How anti-American are the French?

Not as much as you might think, argues The Economist in a long, Christmas-special piece about French anti-Americanism (article freely available to non-subscribers) :

In one 2004 poll, 72% of the French had a favourable view of Americans, more even than in Britain (62%) or Spain (47%). Some 68% of those questioned in another poll the same year said that what unites France and America was more important than what separates them. During the 60th anniversary of the Normandy landings in 2004, politicians were frosty, but the people at large showed an outpouring of gratitude to American veterans.

It’s true that there is a big gap between the view of the U.S. (pretty bad) and the view of the American people (quite good) in France, a sure sign that a substantial part of what is regarded as anti-Americanism is mainly driven by anti-Bushism.

One would have thought that the reelection of the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would have led French people to adjust their view of Americans downwards. But no: French opinion about the American people have improved between 2004 (53% favorable) and 2005, (64%) according to a Pew Global Attitudes survey released in June 2005.

The Pew survey contains other interesting findings, such as the fact that the European country in which the popular view of both the U.S. and the American people is the worst is Spain, and not France (maybe Edward will clue us in about why this is so). Also the astonishing finding that the French are the least inclined to think that Americans are “greedy” (only 31%, compared with 78% in… the United States) – although maybe this is due to a translation glitch, the appropriate French equivalents (such as “avide” or “cupide”) being somewhat dated words.

So strike one for the Economist: yes, French anti-Americanism is not as clear-cut as most people think it is (the reverse is also true, by the way). And yes, “France quarrels with America not because the pair are so different but because they are so alike“, each country being convinced of the universality of its national model. And yet the article is mildly infuriating, as only Economist articles can be.

First, I really would like to know in which French McDonald’s one can find a menu called “Le road to America“. From what I gather, it seems that there is a place in France where people use a peculiar language in which “pure” English words (i.e. never used in everyday French) are invariably preceded by “le”. Trouble is, only American journalists seem to be able to access it.

Second, and more substantially, the author falls in the common Economist trap of ascribing all that is bad (i.e. not as The Economist would like it to be) in any given country to the fecklessness of an out-of-touch elite:

Scratch the surface of the denunciations from on high, however, and French anti-Americanism is not quite what it seems. First, because it is an elite doctrine that is often not shared by ordinary people. Second, because it is used by the political class more as a scapegoat for its own troubles than as a reasoned response to real threats.

That’s a stretch, to say the least. On the one hand, the same kind of love-hate attitude towards America that is common among “ordinary” French people is also frequent among cultural and political elites. The same haughty French intellectuals that sneer at those gun-toting, bloodthirsty, materialistic Yankees are also avid consumers of American cultural products. Ask any journalist at the highbrow Cahiers du Cinéma about his (rarely her) favorite filmmakers and chances are that a good number of Americans will be on the list. And not just David Lynch or Woody Allen, but also Hollywood insiders such as Steven Spielberg.

On the other hand, the idea that the belief in multi-polarism and the need to counterbalance American dominance is only shared by a small coterie located around the Quay d’Orsay is just plain nonsense. In fact; if the Pew survey is to be believed, common French people have been greedily drinking the Gaullist Kool-Aid as well (pdf) :

Fully 73% of the French want Western Europe to take a more independent approach from the
U.S. on diplomatic and security affairs than it has in the past.

85% of French respondents believe it would be better if the EU or another country emerged as a military rival of the U.S. – more than any nation surveyed.

Amazingly (and somewhat disturbingly, considering the great success of French diplomacy in, say, Sudan), 64% of French respondents also trust “their own country” to stop genocide, the most in any country surveyed except the United States.

The distinct French view of the world, and of France’s role in it, that so annoys The Economist is thus not the preserve of a dying breed of Gaullist politicians. It is rather widely shared, for better or worse, by a vast majority of the French people. Not even the rise of a new, supposedly more pro-American, guard (i.e. Nicolas Sarkozy and its followers) would change that overnight.

33 thoughts on “How anti-American are the French?

  1. Good to see The Fistful take up this article from the holiday edition of The Economist (quite a handful this year!).

    The article is right down my back alley and if it hadn’t been for my ever absorbing christmas sluggishness I would have blogged it for sure; being as it is now, I will provide my 50 cents here…

    I think the article has a some good points especially when it links the anti-americanism with the more prevailing discourse as it is in French society …

    “(…) the epithet is potent because many current French phobias—capitalism, globalisation, liberalism—are associated with America.”

    This is an important note as I see it. It may be that there are striking similarities between the two countries …

    - A universalistic approach to for example (dare I say it) immigration.
    - The French population as also described in the article is slowly (rapidly?) adopting the American way of life.

    However, USA and perhaps particularly as you note Emmanuel anti-Bushism are mirrors in which the French nation and values have a raison d’etre … or at least so it can be narrated.

    Does this narration come from the elite as the Economist seems to imply? Well, the whole point of the article is that the general French population is not particularly “hostile” against America and the country’s values and products which basically leaves the elite as the main vessel of anti-Americanism.

    The Economist clearly has a normative objective here and that is, as I see it, to show that French politicians are out of pace with the reality of France and her population. Ultimately the much debated and essentially contested “French alternative” to the American way is a mirage that only serves as self-confirmation to a venerable French elite who is caught up in the past. Is this the right analysis?

    It might be to overstretch it as you put it Emmanuel and French politicians and opinion leaders cannot be put in the same box. The question which I, as an observer of France, am having a hard time answering is exactly what is at debate here …

    Where is this alleged anti-americanism/anti-capitalism-globalization to be found in the French society and who are consequently its proponents

    - Nowhere?
    - In all corners of the French society?
    - Amongst the politicians and the illusive elite?
    - In the bussines sector?(I discussed this with Edward Hugh some days ago over at AFEM)
    - …?

