The Corner

Re: All Hail Charles De Gaulle

The supposed hunky-doriness of U.S.-French relations that Senator Kerry pined for in last night’s debate is trés bogus. This is from the September 18, 1995 issue of Time:

Last May, finally, enter the tanned, energetic Jacques Chirac, eager to reassert raison d’etat and make a splash, unfortunately too literally. Chirac, though, was acting totally in national character. Daring to be different is nothing new for France, where galling allies is as enduring a national pastime as boules. Winston Churchill, who was host to Charles de Gaulle after the majority of his guest’s countrymen had capitulated to the Nazis, grumbled famously that of all the wartime crosses he bore, the heaviest was the Free French leader’s Cross of Lorraine. It didn’t help that De Gaulle constantly nattered on about how France was the “light of the world; its destiny is to illuminate the universe.” General Dwight Eisenhower managed to avoid gagging, but did complain that of all the Allies he was supremely commanding, “those damn French” were by far the most nettlesome.

De Gaulle gave clout to the once weak French presidency and stabilized France. But jealous of the Churchill-Roosevelt wartime bond, he remained a passionate anti-Atlanticist with a long memory. In 1963, still irate over Britain’s cave-in to U.S. pressure to pull back from Suez in 1956, he vetoed Britain’s application to join the European Economic Community. (His successors obstructed the entry of Spain and Portugal.) The following year, he withdrew France from the NATO military command and asked President Lyndon Johnson to remove U.S. troops from France. A seething Secretary of State Dean Rusk flew to Paris to seek clarification: “Does your order include the bodies of American soldiers in France’s cemeteries?”

Makes your blood boil. By the way 1: If we should remember anything about France, the U.S., and John Kerry, it should be how he was there in the early 1970s playing diplomat-wanna-be with Viet Cong. By the way 2: I can’t wait to read John Miller’s book.

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