Why is France behaving this way

We all know what the French government is doing WRT Iraq - anything they can to stop a war. Now I’ll be happy to go along with anyone who can prove that they are doing this for the best of reasons - they are good, honorable, sensitive, caring people who don’t want to see anyone get hurt, right?. But I’d like to see such an opinion backed by facts. Certainly, their history doesn’t justify such (from Algeria through Vietnam to Ivory Coast with many stops in between).

They are at this moment scooting around to all the non-aligned members of the UN Security Council, offering them who knows what incentives to vote against the latest US/British/Spanish motion. Again, why?

This thread is not intended to address the question of whether or not a war is justified. I’m just interested to know why the French, of all the countries in the world, are leading the fight against it.

Now I happen to have strong feelings about the French people, and especially about their current leadership, and none of it would reflect anything but contempt, so suffice it to say that I claim their actions to date are vindictive and spiteful, to say the least. Is there any other explanation?

They oppose it because they think you’re doing things the wrong way?

…And then people shout about them being traitors and cowards and snooty French who aren’t grateful enough for US help in liberating Europe during WW2.
I think this is waaaaay too political for GQ, really. Expect your thread to disappear pretty quickly.

rampisad I’ve got a feeling this thread is going to be closed soon (read the note about politics in GQ at the top of the page). But France has not being pushing against a war nearly as much as the US has been pushing for war.

Robert Kagan had an interesting article in Policy Review last summer, which he has since expanded into a book, in which he sees Europe, having profited from the US’s umbrella during the Cold War, has developed, due in large part to its relative powerlessness vis-a-vis its all-powerful protector,an approach to international affairs that emphasizes negotiation,diplomatic seduction, incremental improvement, realizing that there are usually no quick fixes to most problems, and the like (sorry about the length of that sentence!). Europe sees the US (according to Kagan), on the other hand, as dismissing negotiation, favoring the stick over the carrot, and acting with a quick fix in mind. Europe has to act in a multilateral way because it is relatively powerless; the US acts unilaterally because it can. So, when it comes to protection from the Soviet menace, Western Europe had to, and was happy to, accept the US’s protection. With the Cold War over, and Europe no longer being what Kagan calls the “pivot” in that half-century stand-off, the Europeans, with France in the lead, feel that it is better to work incrementally in dealing with difficult states like Iraq, rather than going along with the idea of a quick fix of a war that would be accompanied by carnage, mayhem, and longer-range uncertainties. Kagan’s presentation is much more nuanced and I am sure I have not done his argument justice. But it might be a place to start, and maybe you can overcome your unfortunate “strong feelings” about the French people.

Here’s an apolitical take on your question:

IMHO, people have a light and a dark side but, right now, the dark side is in almost full control. France is probably no more or less creepy than, for example, you are, because you have chosen to focus on the flaws (admittedly numerous) of the French rather than doing something useful about the flaws in your own personal and/or national character. Why do you do this? Because it’s fun for your dark side to feed evil. Why hide from yourself? Because you do have a light side that would object and put a brake on the fun.

{{{{{{{yolady}}}}}}}— Yo!

We need more of your kind of insight around here. Carl Jung would have been proud of you.

Actually, from what I hear, not only is France getting cheap oil direct from Iraq, but is still supplying arms there. So it is actually in the Frence national interest to veto a second resolution - which is precisely what the veto is for.

Russia is against the war because Iraq still owes them absolutely billions in unpaid debts. The moment the USA goes in, Russia’s already limping economy gets another leg broken.

It’s all about the money. France and Russia have huge business interests in Iraq and would suffer financially if the war happened. Their humanitarianism wouldn’t be so strong if the U.S. went after the Ivory Coast or Chechnia. On the other hand, the U.S. would have the opposite take if one of our business partners with a less than honorable government was being attacked.


Um, why has no one mentioned France’s enormous Muslim population? Oil is probably the main reason, but this is important, too.

A few reasons I’ve heard - France has been trading illegally with Iraq (possibly so much that an invasion by the U.S. could reveal a lot more behind the scenes illegal trading than the world already knows about?), and France has made deals with Saddam for his oil. Another possible reason is that France would like to bring the U.S. down a notch, and increase the power of the EU.

