Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Nick Gillespie Has Had It with Marty Peretz (Lafayette! Nous Sommes Ici! department)

He writes, accurately and correctly:

Hit and Run: They're starting to shit themselves in public... TNR owner and "Spine" blogger Marty Peretz is enacting the cyberspatial equivalent... with posts such as this one on French jokes:

Let me assure you though that I am not a Francophobe. It is true that for a few years in recent times I have not bought French wines. But I did drink the ones I had in my cellar. In any case, there is some silliness in what follows. But there is also some wisdom, wisdom garnered from historical experience. If you are a Francophile, you may not want to read this. It's your choice. Feel free to send this to friends if you like. That's how I saw it in the first place...

"Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without your accordion." --Norman Schwartzkopf
"We can stand here like the French, or we can do something about it." --Marge Simpson
"As far as I'm concerned, war always means failure." --Jacques Chirac, President of France
"As far as France is concerned, you're right." --Rush Limbaugh
"The only time France wants us to go to war is when the German Army is sitting in Paris sipping coffee." --Regis Philbin

It's odd. The French, in World War II, did about as well in their first encounter with the Nazi war machine as everybody else. Poland. Britain and Dunkirk, Greece, Libya, and Crete. America and Kasserine Pass. Russia and the catastrophes of Barbarossa Phase I. France's problem was that they didn't have (as Britain did) the ocean to protect them or (as Russia did) space to retreat to or (as America did) allies soaking up most of the Nazi forces.

And as long as the French did fight, they fought. Roughly one in five French soldiers was a casualty. The 600,000 military casualties France suffered during the six weeks its outgeneraled and outmaneuvered commanders lost its war were roughly the equivalent of the casualties America suffered during the entire 3 1/2 years of its involvement in World War II.

And the French chose to fight the Nazis. They were one of two countries--themselves and Britain--who declared war on Hitler, rather than waiting for Hitler to come after them. They were the only country without ocean between themselves and Hitler who chose to go after him. The honor of Daladier and de Gaulle far outweighs the shame of Petain and Laval.

I don't know whether Marty Peretz is more ignorant not to know this, or more stupid in that he at some level knows this but can't think it through, or more lazy in that he simply hasn't bothered to think it through.

But let me assure the people of France, and the ghosts of de Gaulle, Daladier, and Lafayette that not all Americans are as ignorant, stupid, and lazy as Marty Peretz, and that some Americans understand how much America owes France (and France owes America).

Matthew Yglesias has more:

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: What's especially fascinating is the particular form of the contemporary France-bashing narrative, as reflected in Peretz' post. According to this story, the USA differs from France in our greater eagerness to go to war and that this disagreement reflects superior wisdom on the part of the United States. Interestingly, neither prong of that narrative is supportable.

Obviously, there was an instance of France being unwilling to fight in a situation where the USA wanted to go in -- Iraq, 2003. But here the French position -- that Saddam's WMD programs were not a serious danger, that a western occupation of an Arab country was likely to go poorly, and that such a war would hinger the fight against al-Qaeda -- has been utterly vindicated. Other recent American wars -- for Kuwaiti independence, against Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia, agains the Taliban -- were undertaken with French support. Before that, you had Vietnam where France fought Ho Chi Minh's movement first, lost, then let us go make all the same mistakes over again. So French dovishness comes down to one war -- Iraq, part deux -- that France didn't want to fight, and that France was right not to want to fight.

France's "rep" for weakness and appeasement comes, of course, from World War II. But in 1938, France was the non-axis country most eager to fight Germany. Going to war without the support of England, the USSR, or the United States would have been a horrible policy. Once their British ally was on board, they fought. They lost, of course, but the contrast between France, the UK, and the USA in this regard is that France was located adjacent to Germany without a convenient stretch of ocean to block the Nazi advance.

I suppose congratulations of a perverse sort are owed to New Republic editor Franklin Foer, who has in Marty Peretz found a weblogger even worse at it than Lee "Sock Puppet" Siegel.

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