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France and US quietly repair relationship
Posted by: McQ on Thursday, February 02, 2006

Very interesting David Ignatius column from yesterday which I didn't get to until today.
Welcome to the French Connection. Though the link between the top foreign policy advisers of Presidents Bush and Jacques Chirac is almost unknown to the outside world, it has emerged as an important element of U.S. planning. On a public level, France may still be the butt of jokes among American politicians, but in these private diplomatic contacts, the Elysee Palace has become one of the White House's most important and effective allies.

During a visit here this week, I had a chance to talk with French sources who know some of the closely held details. It's an intriguing story of back channels and secret missions, but it illustrates a larger change in America's approach: Bruised by the war in Iraq, the administration is now working hard to conduct its foreign policy in tandem with international allies and, where possible, through the United Nations.
Read the whole thing. In the lead up to Iraq, the Democrats were intensely critical of the supposed "go-it-alone" approach of the administration calling for more consultation with our allies. Now, as Ignatius points out, when the administration is engaged in addressing foreign policy problems in exactly the manner the Democrats called for then, they're accused of "outsourcing our policy for Iran to the Europeans" by none other than Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

Not a particularly surprising reversal from the "we can do it better" party.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

It makes me happy that France and America are working as allies now. But it is Chirac and the French electorate who are adjusting to real world events - not Bush, as David Ignatius seems to want to suggest.

I like Ignatius’ writing style and agreed with most of his editorials prior to 9/11. But in this piece, as in most of his post-911 writings, his tendency to parrot Howard Dean’s talking points (ex. "Bruised by the war in Iraq...") dulls his intellectual appeal.

"Bruised?" By whose metrics?
Written By: Steve
URL: http://
That’s the feeling I got from that column, too, Steve.
However accurate that perception may be, I don’t think there’s any question that the Democrats will be trying to spin this exactly as Bruce describes it, all the way to 2008... that this was a US change of heart, not a French one. The column seems rather firmly in line with that.
Written By: Bithead
URL: minute the French maintain diplomatic links with those they choose to and act in their own sovereign interest, and the next they.....continue to do exactly the same thing.

Who’s spinning here ? Seems to me you two read into this what you want to - that the French are somehow capitulating on some undescribed stance because of American power. All I see is that they are acting in their own interests. You don’t seriously think they are taking instructions from the US ?
Written By: Blewyn
URL: http://
that the French are somehow capitulating on some undescribed stance because of American power
No, not particularly for my part. I figure their heads got turned by all the Muslim violence there of late.
Written By: Bithead
Blewyn, I agree with you: the French are acting according to their national interests. To put my point another way that parallels yours, France’s interests now coincide with ours and her politicians are belatedly realizing it.

(Put in a less-generous way, France’s political class had misidentified France’s best interests, and are finally changing course to one that tacks more closely to Bush’s)

Back in 2001, France’s political class believed the nation had an interest in stopping U.N. sanctions against Saddam’s Baathist regime. It’s not that long ago that Colin Powell was entangled in futile haggling with France’s Dominic De Villepin over the words "serious consequences." Today, in 2006, France is referring Iran’s Islamic government to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, and Chirac is threatening nuclear retaliation against "states."

It’s hard to pin this change of policy on any single current-event. A lot of things haven’t gone Chirac’s way in the past six years. I’m with Bithead - it could be the muslim urban-insurgency France faced recently - or a third successful election in Iraq, Schroeder’s dethroning in Germany, Bush’s reelection, France’s and Denmark’s rejection of the EU Constitution...or Canada’s swerve to the right with the election of Harper.

But, no - I don’t think they are "taking instructions" from Bush’s State Department.
Written By: Steve
URL: http://
When Bush was originally in office, he worked from a template of disengagement from world affairs, trying not to be the world’s policeman or anything else, but to let others solve their own problems. He was daily castigated in the media for his failure to engage the world. After 9/11, when Bush changed his stance to an active engagement with the world, he was daily castigated in the media for being unilateral. Then, when he worked with other on N. Korea, he was daily castigated in the media for not being unilateral enough. Finally, when letting our allies take the lead on Iran, we have come full circle and Bush is castigated for not being engaged enough.