There has been a lot of talk the last decade about how the US is the sole remaining superpower. France has decided that the US is too powerful, and so is attempting to stymie the US to thwart that power. If the US succesfully invaded Iraq and didn’t pay a price for it, then US power would increase. France doesn’t want this to happen. Supporting Saddam Hussein is a small price to pay to stick it to the Americans.

Simply, they consider what they are doing to be in their best national (political and economic) interest. And that is what the government of every sovereign nation-state does for a living, further the national interest.

characterizations about the morality of, or the psychological motivations behind, what the government of the French Republic considers its best national interest are beyong GQ.

I would love to see some protestors with signs anong the lines:** No Pease for French Oil Interests**

I think this is the article cleops mentioned: http://www.policyreview.org/JUN02/kagan.html

On a closely related note, here’s a fascinating review of two new French books critical of French anti-Americanism: http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20030301fareviewessay10345/walter-russell-mead/why-do-they-hate-us-two-books-take-aim-at-french-anti-americanism.html :

The reviewer concludes by saying the USA can only manage resentments and real grievances since they will only end with the end of American success and power.

As we’re in GQ, I’ll offer a factual correction. France is supporting a, now this is an important word … process under UN Resolution 1441. That Resolution was passed and supported unanimously by the UN Security Council. We are currently part way through the process as agreed under 1441. And France continues to support it, along with (at least) Russia and Germany.

The UK, US and Spain are seeking to have that agreed Resolution usurped by another Resolution, notwithstanding that the first Resolution / Process is continuing as agreed under 441.

In short, 1441 offers the parties a process by which peace can be secured (disarmament of Saddam) – it represents a logic of peace. The draft second Resolution (of the UK, US and Spain) supports action and action now: It represents the logic of war.

France (and others) says it’s too soon to move from one logical process to another, that we have an existing and working process (according to Blix) and that we should continue as agreed.

Off to Great Debates.

DrMatrix - General Questions Moderator

Thanks, rowrrbazzle, for the link and the new citation. I’ll take a look.

Lets try this metaphor. Your old and dear friend has dumped a cup of gasoline into his lap, and is reaching for the matches. Is it rude, arrogant and/or treasonous of you to knock the matches from his hand?

First of all France is hardly unique in its skepticism about war. In one degree or another Germany, Russia, China, India, Indonesia, Canada, Mexico,Chile, Malaysia,Brazil and most Third World countries are skeptical of war. In addition France is currently advocating the same containment policy which the US pursued for 12 years and which a large chunk of America public opinon still supports. It’s no secret that many American soldiers.diplomats and CIA analysts have also been skeptical of war. Just because the US government has changed its mind doesn’t mean that the rest of the world is obligated to follow.

As for why France has taken the diplomatic lead there are several reasons. It is a permanent member of the UNSC. It is a rich country and a EU member which gives it greater freedom than poorer countries like Russia and China. It has greater diplomatic weight than most countries. The important thing to understand is that France is merely speaking for the skepticism that exists all over the world. It’s not as if it’s singlehandedly obstructing what the rest of the world wants.

“Now I’ll be happy to go along with anyone who can prove that they are doing this for the best of reasons…”
Can you prove that the US is pursuing war for the “best of reasons”? How exactly do you go about proving such things?

In any case the idea that France is obstructing war largely for economic reasons is bogus. Its trade with Iraq is extremely small less than 1% of its total trade IIRC. In fact the US imports more oil from Iraq than France. Saddam is not paying back Iraq’s debts to France and in fact the best chance that these debts will be repaid is if his regime goes and sanctions are lifted. If economics was the main reason for French opposition all the US would have to do would be to promise France a reasonable share of the post-Saddam pie and France would be on board.

Since (roughly) the early 60s, France has been reluctant to get inveigled into the US’s Great Crusades, so there’s plenty of precedent for their not supporting US efforts of this sort. There’s less modern precedent for France actually impeding US efforts.

I strongly suspect that a lot of the nations opposing the US invasion of Iraq wish we’d just do it without trying to drag them into it, through some nominal UN mandate. I’d be surprised if there weren’t a sizable element of this in France and Germany.