    I haven’t yet found the answer put I am putting the puzzels together as we go along:); what is your take on this?

  2. “in which the popular view of both the U.S. and the American people is the worst is Spain”

    You know I’m really not sure I know why this is. It would be easy to give some stereotypical responses like the existence of a US military base during the Franco years, but I’m sure there are deeper cultural reasons. But that it is the case I feel I can readily confirm. Depending on who you are speaking to, the quickest way to turn a conversation into a one-way rant is to mention the two little words “United States”. That’s why Aznar’s Azores mission was always bound to fail.

  3. “a sure sign that a substantial part of what is regarded as anti-Americanism is mainly driven by anti-Bushism.”

    I’m not sure that this argument isn’t a circular one, I mean you could ask why the French were so quick to become anti-Bush. I think it goes much deeper.

    “First, because it is an elite doctrine that is often not shared by ordinary people.”

    This argument from the Economist (and others) is cleary silly. Belief in free trade (which I and the Economist share) is a much more elite and less populist doctrine. In fact anti-Americanism is normally much more visceral, and much less cerebral.

    What may happen is that people with economic and political ambitions to rival the US (Oh, why don’t we have a European Airbus to rival that nasty American Boeing, oooh yes, that’s a good idea), can draw on the well of popular feeling to turn their desire into reality. The political ‘elite’ are far more likely to be ‘fair weather’ anti-Americans.

    “Not even the rise of a new, supposedly more pro-American, guard…..”

    I’m really not very sure it is a good reading to think of Sarkozy as pro-American (I’m not saying you are Emmanuel). I think there is a big difference from realising your rival has had a good idea and then emulating it and wanting to end the rivalry.

    “This is an important note as I see it. It may be that there are striking similarities between the two countries …

    - A universalistic approach to for example (dare I say it) immigration.”

    I think Claus has an important point here, both countries have a Republican ideal, although one is federalist and individualist and the other centralist (Jacobin) and collectivist. Many French people like to point the finger at the fate of native americans, but look at the Bretons, Corsicans and Catalans. The French Republican Ideal has also tried to erase what went before.

    “Ask any journalist at the highbrow Cahiers du Cinéma…”

    “French anti-Americanism is not as clear-cut as most people think it is (the reverse is also true, by the way)”

    I absolutely agree. Love-hate sums it up for me, mutual love-hate. There is a marvellous scene in Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers” – which really is a masterpiece of insight on all this (as well as being a cinematographic masterpiece, ironising on Cahiers throughout) – where French intellectual Theo and wanna-be American-writer-in-Paris Mathew have a very impassioned debate: who was the greatest genius of early American comic cinema, Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin?

    Of course the French intellectual argues that is was Keaton (the American) while Mathew says it was Chaplin (the European). Naturally the principal characters of the film initially meet outside the locked gates of the cinematheque.

    US-French relations are a complex phenomenon, and overall my feeling is that Bertolucci gets a lot nearer to the heart of the matter than the Economist does.

  4. Wait for and cherish this revelation:

    “Over 30 years ago Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber’s book, Le Defi Americain (The American Challenge), elicited gasps of disbelief in European political and business circles. Today, its prediction of U.S. corporate hegemony is an accepted reality. But the balance of power is about to shift again, and this time it is the prospect of the European Challenge that confronts the U.S. and the rest of the business world. Greater Europe’s prospects haven’t looked this bright for a long time.”
    http://www.time.com/time/europe/magazine/2000/0605/monte.html

    That was the perspective of Gianni Montezemolo writing in Time magazine in 2000.

    Bless him but please remind me, whatever did happen to the EU’s Lisbon agenda for catching up with America by 2010?

  5. That bit about preventing genocide is amazing. After all, as far as I can tell, the official French position for the last ten years or so has been pro-genocide:

    Yugoslavia: check, French very pro-Serb, with three French officers spying for the Serbs
    Rwanda: check, French very pro-Hutu, impeded efforts to stop the genocide
    Sudan: French doing nothing

    When has France ever prevented a genocide? They were up to their ears in the Holocaust, and the Albigensian crusade was all French.

  6. “That bit about preventing genocide is amazing. After all, as far as I can tell, the official French position for the last ten years or so has been pro-genocide:”

    Well well,

    One example of the opposite is France’s view on the future (?) Turkish membership of the EU … I.e. Turkey has to acknowledge that genocide was comitted against the Armenians during the first world war.

    This is not to polish the halo of France but merely to nuance.

  7. Claus : “Where is this alleged anti-americanism/anti-capitalism-globalization to be found in the French society and who are consequently its proponents”

    Obviously, its strongest proponents are to be found in the radical left (the whole “altermondialiste” mouvement) or right (from “souverainistes” such as UMP representative Nicolas Dupont-Aignan to De Villiers and Le Pen). But there are milder forms of such a streak almost everywhere accross the political spectrum, except for a tiny but pretty vocal fringe of French libertarians.

    For instance, the idea that American might has to balanced, that one of the goal of the French state and of the EU authorities is to help create so-called “champions européens” (big European firms, able to compete against American ones) is widely shared among the political and business elite.

    Nearly every economic discussion is cloaked in the rhetoric of French or European competitiveness and of international trade as a zero-sum game. Not that this is only the case in France, of course. As Edwards notes, pure free-tradism is a pretty elitist doctrine. But France seems one of the worst offender in this regard (though Germany seems to be pretty intoxicated by this competitiveness obsession, too).

