April 20, 2003


Chirac's Great Game: France is in a diplomatic pickle, wanting both to heal the rift with America and to play up the nation's newfound prominence. How will its president balance the two desires? (Carla Power, 4/28/03, NEWSWEEK)
Late in life, Francois Mitterrand let slip the news of a secret war. "France does not know it yet, but we are at war with America," reports his biographer, Georges-Marc Benamou. "A permanent war... a war without death. They are very hard, the Americans-they are voracious. They want undivided power over the world."

FRANCE'S CURRENT PRESIDENT, Jacques Chirac, likens himself more to Charles de Gaulle than to Mitterrand. But never mind. The message is the same. America and France are at war-and it's no secret anymore. With the conflict winding down in Iraq, both sides are assessing the fallout from their diplomatic battles. The French-85 percent of whom opposed the war-are beginning to realize the consequences of dissent. "If Jacques Chirac persists in making the U.N. his next battlefield... he'll be dignified, glorious, solitary, and maybe even moving," opined the weekly L'Express. But the magazine also noted that he would be "without relevance."

As for Washington? Chirac may claim that his threatened Security Council veto in the run-up to war was a matter of principle. But the White House took it personally. If administration hawks get their way, France will pay. Punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia, national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice reportedly said in Moscow last week. George Bush himself is said to deeply mistrust Chirac. U.S. officials fully expect the French to obstruct the next round of Iraq diplomacy at the United Nations. "What is their strategy?" asks one sarcastically. "Are they going to refuse to recognize the new Iraqi government? Are they going to recognize the government of Saddam Hussein?" The last thing anyone wants to see is Iraq's future bogged down in Paris.

So where does Chirac go from here?

Who cares? They haven't mattered since 1815. Posted by Orrin Judd at April 20, 2003 9:53 AM

It's not that they haven't mattered, it's that they have created a lot of problems. They insisted on ruining the German economy after WWI, thus spreading Hitler's bed. They fought a war in what used to be French Indochina in such a foolish way the US had to take over (and suffer its worst defeat in history). They fought in a dirty and disastrous way in Algeria. And now they have placed themselves at the head of the nihilistic movement of Islamic nutcases, eager to destroy the West.

Posted by: Peter at April 20, 2003 10:24 AM

Aw c'mon. They didn't really
stop mattering until after the Franco-Prussian war.

Posted by: Whackadoodle at April 20, 2003 11:05 AM

They weren't proven not to matter 'til then. Just as Europe now won't be recognized as insignificant until the catastrophe (whatever it is). But the Franco-Prussian War proved they'd been a straw man for decades.

Posted by: oj at April 20, 2003 11:46 AM

A lot of the problems with France are explained by the fact that they think this is war.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 20, 2003 3:34 PM

That would have surprised the Austrians,

Orrin, who had lost northern Italy to the

French just 11 years earlier. Magenta was

one of the bloodier battles of 19th century

Europe, and the French won it.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 21, 2003 1:21 AM