag as if not pure jingoism? With a smattering of ill informed anti euro (French) bias. There's eight comments on this blog alone, slightly more than a couple.

  • Comment number 49.

    @44 & 45 Thankyou, interesting reading. I stand mildly corrected.

  • Comment number 50.

    #32 Jpp79

    There are 2 things the author has to understand here.

    1) The United States is one of the most nationalistic societies on earth. This nationalism has been carried over to the military. Americans are so convinced that American ideals and culture are the only correct way that they see any US military action as a way of bestowing their idea of freedom, progress and culture to the rest of the world. Therefore a military campaign is worth any price because America is fighting for what is right.

    You can criticise the government. You can criticise sections of society. But you cannot criticise America, its ideals, or its military.

    Americans are programmed to believe that "being American" is an integral part of their identity. Thus any words or actions against America or its ideals is a personal attack against this person. Anyone who contradicts the nationalistic line it is treated very badly.

    2) Taking what I said in #1, when anyone contradicts this American ideal, Americans react badly. The line was that America is fighing for the right ideals in Iraq and so if France is against this fight, it means they are against the pure ideals of America. If they dont have the same ideals as us, then they are the enemy.

    ----------------------

    Indeed!

    That is quite a series of statements! So Americans are simply mindless scum who think alike and repeat what we have been taught. Very sad indeed.

    I had to read through the whole post. This sort of trash is too good to pass up. It is like rancid junk food that is very bad for the digestion and has no value whatever - but oh, it is impossible to leave alone.

  • Comment number 51.

    "But it's also about France's continuing quest for the right role on the international stage, motivated by a nostalgia for grandeur that refuses to go away and a desire to be seen, unlike Britain, as a benign counter-point to the United States."

    -----------------------------

    "Benign counterpoint". Yes, indeed. De Gaulle hoped for that as well. The difficulty is that France has pursued pacifism since the 1930s, and it is not taken seriously as a significant military power. The will is not there. The money and the hardware are there. But without the will, there is nothing.

    As for Libya - it is insignificant. And Sarkozy is extremely unpopular.

    France was broken in body and spirit during the first world war. The old France of honor and military strength is now ridiculed and mocked. It existed for more than a millenia. How would the French of the 19th century have responded if they had known their nation would become synonomous with surrender and retreat? It has never recovered from Ypres, Mons, Verdun: the trenches and the slaughter in them.

  • Comment number 52.

    @51
    Or perhaps the French nation realised post those events that quality of life and the enjoyment of that is far more important than the pursuit of illusory dreams and national glory?

  • Comment number 53.

    #52

    Or perhaps the French nation realised post those events that quality of life and the enjoyment of that is far more important than the pursuit of illusory dreams and national glory?

    --------------------------------------

    Indeed?

    That is certainly an imaginative interpretation of the collapse of France in 1940. That is one I have not yet heard.

  • Comment number 54.

    @27 zaprag.
    For some strange reason, you seem to think we should be beholden for your intervention in WW11. May I suggest you Google. Prescott Bush, Rockerfella, Finance, Third and Reich and view at your leisure any of the 180,000 available to you.
    Just a word of warning, Hollywood is not responsible for any of those external sites. I rather think the intervention was timely.

  • Comment number 55.

    #54 kane

    I am a collector of anti-American comments, remarks, observations, etc.

    Ridiculing the participation of the American military in WWII is an exceptionally disgraceful and sickening example. It is unimaginable to me that anyone would mock and insult those who fought and died. I would never, under any circumstances, do that to the British.

    The phenomenon of anti-Americanism in Britain is a bizarre, almost surreal spectacle.

  • Comment number 56.

    @Tim1944
    The only reason your post fails so miserably is that, I believe each British and American soldier to be a better than myself.
    But what is more surreal to me, is to watch you broach the subject without touching upon the issue that I raised, without becoming emotive and without really acknowledging the subject matter.
    If you dont like the fruit, suggest you dont plant the seed.
    Happy collecting, but I rather my cup overfloweth far more than yours. We go back further, see.
    Now see "Royal envy"

  • Comment number 57.

    I am an American and have lived in Tripoli for the last 8 years. Not too long ago the U.S. Department of State was throwing a fit over an arms sale in which France was providing the Libyan military with high tech weapons and missiles. In Tripoli U.S. Diplomats were complaining about the sale.

    Surprisingly France was the first nation to turn against Ghaddafi. Ghaddafi's son, Saif al Islam, issued a veiled threat to the French government during a February news conference where he threatened to turn over private documents regarding this sale of arms as well as political contributions made to Sarkozi.

    Now it seems the French are having to repel their own bullets and rocket launchers as they fly their Mirage jets over Tripoli.

  • Comment number 58.

    Avatar: For now we’re willing to bet that many French muslim women will stay indoors, in order to avoid being fined, a kind of perverse and perhaps natural reaction to a law that has perversely affected what it sees as perverse behavior…
    -----------

    I applaud France for their decision on banning burkas that cover the face as it is not only a security risk (men dressed as women hiding bombs under burkas) but also it is a degradation of women...

    France is breaking the vicious cycle of domestic abuse in a most outstanding way and deserves a hearty pat on the back for their bravery and courage in this particular matter...

    Sometimes we may take our freedoms for granted, imagine living in a society where as a female you could not drive, you could not go to school, you could not show your face, you could not wear jeans, you could not decide who you want to get married to, ect...

    Now, if I went to a country with such ideals I would respect them in that matter as even if I disagree, its their country, however in our Western countries we have Western ideals and these foreign immigrants should respect them and adapt...