    Edward : “I’m not sure that this argument isn’t a circular one, I mean you could ask why the French were so quick to become anti-Bush. I think it goes much deeper.”

    Well, this isn’t uniquely a French phenomenon, a demonstrated by the rise of negative opinions about the US all over Europe between 2001 and 2004. But I agree with your larger point : the French-American relationship has nearly always been difficult, even with more multilaterist presidents in the White House (those who think that all was fine and dandy between France and the U.S. during the Clinton years have a pretty bad memory). And, of course, French anti-Americanism is both ancient and partisan, as masterfully illustrated by Philippe Roger in his book “L’ennemi américain”.

    “I’m really not very sure it is a good reading to think of Sarkozy as pro-American (I’m not saying you are Emmanuel).”

    Agreed. What I was responding to was the sense, often found in the American media, that a president Sarkozy would lead to a sea change in the transatlantic relationship. That seems very dubious to me.

  8. Hektor : there’s plenty of things to criticize about French diplomacy (and quite a few things to be ashamed of, as a French citizen) but such a generalization is absurd and insulting.

    France was the only Western country to intervene in Rwanda in the summer of 1994. Did it send troops too late? Sure. Did the French authorities erred badly with their earlier military assistance to the Hutu government? Yup. But, on the other hand, the much-derided Opération Turquoise was at least quite successful to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in the summer of 1994. The overall picture is murky : the mistakes of the French diplomacy were numerous in the run-up to the genocide, the situation on the ground was badly misjuged, but at least France did act, although belatedly.

    And French troops were also part of the multinational force in Bosnia and Kosovo. The lingering resentment of Serbian people towards France (and the cries of betrayal by the French far right during the Kosovo crisis), is a testimony to the fact that maybe the French policy in the Balkans was more complex than you allow. Not all good, to be sure. But more complex.

  9. Emmanuel,

    I don’t think it is a secret that the French position on Yugoslavia was very pro-Serb. It’s also a matter of record that three French officers were convicted of spying for Serbia. I would characterize the French policy on Yugoslavia to be close to pro-genocide, considering how much they tilted toward the Serbs.

    The French support for the Juvenal Habyarimana government was also instrumental in aiding the genocide. The French government also wanted to prevent an expansion of US and British influence in the region (got to protect the Francophonie), so they worked directly to prevent a foreign intervention. It’s also pretty clear that the Operation Turquoise aided the Hutu army in fighting the RPF. That is, French soldiers were directly involved in fighting the only people who eventually stopped the genocide. It’s also true that the French did not prevent the genocide in the areas they controlled. So it is not correct to say that Operation Turquoise prevented a humanitarian catastrophe. The genocide happened after all, and it only stopped because of the invasion of the RDF and the defeat of the Hutu army.

    Yes, the French policy in Yugoslavia was somewhat complex, but it was always pro-Serb. It continues to be pro-Serb to this day, as evidenced by French actions in Mitrovica.

    Can you give me any situation where the French were instrumental in preventing or halting a genocide? As far as I can tell, in both Yugoslavia and Rwanda, they actively worked against efforts to prevent genocide.

  10. “big European firms, able to compete against American ones”

    This goes back to Bobs point about Servan Schreiber.

    “it’s true that there is a big gap between the view of the U.S. (pretty bad) and the view of the American people (quite good)”

    and I was thinking of saying when I made the point about it not all being about Bush that perhaps it is the US corporation – and attitudes towards it – which is the ‘missing middle’. Look at the recent fuss about HP. The American people could also be considered (by the French) to be victims of the voracious appetite of US corporations (with all the fuss about the recent weakness in US earnings growth being read as just one more symptom of this).

    Incidentally the Edward-Heath-style UK ‘elite’ was very taken with the Servan Schreiber type argument when they proposed joining the Common Market, and Margaret Thatcher’s hostility to the EU is in part a hostility to this. In this sense it will be interesting to see what Cameron has to say.

    Personally I started questioning this champions idea when I realised that the relation between firm growth and firm size was a random walk. There is much more to be gained from having an effective culture for promoting rapid growth in new small businesses than in sheltering arthritic champions (The Real Madrid model :) ).

  11. Sudan: French doing nothing

    That isn’t really fair of course. They blocked the first 3 US attempts for the UN to act as if it were a genocide.

    As for anti-Americanis being anti-Bushism, I don’t buy it. They were pro-Clinton, but still had lots of expressions of anti-Americanism. The ridiculousness over an environmental treaty that the EU is not going to fully implement, and would never have done much about global warming goes far deeper than dislike of one man. The constant game-playing over NATO predates Bush. The constant military sales, technology transfers and the like to direct and indirect US enemies has gone on my entire lifetime. The recent efforts with the Germans to help arm the Chinese don’t have much to do with Bush.

  12. Spanish anti-americanism? Easy I believe:

    -The right has not forgotten the Maine
    -The left remember the way the USA had during the 1936-1939 civil war, subsequent years of “friendship” with Franco. (And that on 23 of February 1981 the official US attitude was to effectively back the golpistas)

    Me, I think that the attitude of the USA towards the survivors of the Lincoln Brigade is only better than that of Stalin towards Soviet Spanish war veterans.

    DSW

  13. French are not against american people but I think that they are afraid of American ideology.
    - Neo-cons
    - neo-liberal ideology and small government ideology.
    - Christian fondamentalists.
    These 3 idedology are totally opposite of what most of French believe.
    Since USA try to expand these ideology there will be bad relation with USA, it deeper than Bush.

