So what is the real deal with the French?

I am completely ignorant of the facts here, but the French do SEEM consistently unsupportive of any military operation the US undertakes. Without resorting to the obvious French-bashing, don’t they feel a little odd not supporting the US given our actions in WWII? I’m sure there is more to it than the facile “Damn ingrates!” argument. So what is it?

Well, just because we came in and helped win the war and get them out from under Nazi oppression does not mean that they then, for the next hundreds of years (remember, this is sixty years after the fact here) agree with our political policies. It would be like saying that Italy should automatically support Germany should Germany decide to go to war with France, or the US, or England.

They are not obligated by history to support every single thing we do. Sure, they’re our allies, and we expect support from them if we’re attacked or whatnot. And while the reason for attacking Iraq seems to be a prevention on an attack on us, they have not actually done it or made overt moves in that direction. France is under no obligation, and neither are any of the allies. They shouldn’t just blindly follow us wherever we stumble.

It is mostly all Europe (well E Union)…
I never understood that either, I often think the US go to far, too fast, but in this current situation and knowing how terrorism affects all of us, I don’t get it… They should support the US better here.

FYI, I am French, and to be honest, and I never want to admit it, but… our politicians are wimps… ok, I said it!

A little PS.
I agree on the French not agreeing on the US invading Irak, I disagree on the poor help (and few help) they sent in Afghanistan after Sept. 11th.

The French are generally much more advanced and sophisticated than Americans when it come to politics. The result from our point of view looks like cynicism. They don’t believe in their own politicians much less ours. They don’t believe nations ever do things for idealistic reasons only self-interest so there is no reason for gratitude between nations. We certainly didn’t show them much for winning our independence. OK we did eventually but it took 150 years. They don’t think our interests and theirs always coincide. The English kind of look on us as proud but bemused and frightened parents, like chickens who find they have hatched an ostrich, but to the French we are just that big red-headed kid from down the block who doesn’t know how to behave in polite company.

I probably shouldn’t have brought up WWII. But weren’t they against our invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq? What did they suggest we do instead?

You need to state a case for invading Iraq if you want an answer. And cites would help, especially for the Afghanistan one. Otherwise it just looks like French bashing.

Something not mentioned is that, at least as far as Iraq goes, I believe that the French has a lot of exports (military & other) to Iraq before 1991 - hence their leaning towards dropping sanctions before 2001. Despite what I said earlier, I don’t have any cites, so caveat emptor - I just mention it to help you in your Googling.

I have got to attack the “No grattiude for 150 years” bit. They supported the US in the revolution because it had a chance of tying up British troops and maybe creating stability problems in British colonies around the world. In grattitude we invaded Canada around 1812 to try to get the British to send troops back and give the Frenchies some breathing space. It didn’t work, and our people reported that they couldn’t find the Canadian capital so they burned a bunch of cabins and tents. The Brits finished their business with the French and then cruised in and burnt Washington D.C., thumbed their noses at us and left. We got a cool song out of it, but no one seems to remember what that war was about. I understand the Canadians call it “The War of American Invasion” rather than the much less descriptive “War of 1812.”

On top of that all the French decision makers who decided to help the U.S. get started were later either expelled or beheaded during their revolution.

I hadn’t heard that the French were that cynical, but that fits with their behaviour and does raise my respect for them a bit. People who trust polititians tend to die horribly.

Cite? :rolleyes: Or did I miss a smiley?

I just figured, for the French, our WWI help just cancelled out the Revolutionary War debt we owed.

Although it is certainly true that the US did eventually liberate France, but I think that it is fair to say that that was just a side effect of defeating the Germans. Although large parts of the US did want to get into the war earlier and there was serious aid to Britain, the US did not actually join the war until attacked at Pearl Harbor. But the US did exactly nothing to help France before that and so I don’t see why it is brought up as a matter of gratitude.