  • Comment number 59.

    @57 Hhmm yet strangely that threat hasn't materialised...knock knock...sounds hollow to me.

    Given that most of the kit being used by the Gaddaffi forces, and being hit by the French (& Brits), is of Russian manufacture pray tell how French ammunition is being used?

    You really should provide evidence or admit that your statement is just as hollow as that made by Gaddafi's kiddie.

  • Comment number 60.

    @53 & 55, Ah timmy, spoken like a true native of a large double shored county.
    Tis remarkably easy to dismiss those experiences of others that one has yet to experience. One day the US might have grown up enough to be able to understand that, at present it is little more than a young teenager slightly confused by this grown up world, attempting to throw it's weight around to try and justify it's existance... ;-))) (For the Americans...this is mild banter gently poking fun at you and your deep seriousness about all things US. It is not an attack on the US or you as individuals.)
    ps post 54 doesn't contain any anti-american commentary it just points out some facts that it appears you are uncomfortable with.
    Hopefully you can see the difference between that and this ;-)

  • Comment number 61.

    #60 itzigg66

    @53 & 55, Ah timmy, spoken like a true native of a large double shored county.
    Tis remarkably easy to dismiss those experiences of others that one has yet to experience. One day the US might have grown up enough to be able to understand that, at present it is little more than a young teenager slightly confused by this grown up world, attempting to throw it's weight around to try and justify it's existance... ;-))) (For the Americans...this is mild banter gently poking fun at you and your deep seriousness about all things US. It is not an attack on the US or you as individuals.)
    ps post 54 doesn't contain any anti-american commentary it just points out some facts that it appears you are uncomfortable with.
    Hopefully you can see the difference between that and this ;-)

    -----------------------------

    Very amusing and so well-written! Now, THAT is what I call an anti-American post I can enjoy, and read again and again. No doubt you were up all night writing it.

    Alas, the reference to post #54 takes all of the fun out of your banter. THAT post - reducing American military involvement in WWII to alliances with the Nazis - is neither true nor remotely funny. It is merely disgraceful slander.

    I certainly do take the sacrifices of the US military in WWII very seriously. As I know the British do regarding your own, and so you should. They are not a subject for banter or attempts at ornate jokes.

    If that is your view of Americans in WWII as well, there is little to say. But as I have said before here, anti-Americanism always takes some new and repellent form.

  • Comment number 62.

    @61TimR1944.
    I suggest you take up any case of slander with the Guardian newspaper, as all I did was direct you there. Good luck with that. Nowhere do I come close to slandering anyone.
    I have no beef with ordainary people and the young men and women recruited by governments.
    The hands they are in and the forces behind them, I do, and so should you.

  • Comment number 63.

    @61 Dear timmy, you managing to get that meaning out of #54 is rather disturbing.
    It simply isn't there. The fact that you choose to read the post in that fashion reflects quite badly on you, it seems that you are actively seeking any excuse to take offence.
    You, and your breathern that behave and believe in similar fashion, do your country no service at all or indeed those that have previously served your country that you claim to carry such respect for. That is the truely repellent act.

  • Comment number 64.

    63. At 00:04am 17th Apr 2011, itzig66 wrote:
    "@61 Dear timmy, you managing to get that meaning out of #54 is rather disturbing.
    It simply isn't there. The fact that you choose to read the post in that fashion reflects quite badly on you, it seems that you are actively seeking any excuse to take offence."

    Nail on head, squarely hit.

  • Comment number 65.

    All nations have a right to do what is in their best interest. And even if they don't have that right, ALL nations will DO what is in their best interest. You can be sure that France percieves this move to be in its best interest.

    The USA's reluctance to act is based solely on its percieved interests.

  • Comment number 66.

    Tim: But as I have said before here, anti-Americanism always takes some new and repellent form.
    -----------
    If some people are bound and determined not to like us because of our nationality, there is nothing we can say to appease or satisfy them...their mind is already made up...some people only want to look for the bad, they don't want to see the good...
    --------
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/as_us_clinton_japan
    An excerpt:
    "We will never forget and we will keep in our memory that the U.S. has provided such robust support," said Kan, in comments suggesting the aid has helped soothe friction over an American military base in Okinawa that forced his predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama, to resign last year. Relief operations mounted by American soldiers after the earthquake and tsunami helped show a new and welcome face for troops the Japanese have hosted — sometimes grudgingly — for decades. "There has been a great outpouring of concern, sympathy and admiration for the great resilience and spirit the Japanese people have shown throughout this very difficult experience," Clinton said.
    --------------
    Hopefully the good will win out...
    --------------
    Here's a neat story...
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_real_balloon_boy
    An excerpt:
    Bobby Bradley is ready. He has been training for about five years and learned from some of the most experienced and decorated pilots in the sport of ballooning.
    But he'll be making his own mark on the sport when he lifts off from a desolate patch of New Mexico desert in about seven weeks: At 9 years old, Bobby will become the youngest trained pilot to fly solo in an ultra-light hot air balloon.
    Bobby is the real deal. He's the son of well-known balloonists Troy and Tami Bradley of Albuquerque. Both have been licensed pilots since they were teenagers and come from families immersed in the ballooning community for decades.
    ----------
    Just goes to show no matter what things some say about us, we just keep going like the Energizer Bunny and the American dream and spirit lives on...

  • Comment number 67.

    SO France is sensitive? I Didnt think they cared so much on how other people think.. No one really thinks France is weak.. we just enjoy busting their chops!!!!

 

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