  14. Hektor : “It’s also a matter of record that three French officers were convicted of spying for Serbia.”

    So I guess the U.S. in the 1940s was officially pro-Stalin, considering the cases of Alger Hiss or Julius Rosenberg. Besides, I can find only one case of a French officer convicted of spying for the Serbs (Major Pierre-Henri Bunel). Maybe you’ll help me with the other two.

    “Yes, the French policy in Yugoslavia was somewhat complex, but it was always pro-Serb.”

    Sounds very much like an auto-shorter to me : yes, the whole matter was kinda grey, but it was black throughout. If France was so pro-Serb, then why were Serbs so pissed off against the French governement at the time? Why didn’t France oppose the Nato intervention in Kosovo, just as Russia did in the Security Council?

    “It continues to be pro-Serb to this day, as evidenced by French actions in Mitrovica.”

    Cue other evidence of the pro-Serb bias of French troops in Kosovo, as reported by HRW :
    “In Svinjare, French KFOR troops failed to come to the assistance of the besieged Serbs, even though their main base was just a few hundred meters away—in fact, the ethnic Albanian crowd had walked right past the base on its way to burning down the village.”
    http://hrw.org/reports/2004/kosovo0704/1.htm#_Toc77665971

    “In many areas of Kosovo, ethnic Albanian crowds attacked Serb residents for hours before international KFOR or UNMIK troops came to their assistance. Slatina, a small village located just southeast of Mitrovica with only thirteen remaining Serb homes at the time of the violence, is a case in point. [...]

    KFOR failed to come to the assistance of the embattled elderly Serbs in Slatina. When the crowd first began to throw stones at the homes, a convoy of four French KFOR vehicles passed through the village, and the Serbs attempted to flag it down. The last KFOR vehicle briefly slowed down, and told the Serbs that they could not stop because they were on their way “to more serious trouble.”101 Shortly before 5 p.m., the Serbs were finally able to contact UNMIK police, which immediately responded by sending three cars.”
    http://hrw.org/reports/2004/kosovo0704/7.htm#_Toc77665991

    “The French support for the Juvenal Habyarimana government was also instrumental in aiding the genocide. The French government also wanted to prevent an expansion of US and British influence in the region (got to protect the Francophonie), so they worked directly to prevent a foreign intervention.”

    Agreed. (and this was pretty stupid on their part, as the US had absolutely no intention of ever intervening in Rwanda).

    “It’s also pretty clear that the Operation Turquoise aided the Hutu army in fighting the RPF. That is, French soldiers were directly involved in fighting the only people who eventually stopped the genocide.”

    No, it isn’t “pretty clear”. The whole point is hotly debated. Especially since there is a big disconnect between the official goals of Turquoise (1. Set up “safe havens” 2. Freeze positions on the ground to try to salvage the Arusha peace agreements; that goal was dropped in mid-July due to the progression of FPR forces) and the accusation that French soldiers helped Hutu officials to flee the country and/or to “finish the job” in suposedly safe zones.

    See for instance this
    http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/dossiers/rwanda/r1271.asp#P4679_690753

    vs this
    http://cec.rwanda.free.fr/documents/Conclusions_provisoires_CEC2.htm

    “So it is not correct to say that Operation Turquoise prevented a humanitarian catastrophe.”

    “Operation Turquoise did have some humanitarian benefits. First, it managed to stop the refugee flow to neighboring Zaire, which could have been highly destabilizing. It did protect the few Tutsis still left in the zone, and it is generally estimated that it protected 13,000-14,000 people. The presence of French troops made feasible the delivery humanitarian assistance.”
    http://66.249.93.104/search?q=cache:fPfE474khU8J:www.beyondintractability.org/documents/Safe_Havens-Rwanda.pdf

  15. Hektor : “Can you give me any situation where the French were instrumental in preventing or halting a genocide?”

    Côte d’Ivoire, 2002.

  16. Sebastian : “That isn’t really fair of course. They blocked the first 3 US attempts for the UN to act as if it were a genocide.”

    Yeah, that was downright shameful and I said so on numerous occasions at the time.
    http://ceteris-paribus.blogspot.com/2004/04/retour-au-soudan.html
    http://ceteris-paribus.blogspot.com/2004/06/darfour-tragique-hypocrisie.html
    http://ceteris-paribus.blogspot.com/2004/07/darfour-quoi-joue-la-diplomatie.html

    “As for anti-Americanis being anti-Bushism, I don’t buy it.”

    I’m not saying that all (or even the majority of) French anti-Americanism is explained by anti-Bushism. Only that Bush is an important factor in the recent spike in negative opinions towards America.

    But you’re right that the underlying anti-Americanism in France was there before Bush, and is in fact existent with varying degrees of intensity since the 18th century (see my comment above and the book by Philippe Roger).
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0226723682/qid=1135889130/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/104-2299710-1045557?n=507846&s=books&v=glance

    JLS : not a bad summary, I would say.

  17. “Easy I believe:”

    Antoni, is it so easy? Sure the points you raise may be important for the political ‘elite’, but – just as in the case of the French – in the popular view are there not more ingredients?

    I can think of a few examples:

    1/ Anti-semitism. This is much stronger in Spain than I had ever imagined before coming. It isn’t violent, as in France, cemetaries are not desecrated, but then Spain isn’t a very violent society? Until the Latin Kings arrived the streets were a lot safer than their UK equivalents, and the metros much better in this sense than the Paris equivalent. The Spanish male who wants to be violent practices it inside his home, with his wife.

