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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

The Franco-Germanic Alliance

Paul Krugman rises to defend the French today, creating what might be the most target-rich environment in the history of the blogosphere. Regrettably, he leaves himself a bit of separation, imagining the French position for our edification and enlightenment, but not really endorsing it or taking it as his own. But I will not let feeble literary ploys deter me! Roll the tape:

Meanwhile, here's how it looks from Paris: France was willing to put ground troops at risk — and lose a number of soldiers — in the former Yugoslavia; we weren't. The U.S. didn't make good on its promises to provide security and aid to post-Taliban Afghanistan. Those Americans, they are very brave when it comes to bombing from 10,000 meters, but they expect other people to clean up the mess they make, no?

And French officials have made no secret of their belief that Mr. Bush wants to invade Iraq not because he is truly convinced that Saddam Hussein is a menace, but because he'd rather have an easy victory in a conventional war than stick to the hard task of tracking down stateless terrorists. I'm not saying they're right; I have no idea what Mr. Bush is really thinking. But you can understand their point of view.

In the days ahead, as the diplomatic confrontation between the Bush administration and the Europeans escalates, remember this: Viewed from the outside, Mr. Bush's America does not look like a regime whose promises you can trust.

Oh, my goodness, are we talking about Yugoslavia? Well, here is how it would look from, let's say, Dayton, Ohio, if I were a middle American living there. Europe spent years dithering diplomatically, then sent in troops to do a job for which they were not equipped. The US had the peculiar notion that, since this was happening inside of Europe, that our allies ought to be able to handle it. Eventually, they begged us for more assistance, which we reluctantly but effectively provided.

Did I mention that the early German recognition of Slovenia and Croatia when they broke away from Yugoslavia is often cited as precipitating the rush to break up, and the ensuing civil war? Did I mention the French officer who was convicted (in France) of sending UN secrets to the Serbs, and insisted he was "only following orders"? Did I mention that the damn near uselessness of the French and Germans as military allies was only exceeded by their incompetence as diplomats?

And I promise you, if I ever have the bad fortune to be near a Frenchman who questions the courage of American troops by saying "Those Americans, they are very brave when it comes to bombing from 10,000 meters, but they expect other people to clean up the mess they make, no?", I am going to say "1917! 1944! Acthung, schiesskopf! Now, slap yourself silly!"

I expect that will take care of it. And for refreshment afterwards, a glass of Vichy water.

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