The Corner

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The French Aren’T Appeasers


I have to say a lot of the conservative commentary on the French and Germans is beginning to irritate me (see the indispensable Dan Pipes, for instance, in the NY Post today. Yes, the French surrendered in World War II, they are whiny and irritating, they eat cheese, yada, yada, yada. But to characterize the current French position as appeasement seems radically wrong-headed given that they are making pretty much a full-frontal assault on American power and seeking to transform “Europe” into an explicitly anti-American institution dominated by a Franco-German entente. This isn’t appeasement, it’s a power grab in defiance of the world’s sole super-power. If that’s weakness, give me a glass. Pass some to President Bush too. It’s important to understand here that Iraq is a side-show. France isn’t chiefly interested in kow-towing to Saddam but in preventing us from toppling him. If we back out now, the U.S. could suffer a catastrophic loss in standing in the world. That’s big stakes. There is an argument between political scientists over, to simplify, whether states “band-wagon” (side with a big power) or “balance” (form alliances in defiance of a big power). I think the world generally band-wagons, but the French and German are trying to balance in a big way. As a smart Euro-observer told me last week, “Europe arguably hasn’t seen something like this since the 1930s.” Hyperbolic? Maybe. But what is growing in Europe right now is extremely important and serious and to dismiss it as “appeasement” is to totally mis-understand it. For first-class thinking on the problem, check out John O’Sullivan, who has been warning of this growing problem for a long time.