    There is a huge primitive underlay of anti-semitism in Spain. The Spanish in general call the Catalans ‘jews’, partly because of their business acumen (the list of countries classified by their economics departments goes something like this US, UK, Sweden, Israel, Catalonia), and partly because, as a matter of fact, a lot of Catalans are Jewish in origin: they simply “converted” under the weight of the Inquisition (those that didn’t flee that is, those that did flee seem to have gone to Austria, and formed an important part of what subsequently became known as Wittgenstein’s Vienna). I once did an informal survey and found that at least one third of the people I know with Catalan surnames think they may be descended from Jewish families.

    The point of all this: well the US is rather well known as a suporter of Israel. How many times have I been told that what I have to remember is the importance of the ‘jewish lobby in US politics’. Also a lot of coverage has been given to the ridiculous 09/11 stories which circulated in France. But the situation here was, if anything, more pronounced: most people simply don’t read the Spanish language press.

    2/. Spain also had an empire. There is a lovely section in Adam Smith’s Wealth of nations about how the easy gold from Latin America corrupted the Spanish ruling elite. Spain never became an innovative society because it became a rentier one. The idea gained currency that you got rich, not by being innovative, but by being crafty (listo). The best type of craftiness is to let the other do the work, and then ‘rob’ the takings.

    So, according to this view, if the US is rich it is because it is a good thief. It is not by creating intellectual property that you earn wealth, but by creating barriers and charging rents. The Spanish right is riddled with protectionist ideas in this sense. Spain in fact registers one fortieth of the annual European patents Germany does (in per capita terms that would be one twentieth) but the average Spanish worker (in SEAT say) still compares their wages with German wages. One curious detail is the huge hypocracy here. The Spanish business elite lived for years (families like the Botin) by charging rents on US ideas. They sent their kids to do masters in the US and get some new business ideas, and then used those ideas in Spain, using acces to the state, control over politicians, and a large number of detailed and stupid regulations to stop anyone else doing likewise.

    One of the first things you notice on coming here is that when a new type of coffee shop opens, there isn’t just one, there is one one every tenth corner: all of them the same.

    3/. I mentioned access of Spain’s ‘clans’ to the state. I think it is important for to understand just what kind of condition Franco actually left Spanish society in. It was a kind of ‘big brother’ state, not in the Orwellian sense, but in the French ‘beuf’ (or beau-frere) one. Everyone lived from their brother-in-law, and the more you had, and the more important they were, then so much the better for you.

    Francoism was once described to me as mixture of ‘organic democracy’ with paranoia. The organic democracy bit was very important since it meant that there was a labour market with a clear insider-outsider boundary (and if you were inside you were protected, hence Spain’s very inflexible labour laws) and there were a fleet of national (nationalised) champions. The important Spanish companies (mainly utilities) were in the state sector. These have mainly recently been privatised, and it is only now, in the last couple of years, that we are seeing the emergence of Spanish home-grown MNCs.

    This – franco – society was rigidly uncreative, so the only new ideas which came were those brought by foreign, mainly US, companies. This was the kind of Franco-US pact. Franco allowed Spain to form an integral part of the anti-Soviet groundplan, and in return US companies were encouraged to set-up. This close association, and the existence of a weak, corrupt state, allowed the MNCs to have huge power and influence, a power and influence which they often abused, and this is what has lead to all the resentment.

    Take the pharmaceutical sector. It was,virtually impossible for big pharma to get a new medicine on-sale here, on the approved medicines list, without a huge cheque to someone in the ministry of health.

    Also people in Spain are very sensitive to what happens in Latin America. This is strange, because the normal Spanish attitude is a kind of soft-racism, calling them ‘sudacas’ and things like that. But, as with the British and India, there are still felt to be strong cultural ties.

    In the 1960s a book was published with the suggestive title “Latin America’s Open Veins”. It was mainly about the activities of companies like United Fruit. It was a sign of its times. The thing is this kind of approach still characterises popular Spanish conceptions. The US are in Iraq simply to ‘rob’ the oil. Quite how the mechanics of the ‘robbery’ would work, or whether or not Repsol would in the end participate in the ‘robbery’ no-one seems quite sure. In fact they mainly seem to be bemused by even being asked.

    This has been long, too long. I want to stress that what I have tried to outline above is a map of the old Spain, the Spain that is changing. A new Spain is being born, even if it sometimes seems to be a terribly slow process. The first-term of José Maria Aznar (when the PP didn’t have an absolute majority) was one step on the road, the current government of Zapatero (where again the PSOE doesn’t have an absolute majority) is another.

    The question here however was: what are the origins of the prejudices.

  18. “They were pro-Clinton, but still had lots of expressions of anti-Americanism. The ridiculousness over an environmental treaty that the EU is not going to fully implement, and would never have done much about global warming”

    I agree with you, of course, Sebastian that anti-Americanism is an old phenomenon, and Bush is a pretty recent arriver on that old scene, but I think there is a danger of confusing two things here: the fact that different societies hold different core values, and whether or not those societies respect each others opinions.

    I would argue – and an examination of the proposed EU constitution would confirm this – that we in Europe (including the UK) do have different “tastes and preferences” (as Milton Friedman would call them) from the majority of US citizens.

    We enjoy having more holidays
    We don’t accept the death penalty
    We consider access for all to a comprehensive medical system a high priority

    and

    We place a higher priority than people in the US tend to do on environmental issues and the global warming challenge.

    These are all values which each society is free to chose or not chose to adopt on their own merits, they have nothing to do with whether or not you are anti-American.

    You may be right that Kyoto may not do much about global warming, and that the EU governments (as with the hypocrital take on the CIA flights issue) are operating double standards. But that is an argument for a new and much tougher version of Kyoto, which I’m sure we’ll get, eventually. Being a pragmatist I see Kyoto as at least a start.

