Why conservatives actually hate the French

I was surprised when I reached the Opinions section and found a piece titled, “Why conservatives dislike the French” by Joe LaFleur. My interest in the article soon turned to disappointment when I realized this was a column written, not by a conservative, but in criticism of conservative opinion with rather poor historical and political context. Here is why conservatives actually dislike the French, from an actual conservative.

What really annoys conservatives about the French is their foreign policy that makes a big show out of criticizing the policy problems of the United States without addressing their own political hypocrisies. For starters, let us remember that the French military collapsed during World War II, and France ended up surrendering and largely collaborating with Nazi Germany. It is hard to be taken seriously as a great defender of human rights when, within living memory, your nation aided the most horrific political entity in history. This carries into the modern age with recent rashes of attacks on French Jews and the rise of a French fascist political party (the National Front party of Jean-Marie Le Pen), which took second place in France’s last national presidential election.

Selfish reasons are apparent in French opposition to the war in Iraq when France’s numerous business connections with Iraq under the cruel Saddam Hussein are considered, including the attempt to build the dictator a nuclear reactor in the late 1980s. While there are problems in Iraq, France itself has a badly bungled conflict in the Ivory Coast. Beginning late last year, French military action has made civil war there much worse. These French hypocrisies hardly seem above criticism, yet France does not point its barbed analysis at itself.

The parallels LaFleur draws between the United States in Iraq and France in Algeria are loose at best. France had already established its control in Algeria in the early 19th century and by the 1950s, there were millions of French and mixed French Algerians living there with established democratic institutions. The United States, on the other hand, has not had control over Iraq for more than a century, nor is it attempting to plant colonists. French President Charles de Gaulle’s decision to abandon Algeria, which until then had largely been treated as a part of France proper, was incredibly unpopular in both France and Algeria and led to a coup attempt.

The French weren’t forced out; they abandoned Algeria when they lacked the will to continue the fight. The western and democratic population of Algeria was then forced to flee to France and elsewhere (particularly New York City) when their own country left them high and dry. This pattern had already been set in French Indochina, where modern Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were abandoned by a French government unwilling to stand up to totalitarianism. Unlike these abandoned French colonies, Iraq has recently held successful elections, and everyday Iraqis are turning against the insurgents who seek to turn their country into another Algeria.

Although the United States would be wise to understand French military and political history, it is not an example to follow. Rather, the French model is one to avoid. The United States and France share many values, foremost all peoples’ right to free and responsible representative government. While the French used to have the political will to stand up for these values, the trauma of two horrific world wars, coupled with their slipping status on the world stage, has left them cynical and bitter as a nation. It is this bitterness, together with France’s shrill and hypocritical sermonizing against the United States, that conservatives actually dislike about the French.

I have always thought that promoting liberty worldwide was a liberal idea. Now, LaFleur tells me it is a neoconservative idea. Whatever political sphere protecting and encouraging representative democracy might fall into, I’m sticking to it, and so should the United States. If only France would join us.

Andrew Fitzpatrick is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]