Why conservatives dislike the French

The French have a tendency to point out the hypocrisy of U.S. political rhetoric.

Why do U.S. conservatives hate the French? Conservative animosity toward a country that has traditionally espoused the same values (namely democracy), political liberty and equality seems bizarre.

Could it be the French opposition to the Iraq war that aggravates the conservatives? If it is based fundamentally in France’s opposition to the war, it would be wise to understand France’s history as an imperialist global power. We should be grateful for the insight that French military history could provide the United States; indeed, some lessons could be learned.

The French initially attempted military colonization of Vietnam. When France pulled out of Vietnam, it was the United States that became bogged down in a war that caused the loss of thousands of U.S. lives and millions of Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian lives. It could be that U.S. conservatives are angry that France figured out the futility of trying to suppress an entire nation at the barrel of a gun, while the United States still believed it possible.

When President George W. Bush pressured France into the Iraq invasion, the French may have had the Algerian War of independence in mind. The parallel between the two conflicts is obvious. In Algeria, France attempted to force French values on an Islamic nation in the so-called name of democracy. This proved difficult and quelling a fierce Islamic-led insurgency proved impossible.

Eight years of war and revolution cost nearly 20,000 French lives and more than 1 million Algerian deaths, and eventually the French were forced out of Algeria. The chaos in Algeria led a legacy of sectarian civil wars and one of the most despotic regimes in world history. U.S. neoconservatives decided that invading a fiercely Islamic, sectarian nation in the heart of the Middle East for reasons that were proven entirely false was a wise move. The French foresaw the costs of the invasion while Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and neoconservatives didn’t even have a plan for postwar Iraq. I’d be annoyed if I shot myself in the foot and didn’t realize it would hurt and someone was telling me, “I told you not to do that.” Of course the French accent doesn’t make it any easier for the conservatives to take.

It could be the food, fashion, art and maybe even France’s love of soccer that annoys the conservatives. I doubt it though; conservatives aren’t that shallow. Maybe it’s a social religious thing. The French are a bunch of cheese-eating atheists after all. But this doesn’t make sense; Sweden, Germany, New Zealand, Japan, etc. are all societies that espouse more liberal and socialist attitudes than France.

What really annoys the conservatives is the French have a tendency to point out the hypocrisy of U.S. political rhetoric. I’ve spent some time in France and seen firsthand what superior U.S. morality looks like.

Violence (the highest murder rate, guns or no guns, of any industrialized nation in the world); the Columbine High School shootings; the obesity epidemic; Abu Ghraib; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; McDonald’s; Britney Spears; dependency on unclean and unsustainable energy; suicide rates, conformism, etc. Face it, we look pretty scary. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney labeled Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., wimpy, and the Swift Boat Veterans labeled him a traitor. Is the U.S. public in bizarro world?

Kerry was patrolling the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, getting shot at with high-powered rifles and mortars while Bush dodged the draft and failed to show up for his cakewalk guard duty. Bush was too busy getting DUIs and flunking out of school.

The great French poet and singer George Brassens once said, “Those who advocate dying for an idea should be the first to set an example.” If the United States desires respect from the rest of the world, Bush and the conservatives would be wise to realize the hypocrisy of their own rhetoric and begin living up to the supposed “moral values” they preach.

Joe LaFleur welcomes comments at [email protected]