  19. Emmanuel,

    I feel compelled to side with Hektor in his assessment of Opération Turquoise. To cite only a recent article, Le Monde 09.12.05 has compiled detailed testimonies of violence perpetrated by or under the aegis of french soldiers in Murabi refugee camp (I would add that none of this should not be very surprising to anyone even vaguely familiar to the conduct of the french army in Africa). Evidence that France helped carry a genocidal policy in Rwanda seems to me overwhelming.

    However, Hektor’s vision of the Yougoslavian conflict seems one-sided to me. Let us suppose, for the sake of the argument, that France was pro-serb through and through (a position that is absurd by the way, no need to mention the abstract anger of the Serb government, France actively participated in operation Deliberate force against the Bosnian Serbian Army and lost a Mirage 2000 due to Serb SAM, but let’s suppose it). According to Hektor, that makes France on the genocidal side of the Yougoslavian conflict. However, NATO as a whole was decidely on the croatian side of Operation Storm (the ethnic cleansing of Krajina), so by Hektor’s standard, every country in NATO (and particularly the US and… France) was on the genocidal side during the Yougoslavian conflict (or at least, on the side of atrocious human rights violation). So, while Hektor is right that France supported human rights violators (actually on both sides of the conflict), each and every country in Nato is guilty of the same.

    So why do French believe their country is dedicated to prevent genocide. Well, I guess state propaganda can do wonders. I also remark that in his excellent sociological studies of opinion polls, Patrick Champagne argues that on many questions, people tend to answer not what they think the objective answer is but rather what they would like the answer to be. It seems plausible to me that the answer to a question about genocides might suffer from this effect.

  20. “I feel compelled to side with Hektor”

    My god, this discussion is in danger of becoming really interesting.

    I am basically on Emmanuel’s side here, but all this needs a lot of qualification. I mean the strong argument Hektor puts can probably be rejected: France is not an officially pro-genocide society, but the weaker version of it put by Z – essentially that France isn’t a country that makes a particularly strong effort to stop genocide, or that this doesn’t have the priority it should have is much harder to refute.

    Cambodia would be another example. What did anyone do about Cambodia? Kissinger is probably a war criminal for bombing the place, but what did the French actually do to stop what happened later?

    Genocide is obviously only an extreme case of a much more general problem of extreme violence.

    I will take just two examples, the battle of Paris of 1961 and the Latin American Operation Condor.

    The Battle of Paris:

    In 1998, the Algerian newspaper Liberté was seized by police to prevent distribution of this article in France. According to Reporters Sans Frontières, on 19 October 1998, French police seized the 17 October edition of the Algerian daily Liberté at Lyon airport. No official reason was given for the move. However, Reporters Sans Frontières believed it to be connected with an article by Hakim Sadek entitled “When the Seine was full of bodies”. Liberté was publishing this article to mark the 35th anniversary of a demonstration by Algerians in Paris that led to an estimated 200 Algerians being killed by police. Below is the full version of the article as published by Liberté.”

    http://www.fantompowa.net/Flame/algerians_liberte.htm

    The Argentine Dictatorship:

    According to the ex interior minister of the Argentine dictatorship of the 1970s – as narrated to the French journalist Marie Monique Robin for a French Canal Plus documentary – the military in Argentina were instructed in anti-insurgency techniques and torture by members of the French military (based on experiences in the Algerian war).

    http://www.pagina12.com.ar/diario/elpais/1-24949.html

    Harguindeguy sostiene que el gobierno de entonces, presidido por Valery Giscard D’Estaing apoyaba a la dictadura militar, y narra que su colega francés Michel Poniatowski “vino con cartas credenciales en nombre del Ejército francés para establecer relaciones coordinadas, intercambio de información”.

    “Según Harguindeguy los instructores franceses “nos enseñaron la división del territorio nacional en zonas de operaciones, los métodos de interrogación, el tratamiento de prisioneros de guerra, la subordinación policial al Ejército”.”

    In basic English what Harguindeguy suggests is that Giscrad D’Estaing (that great admirer of European culture and values) sent Michel Poniatowski on a mission to Argentina to get a training contract from the Argentina military.

    (This has some basis of coherence about it, since those of us who can remember the Malvinas war will remember that they were French made Exocet missiles which did so much damage to British ships and cost so many British seamen’s lives. The heroic Argentine pilots – heroic becuse they went to almost certain death – also flew French made Mirage jets).

    Now Harguindeguy goes on to say that having got the arms for training deal what the French showed them was how to divide the territory into operational zones, methods for interogating and treating prisoners, and how to subordinate the police to the military.

    I raise these two issues simply to say that there is some evidence of an ‘anomaly’ in the operation of the French state, and in particular of issues relating to the defence industry and foreign policy, issues which can often lead to being complicit in human rights abuses.

    In this, once more, France is not dis-similar to the United States. The funny thing is that many French people seem to look at Guantanamo and say: ‘who me?’.

    While I fully support all the work that is being put in to help get Turkey to recognise what happened to the Armenians, I also think all of us should be busy checking that our own house is fully in order before starting to lecture others.

  21. Emmanuel,

    I’d give it up on Operation Turquoise. You say yourself that one of the objectives was to freeze the front lines. Since the RPF were essentially taking over the country, that meant in practice shielding the Hutu army and genocidaires from the RPF and mandated fighting the RPF.

    I am willing to modify my statement. I’ll agree that French policy is not uniformly pro-genocide. But it is clear that human rights abuses in general are sublimated to other political goals by the French government.

    In Yugoslavia,

    Not a single war criminal has been arrested by the French forces in Bosnia, who have their own zone. Their zone was well known as a haven for war criminals wanted by the UN. (A couple were picked up by German forces working in the French zone.)

