January 19, 2005

About those pesky French

The best thing we can do about the French? Ignore them.

John J. Miller:

Condoleezza Rice, now Mr. Bush’s nominee for secretary of state, was quoted in 2003 as telling colleagues that the United States should “punish France.” This is a tempting tactic, for it holds out the promise of vengeful satisfaction. It was also the motive behind the recent campaigns to boycott French products. Unbeknownst to most of the participants, however, the consumer strategy was tried without much success in the 1960’s. In truth, Paris isn’t worth a boycott.

Thinking otherwise only buys into the Gaullist claim that France should occupy a place of reverence in the community of nations. But why should its views matter any more than, say, Italy, whose population and economy are nearly the same size? The United States may choose to work with France on a few areas of mutual diplomatic interest - Haiti and perhaps Iran - but in general, the marginal amounts of aid and peacekeeping help Paris can offer hardly merit concessions on our part. And if France threatens to undermine American interests with its Security Council veto, we should call its bluff, pointing out that such behavior merely weakens the institution that is the prime source of France’s undeserved prestige. (Despite all the bluster, France has not used its veto power unilaterally since 1976.)

Moreover, making an example of the French is precisely the wrong approach because it elevates France in the eyes of the world’s anti-Americans, who will always be with us. The one thing France and the neo-Gaullists can’t possibly abide is being ignored. Perhaps that’s punishment enough.

Posted by retrophisch at January 19, 2005 11:58 AM | TrackBack