by Austin Bay
Call it the "French Hiss," that tiresome Parisian diplo-twitter
bewailing the American "hyper-power."
We heard the French hiss before and after the Persian Gulf War.
(Only during the Persian Gulf War, when the bullets flew, did the petty
Mention McDonalds, and the hiss decibels spike, though the
McDonalds website says there are over 700 Golden Arches in the land of pate
de foie gros. Someone Gallic is munching les hamburgers.
The latest French hiss fit is, of course, over George W. Bush's
"axis of evil" speech, which fingered Iran, Iraq and North Korea as Earth's
most threatening proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.
"Simplistic!" huffed Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine. "Today we
are threatened by a new simplistic approach that reduces all the problems in
the world to the struggle against terrorism." The United States is acting
"unilaterally, without consulting others," Vedrine added.
Ah, those stupid Americans. Simple-minded lot, so narrow, no
flair for complexity. And when this obvious lack of mental acuity and
imagination combine with U.S. economic and military power (Mon Dieu, how can
such idiots have such power?), America becomes a "threat" to the globe.
All that's missing from Vedrine's predictable string of push
words is "cowboy," but bet your Stetson against a stack of ratty berets the
French foreign minister has that schtick in his verbal repertoire.
Other European anti-American polemicists chime in with similar
rant. One British academic told The (London) Observer, "The war on terrorism
is simply a euphemism for extending U.S. control in the world, whether it is
by projecting force through its (aircraft) carriers or building new military
bases in central Asia."
What utter anti-American pish.
I used to greet the French hiss with laughter. Jealousy is,
after all, a pathetic attribute. I also understood European "distance" from
America often served a useful diplomatic purpose in pursuing common Western
goals, particularly during the Cold War. America could play "tough cop," and
Europe "nice cop" -- and if playing "nice cop" meant the French sold a few
Citroens in the process, so be it.
Sept. 11, however, has diminished the entertainment value of
false, foolish and hypocritical anti-American critique.
Another "au courant" French hiss describes America as suffering
from "gigantisme militaire." In this pop formulation, American military
might becomes a pathology, a threatening condition where the American
cowboy's colossally overactive glands have inflated his height, width and
Pathological more aptly describes the Taliban regime, which
specialized in blowing up buddhas and jailing women. American military might
dumped the Taliban in a brisk campaign marked by shrewd use of force and
multifaceted, multilateral diplomacy. American military power was
appropriate and responsible, not monstrous.
Yes, America spends as much on defense as the planet's next nine
nations combined. But consider the 50-year-long trend in Western Europe to
push the harshest burdens of mutual defense onto the backs of the Yanks.
America's Euro critics can't have it both ways.
Which leads back to the pathology behind the French hiss.
Arrogance and anger masking a deep-seated sense of inferiority is a
behavioral gimmick as old as our species. Unfortunately, at this moment in
history, this is the connective tissue of anti-Americanism, the
psychological baling wire that loosely but rhetorically binds the hodgepodge
of anarchists, anti-globalists, French statists, Marxist academics, and
Osama bin Laden-type religious terrorists who blame America for their own
failures and inadequacies.
Unilateralist? The United States is the most actively engaged,
multilateralist nation on the planet. It takes two to tango and at least two
to trade, and no nation is more eager to open trade, information and
cultural links than the United States. No, this wasn't always the case, but
the flip side of engagement -- American withdrawal and isolation -- has a
sad legacy. American isolation left the field open to Hitler (which French
diplomacy and the Maginot Line failed to thwart).
Bush's "axis of evil" is clarifying, not simplistic. Europe's
policy of constructive engagement with Iran has failed, and even M. Vedrine
must know it. Iran continues to develop weapons of mass destruction. In the
short run, French, Russian and German unilateralists may benefit from
weapons and technology sales to Iran, but in the long run, rogue states and
terror syndicates with nukes and bio weapons are a terrifying threat. It's
time to hush the French hiss and forge a cooperative, unified front to stop
the proliferators ... and the terrorists.