    French forces are complicit in the division of Mitrovica, and did nothing to prevent a Serb reign of the northern part of the town and ethnic cleansing there.

    French pressure was one main reason that there was no substantial European effort on Bosnia until the Americans became involved. Part of the reason the Serbs are so angry with the French is that they considered them their allies and protectors, and expected them to fulfill this role to the end.

    Do you really think there was a chance of genocide in the Ivory Coast, considering that the rebel forces were winning? Note the perfect symmetry – France regularly intervenes militarily in Africa to prop up its clients.

    But I agree with Edward and Z that the larger issue considering much more than genocide is more interesting. The neo-colonialist actions of the French military in Africa are pretty amazing, and in many cases seem to proceed without much oversight by the French parliament.

  22. There are actually two cases:

    “In 1998 a French liaison officer [Herve Gourmelon] was accused of allegedly scuppering an attempt to arrest the Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic by leaking details of the plan.” It is well known that he was meeting with war criminals, but the French deny that he leaked information.

    The French UN contingent deliberately leaked information after the mortar attack on Sarajevo that it was committed by the Bosniaks.

    The pattern is pretty clear there.

    Bunel himself claims that he was following the orders of higher-ups. It is also quite interesting how lenient his sentence actually ended up being: only 10 months.

    It is interesting also, that other NATO countries openly blamed Serbian sympathies in the French military for hindering their campaign in the Balkans.

  23. Z : actually, I don’t disagree at all with your summary. What I was objecting to was the characterization of France as objectively “pro-genocide”. That’s way too strong, even in the case of Rwanda, which is surely one the worst foreign policy failure of France since the end of the decolonization.

    Edward : “there is some evidence of an ‘anomaly’ in the operation of the French state, and in particular of issues relating to the defence industry and foreign policy, issues which can often lead to being complicit in human rights abuses.

    In this, once more, France is not dis-similar to the United States.”

    Absolutely. We’ve gone full circle here.

    Hektor : “I’ll agree that French policy is not uniformly pro-genocide. But it is clear that human rights abuses in general are sublimated to other political goals by the French government.”

    Sadly, I don’t think that France is alone there. That characterization could be used to describe any country. Though I’d say that, among Western countries, the French governement is not particularly at the top of the league when it comes to defending human rights abroad. Remember what Chirac said in Tunisia?
    http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/01/13/tunisi9801.htm

    “French pressure was one main reason that there was no substantial European effort on Bosnia until the Americans became involved.”

    IIRC, a lot of things changed when Chirac replaced Miterrand in 1995. I’m not (at all) a Chirac fan, but at least he was willing to adopt a much stronger position than Miterrand in Bosnia.

    “Part of the reason the Serbs are so angry with the French is that they considered them their allies and protectors, and expected them to fulfill this role to the end.”

    Yeah sure. That’s what I was saying all along. Now can we agree that France was not “always pro-Serb”?

    “The neo-colonialist actions of the French military in Africa are pretty amazing, and in many cases seem to proceed without much oversight by the French parliament.”

    Agreed. Foreign policy has traditionnaly been considered as the “domaine reservé” of the Président de la République. When a lack of oversight meets neo-colonialist tendencies, the result is not often pretty.

    “There are actually two cases”

    You’re moving the goalposts here. Two guys suspected, just one conviction. We’re still two convictions shy of the three you announced.

    “Bunel himself claims that he was following the orders of higher-ups.”

    You really wouldn’t thought he would have tried that line of defense if it wasn’t true, do you?

    “It is also quite interesting how lenient his sentence actually ended up being: only 10 months.”

    2 years, actually.

  24. You are right about there not being three convictions, but there are three separate suspects.

    Pierre-Henri Bunel: Could have gotten 15 years, ended up with 2 years (+ 3 years suspended sentence), only served ten months. So you are right that the sentence was for 2 years, but he only served ten months.

    Herve Gourmelon: known to have met with war criminals, but French deny he leaked information. Calling his actions “inappropriate”, he was immediately recalled to France when his possible involvement in tipping off Kardazic was discovered.

    In 2002, another French army officer deliberately wrecked a Nato attempt to capture Karadzic. Telephone records were printed in newspapers, but the French officer was never identified, as far as I can tell.

    When you couple this with the fact that the French military has been unable to capture a single war criminal in the entire time they have been in Bosnia, it looks worse and worse.

    I don’t think you can deny that the French military has been effectively shielding war criminals in Bosnia from capture. Why do you think they do that? Is it because they are so committed to preventing genocide?

  25. The French people do not hate Americans.

    In fact, the French have, over the years, coopted a lot of American culture. They admire American society for its dynamism; they love American music, and, yes, they love McDonald!

    What the French — and the rest of the world — do not like are the middle-finger, F… you policies of the Bush Administration.

    The French went along without a murmur with the war in Afghanistan. They are still there.

    They balked — along with Russia, Germany, and Mexico — at going to war with Iraq because there were no good reasons (as many of us long suspected, and as we all now definitely know) to go to war with Iraq. There was not one Iraqi in sight among the 9/11 terrorists. In fact, most of them were Saudis. We should have gone to war against Saudi Arabia, but of course, it was not possible, given that the Bush and Cheney families are oilmen with tight relationships with the Saudi oil monarchy!

    So, why are the French demonized and not the Russians or the Mexicans? This is just prejudice.

    The French — and the rest of the world — are disgusted by the arrogant and imperialistic attitude of the Bush Administration and its corollaries: total disregard of old allies (the Rumsfeld’s comment about “Old Europe”); total disregard for the Geneva Convention and other international laws; total disregard for sovereignty by kidnapping people on foreign soil for rendition purposes…

    Stop blaming the French. They like Americans. They hate our current government. So do many Americans, anyway.

