2003 May 14 Wednesday
Sylvain Galineau Returns To France For A Visit

Sylvain Galineau of the Chicago Boyz blog reacts to France as he finds it.

But most frustrating of all are the ubiquitous reminders of the wealthy, powerful and influential past standing next to the dull, if comfortable, present while everything else promises a mediocre future. And the fact that so many, whether they can put it in words or not, seem to feel the same way yet either don't care anymore, or believe that's the way it is, the latter being more likely to be mad at the U.S. for constantly reminding them how wrong they are. So instead of dealing with the future, we spend the present arguing about the past and building up our accumulating weaknesses and mistakes into so many principles and virtues, watching hour upon hour of TV programming lecturing us on the living hell the American way of life supposedly is, all paid for by McDonald's, Gap and Disney advertising, of course. And nobody asks why so very few allegedly suffering Americans emigrate to Europe while our best young people leave by the tens of thousands for the US or the UK as soon as they have their degrees, as if the education system's motto was "Train The Best, Keep The Rest." When they don't go there to study in the first place.

Since he's on a blogspot blog I can't guarantee that the link offset will work. The time/date is 5/1/2003 06:04:51 AM.

The slower economic growth and social welfare state of many European countries create problems for the US in large part because their frustration can be funnelled into anti-Americanism. We need to deal with this. While some see the rude comments increasingly directed toward Europe and toward France in particular by many on the American Right as unseemly and counterproductive I'm not at all convinced that the net result is bad. When a populace is stuck in a rut creating rationalizations for how the United States is at the root of so much of what is wrong with the world then there's a lot to be said for telling them our most unflattering views of their own society. They really need to hear some serious arguments and even insulting jokes coming from the country they most love to revile. They need to face their own problems and admit harmful consequences of their own government's foreign policy. They are more likely to do this if we are critical of them than if we make nice with them.

Update: The French government says that it has unfairly been targeted by a Bush Administration disinformation campaign.

WASHINGTON, May 15 France took the highly unusual step today of complaining formally that it had been victimized by a campaign of "repeated disinformation," allegedly fed by officials in the Bush administration, that accused the French of providing military and diplomatic aid to Baghdad. The administration denied the existence of any such campaign.

The French governmnet is going to start monitoring the US media for signs of planted false information.

"As part of the campaign of explanation we are undertaking in the United States, we have decided to count the untrue accusations which have appeared in the U.S. press and which have deeply shocked the French," spokeswoman Marie Masdupuy said.

They are shocked. Poor babies. Shocked. Sacre bleu! (and I'm not even sure what that means).

Look at it on the bright side: The French are actually going to start reading what we are saying rather than just deciding what we are up to and then telling us. They might actually learn something from the experience.

You can read the full text of the letter which the French government has sent to the US government detailing their allegations of misinformation about France supposedly planted in the US press by US officials. The cover letter to the letter is in HTML. But for reasons unfathomable the full letter is in Microsoft Word format (hint to the French Embassy: You can save a Word doc as HTML). However, CNN has a lengthy excerpt from the letter.

In a September 2002 "Week in Review" section, The New York Times published an article entitled "Psst ... Can I Get a Bomb Trigger?" alleging that in 1998 France and Germany had supplied Iraq with high-precision switches used in detonating nuclear weapons.

The French Embassy issued a denial, which was published the following week in that section's Letters to the Editor column, noting that a French company had indeed received an order for 120 switches, presented as "spare parts" for medical equipment, but that the French authorities had immediately barred this sale and alerted both Germany and the country that had previously sold the equipment that incorporated the switches.

On November 5, 2002, the front page of The Washington Post carried a story entitled "Four Nations Thought to Possess Smallpox." According to this article, France, along with Russia, Iraq and North Korea possess prohibited human smallpox strains. This "information" was purportedly given to the Washington Post by an "American intelligence source," who mentioned the existence of a "report" on this subject.

At the French Embassy's request, the Post subsequently published a rebuttal from the embassy press office noting that France abides by WHO provisions and by its own national regulations prohibiting the possession of human smallpox strains.

I repeat that I think this spat is healthy. There needs to be a serious airing of the issues between the United States and Europe and with France in particular.

If we are lucky this spat will escalate to a much higher level so that comments such as those by NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson might get the attention they deserve.

Lord Robertson, a former UK defence secretary, said: "Anti-Americanism I see not as a criticism of individual policies or even an individual president. It's a sort of racialist view that the USA is wrong in principle and wrong in practice.

"It is a generic attack on America and American standards and American values and approaches.

"I'm very worried about anti-Americanism because I think it is deeply corrosive to a relationship that is critically important for the overall security of the world.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 May 14 10:55 AM  Civilizations Decay


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