Murphy's Law: December 15, 2000


During the Cold War, France was one of the most reluctant of US allies, and since the end of that epoch, France has positioned itself to be the counterweight to US hegemony. The French have had to build a European alliance, with themselves precariously in the lead, to make this work. Part of this is simply national pride; the French have always regarded themselves as the most civilized and culturally advanced of nations and regard any US success as humiliating to France. The rest of it is economic, in that the rampaging US economy threatens to reduce Europe to a footnote in the world economy. This resistance to US power takes many forms. France took the lead in reducing the US sanctions on Iraq (and even Iran) to tatters, and in condemning Israel as responsible for virtually all of the problems in the Middle East. This is mostly for commercial advantage; by positioning itself as an enemy of Israel, it is easier to sell French weapons to the Arabs. In a recent US conference, France took the lead in denouncing the US as the cause of almost all pollution in the entire world. If the US spent more reducing the pollution from its industry, this would give Europe an edge in economic competition. France has given diplomatic recognition (albeit at the lowest levels) to any number of extremist fringe groups that claim ownership of vast portions of the US (Native American tribes, the "Republic of Texas"). But the greatest French effort to resist US hegemony has come in the formation of a European Union Rapid Reaction Force. This is, in fact, a European Army of 200,000 troops with its own aircraft and warships. The French insist that this force is not an alternative to NATO or enemy of the US, but have fanatically insisted that the US have no role in manning, equipping, supporting, transporting, or controlling it. The mandate of the force is 2,500 miles from Brussels, a range that takes it into the Middle East and deep into Russia. It is unclear who the French imagine this force will fight. The grounds under which the force would intervene in a crisis are unclear. What is even more unclear is how nations such as Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, and the Netherlands could afford the force at the level France envisions it as they have spent the last decade repeatedly cutting their defense budgets.--Stephen V Cole 


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