  26. I’ll add another item to the French pro-genocide list. Withdrawal of French aircraft from the northern no-fly zone in Iraq protecting the Kurds and refusal to support a southern no-fly zone protecting the Shi’ites after Saddam took further action against them a few years after the Gulf War. That no genocide occurred was due to the fact that British and Americans continued to patrol the no flyzones, with Saddam taking potshots at them for much of the time. Soon after France pulled out they won a variety of contracts with Iraq. Not to mention, they participated in the corruption of the Oil-for-Food program.

    As for no reason going after Iraq, you obviously have not truly understood. There is a very obvious reason for dealing with Saddam. One of the major reasons for al Qaeda targeting the US was to force an end of all aspects of containment of Iraq, including forcing the withdrawal of US (and eventually British) forces from SA (Islamists attacked those forces), ending interdiction operations that maintained sanctions that were intended to prevent Saddam from purchasing WMD materials and trading oil to gain access to hard currency (Cole bombing), and the ending of the no-flyzones that protected Kurds and Shi’ites (an al Qaeda group planned to attack the Inclirik airbase in Turkey at which aircraft flying the no flyzones were based, but found it difficult to penetrate, so they attacked British banks in Turkey instead). 9/11 and the embassy bombings in Africa were part of the plot to force Americans to change policy. The policy change would have to include the end of containment of Iraq and protection of the Kurds. 3000 dead Americans in numerous terrorist attacks over a decade is reason enough to end containment and deal with Saddam permanently.

    Lest you think this is some sort of “Neo-con Republican Facist” rationalization, former Senator Bob Kerrey from Nebraska, a Democrat, said soon after the USS Cole bombing that the US should get rid of Saddam because al Qaeda is justifying its attacks on the US partly on the basis of containment.

  27. ATM,

    Like your fellow rightnutters you are suffering from an acute case of personalitycultiismite. This translates into blind following of Dear Leader, and a singular alacrity to cheer on the dictator-du-jour and enthusiastically participate in its evil work.

    Had your monstrosity of a President spent the humongous resources that Congress gave him after 9/11 to actually capture Bin Laden and destroy the various cells of Al-Qaeda and would-be Al-Qaeda, the U.S. and the world would be a lot safer. Had he spent some of these resources protecting our ports, tunnels, bridges, chemical and nuclear plants, we would be a lot safer. The former members of the 9/11 commission recently gave the Administration Ds and Fs for its abysmal incompetence at handling domestic security.

    Your moronic war-monger of a President does no longer even offer a rationale for going into Iraq: no WMDs, no connections with 9/11 (unlike Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, our beloved “allies” and great beacons of democracy),no connection between Hussein and Bin Laden — as any half-wit would know since one was secular,the other,a religious fanatic –, nothing, nada, zilch!

    As for Hussein, it was not that long ago that Rumsfeld was visiting him in Iraq, shaking his hand and supplying his regime with money and weapons to fight Iran in the Iraq-Iran war.

    So, get off the Kool-Aid. And stop obsessing about the French. It’s people like you, deranged, stupid, unworldly, ill-informed, and bigoted, who give Americans a bad name.

    Hopefully, the next few years will see the impeachment and the demise of the Bush-Cheney dictatorship. And people like you will finally crawl back into whatever stinking hole you came from.

  28. Devil’s advocate, you are a moron. Your calling the US dictatorship belies your warped mindset.

    I made no assertion that Saddam had anything to do with the planning of 9/11. However, anyone with a bit of common sense would have to admit that is awfully convenient for Saddam that there was this terrorist group with stated goals that would benefit Saddam the most if the US caved in to them. Very little al Qaeda wanted would benefit the Saudi government or anyone else on the otherhand.

    As for the 9/11 commission, that commission became worthless when they became hyperpartisan. And one member in particular should not have been on that committee, Jamie Gorelick, who was reponsible for aspects of anti-terror policy during the Clinton administration that weakened the ability to share intelligence between different agencies in the US government.

    Anyway, would you agree that France walking away from patrolling the no-flyzones was fundamentally a pro-genocide move? Don’t you agree that it is fishy that France would receive contracts from Iraq soon afterwards? Wouldn’t a reasonable person view that as an act of betrayal when American and British pilots continued to patrol the no flyzones under fire from Iraqi forces?

  29. ATM,

    Your hatred of the French evidently stems from abysmal ignorance of French culture and history.

    So, the French government was against the war in Iraq? Maybe it was because they have experience fighting wars they could not win because these were insurgency wars (Indochina, Algeria) as opposed to front-line wars.

    In any event, you clearly harbor some insane hatred of French people. I bet that you have never been to France, that you have never had a conversation with an average French person, that you have no knowledge of French literature, culture, history,or any rudiments of the French language.

    No wonder you have been lapping up the spin of the BushCo Administration. Your Dear Leader says that the world is black and white (you are either for us, or you are for the terrorists) and you goose-step along like the mindless drone that you are.

  30. Actually the only western country that attempted genocide (but shied away in the last moment) was the USA in Vietnam: 3.5 million murdered.

  31. “Actually the only western country that attempted genocide”

    Well this is to forget rather a lot of things, including the holocaust.

    I think that despite the appauling death in the Vietnam war, and the wholsesale use of chemical weaponry, the key issue in the Vietnam case was what subsequently happened in Cambodia. This makes me very nervous indeed in the Iraq context today.

  32. Edward, you worry about the wrong things. A victorious, democratic Iraq is something that is to be feared. A Cambodian end is only bad for the Iraqi’s