Moral of the story: stop looking for principles to engage with, because the criticism of Bush is mainly political, not principled.

(Not to say that principled criticism of Bush is not possible, in fact necessary, it’s just uncommon.)
Written By: Jeff Medcalf
Quotes on France and the French...

"France has neither winter nor summer nor morals.
Apart from these drawbacks it is a fine country.
France has usually been governed by prostitutes."
Mark Twain.

"I would rather have a German division in front of me than a French one behind me."
General George S. Patton.

"Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without your accordion."
Norman Schwartzkopf.

"We can stand here like the French, or we can do something about it."
Marge Simpson

"As far as I’m concerned, war always means failure"
Jacques Chirac, President of France

"As far as France is concerned, you’re right."
Rush Limbaugh,

"The only time France wants us to go to war is when the German Army is sitting in Paris sipping coffee."
Regis Philbin.

"The French are a smallish, monkey-looking bunch and not dressed any better, on average, than the citizens of Baltimore.
True, you can sit outside in Paris and drink little cups of coffee, but why this is more stylish than sitting inside and drinking large glasses
of whisky I don’t know."
P.J O’Rourke (1989).

"You know, the French remind me a little bit of an aging actress of the 1940s who was still trying to dine out on her looks but doesn’t have
the face for it."
John McCain, U.S. Senator from Arizona.

"You know why the French don’t want to bomb Saddam Hussein? Because he hates America, he loves mistresses and wears a beret. He is
French, people!"
Conan O’Brien

"I don’t know why people are surprised that France won’t help us get Saddam out of Iraq. After all, France wouldn’t help us get Hitler out
of France either"
Jay Leno.

"The last time the French asked for ’more proof’ it came marching into Paris under a German flag."
David Letterman

"Only thing worse than a Frenchman is a Frenchman who lives in Canada".
Ted Nugent.

"War without France would be like ... uh .. World War II. The favorite bumper sticker in Washington now is one that says ’First Iraq, then France.’"
Tom Brokaw.

"What do you expect from a culture and a nation that exerted more of its national will fighting against DisneyWorld and Big Macs than the
Dennis Miller.

"It is important to remember that the French have always been there when they needed us."
Alan Kent

"They’ve taken their own precautions against al-Qa’ida. To prepare for an attack, each Frenchman is urged to keep duct tape, a white flag, and
a three-day supply of mistresses in the house."
Argus Hamilton

"Somebody was telling me about the French Army rifle that was being advertised on eBay the other day — the description was, ’Never shot.
Dropped once.’"
Rep. Roy Blunt (MO)

"The French will only agree to go to war when we’ve proven we’ve found truffles in Iraq."
Dennis Miller

"Raise your right hand if you like the French ... raise both hands if you are French".
Q. What did the mayor of Paris say to the German Army as they entered the city in WWII?
A. Table for 100,000 m’sieur?

"Do you know how many Frenchmen it takes to defend Paris? It’s not known, it’s never been tried."
Rep. R. Blount (MO)
The French have a big job to do. Many quotes are available:

"Do you know it only took Germany three days to conquer France in WWII? And that’s because it was raining."
John Xereas, Manager, DC Improv.

The AP and UPI reported that the French Government announced after the London bombings that it has raised its terror alert level from Run to Hide. The only two higher levels in France are Surrender and Collaborate. The rise in the alert level was precipitated by a recent fire which destroyed France’s white flag factory, effectively disabling their military.

French Ban Fireworks at Euro Disney
(AP), Paris, March 5, 2003
The French Government announced today that it is imposing a ban on the use of fireworks at Euro Disney. The decision comes the day after a nightly fireworks display at the park, located just 30 miles outside of Paris, caused the soldiers at a nearby French Army garrison to surrender to a group of Czech tourists.

Written By: Notherbob2
URL: http://
Notherbob2 nailed the French. With friends like them who needs enemies?
Written By: Sol
URL: http://
Guys, I enjoy a little frog-bashing on occasion, but if the French are to have any sort of a future we must hope that some kernal of integrity exists in their social-marrow, then appeal to it.

Rubbing France’s nose in its less-than-glowing past is probably counter-productive in our campaign to convince her that she could have a bright future.
Written By: Steve
URL: http://

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