Concerning the american intervention in Afghanistan, not only the french government wasn’t opposed to it, but also France participed in it. The french participation was mostly support (naval and air survey) but there were also some airstrikes. Relatively few ground troops were deployed, and they were essentially used to secure some areas already liberated and out of the fight zones (though they participed in fights during one operation…because mountain troops were needed, I believe). Actually, the US governemnt wasn’t too eager about french participation for several reasons :

-The Us military thought that french airforce wasn’t up to the task and would be a burden more than helpful

-A more important french participation would have necessited to disclose informations and details the american militaries were reluctant to share (by the way, the french government complained a lot about the american reluctance to disclose informations in general after the 9/11)
So, it has been essentially limited to secondary tasks which would free american units engaged in actual fight, and in a couple of cases, to tasks that french militaries were better equipped to handle (not that France was very willing to participate massively in the operations, anyway).
Here’s a
link to a page from the french embassy in the US which sum up the french participation in Afghanistan up to the end of may.

Currently, I believe that french troops in Afghanistan (at least ground troops) are only engaged in police missions and in the training of the future national afghan army. But I don’t know for sure.

I forgot the part about Irak :

The french president recently made very clear his position about Irak. Basically that :

-Bagdad must accept the return of the armement inspectors

-And that France would support an intervention in Irak only if it was backed by the security council of the UN (in other words that an american unilateral “preventive attack” would be unnacceptable). He didn’t say whether France should participate in the military operations or not in this case.
This position is similar to the German position on this topic.

Am I the only one who finds it amusing that the OP was by KidCharlemagne?

Hmmm. I guess I am.
Get along, now.


The French government was one of the first to pledge its support to the US in Afghanistan. IIRC they sent in some 2000 troops.

Honnestly, governemnts usually base their decisions in matter of foreign policy on the current situation and on their current interests. “Long standing friendship”, gratefulness and such things are only good for speeches broadcasted on TV during official visits.
As for individuals, there are fewer and fewer who have lived through the 40’s.

By the way, there’s a long standing tradition of anti-americanism inherited from the former two main and two most popular political forces (in particular during the 60’s) :
-The gaullists, since one of the main point of De Gaulle foreign policy was to keep the USA at bay and insure France’s political and military independance (an obvious examples would be the withdrawal from the integrated command of NATO)
-The communists (which used one of the main french parties), for reasons I probably don’t need to explain.
Of, course, this too is becoming old history, but it still left its mark.

Nope, I did notice it too…

Something which it’s not related to the middle-east and terrorism issues, but I thought I should mention since it’s currently one of the main foreign policy issue between France and the US :

The two countries have essentially a totally opposed vision about the future of the European defense, and both are trying as hard as they can to undermine the other’s efforts in this domain.

The French have strong commercial interests in Iraq.

They want to keep their customer happy - they have been trying to get the sanctions lifted since 1998 (at least), and have characterized the Iraq weapons inspections program as ‘political’.


Bottom line - France likes to think of itself as (still) being a “world-class power”, and likes to remind everyone that they are different.

the terms ‘appeasement’ and ‘appearing superior’ keep coming to mind - a really unfortunate combination.

It struck me as rather amusing as well. Perhaps as amusing as that the French actually think that Karl der Grosse was French while the Germans claim that Charlemagne was German, or how was it now?¿?

What could the U.S. do that the French Army - the largest in Europe at the time by a wide margin - could not do? The U.S. was running military exercises with jeeps that had “tank” signs and men with wooden machine guns.

The Germans cut through France so fast that even if the U.S. had sent everything it had immediately it would not have made a bit of difference. I think eventually liberating the country should count for something. We could have been like the Soviets and kept France for ourselves. ‘Francarolina’ has a nice ring to it. Maybe ‘Frankota.’

As for modern French politics, I don’t see how WWII has much bearing, much less WWI. I guess they could point out the help they gave us during the Revolutionary War.

Imagine a U.S. politician trying to make policy based on some historical event. It just doesn’t fly. There is, however, no accounting for some of the books from France coming out about 9/11. I guess they are more like the United States than they would care to admit. Stupid books sell.