For Mr. Marbles, Something to Chew On

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  1. Annie

    Annie Diamond Member

    Nov 22, 2003
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    D-Day, Chirac Style
    From the June 21, 2004 issue: How France and its allies liberated Germany, and other E.U. fantasies.
    by Irwin M. Stelzer
    06/21/2004, Volume 009, Issue 39

    RONALD REAGAN would be proud of George W. Bush. The president so many Americans are now so fondly remembering had to face down a contemptuous foreign policy establishment for years, when the received wisdom was that his policies were a failure. Reagan didn't win the Cold War without setbacks; Bush is now going through a similar rough period with his Middle East policy.

    Early on, Ronald Reagan was told by the foreign policy establishment not to upset the status quo in Europe, but to stick to the established policy of containment. He declined, choosing to upset the long-standing policies of his predecessors and go for victory, rather than a standoff in the Cold War. George W. Bush was told by the foreign policy establishment not to upset the status quo in the Middle East, but to stick to the policy of containing Saddam and dealing amicably with the corrupt dictators of the oil-rich region. He declined, choosing instead to go to war to unseat Saddam, and to launch a program to destabilize the region by introducing democratic and economic reforms. Reagan won his bet that the Cold War could be won, and it now looks as if Bush could win his bet that a reformed Iraq can serve as a model for other countries in the Middle East.

    But Bush's tenacity, even including his ability to wring from the Security Council a resolution endorsing his Iraq policy, will in the end do little to bring back what are misremembered as the good old days of multilateral cooperation. The president may have taken to calling German chancellor Gerhard Schröder by his first name, and to giving joint press conferences with Chirac, but those moves are designed in part to make nonsense of John Kerry's charge that America is isolated in the world. Franco-American relations remain just about where they were before the June 6 celebrations of the anniversary of the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy.

    This being Chirac's home turf, he got to set the stage, using $54 million of his taxpayers' money to make certain that the backdrop showed him to advantage. And an ahistorical stage it was. The flags of nations that had nothing to do with the landings were represented, to the surprise of those of us who do not remember Sweden as supporting the Allied cause during World War II. Even the E.U. flag was on parade, although it did not exist on June 6, 1944.

    Then, too, watching the weight accorded in the ceremonies to the French contribution on that historic and bloody day, one could easily get the impression that the French self-liberated. Never mind that de Gaulle was not told about the invasion until June 4, or that only 500 of the 156,000 troops involved in the invasion were Free French fighters (who fought very well), far fewer than were then in the service of the Nazis in Vichy France.

    Chirac's inflation of the role of France in the D-Day invasion might be chalked up to national pride. But his insistence on including German chancellor Gerhard Schröder in the celebration, despite the fact that German troops were on the hills shooting down at the beaches on which the Allied troops landed, is another matter. The French president was eager to put on display a Franco-German alliance that is forged in steel, and is prepared to be the core of a united Europe that will counter the American hyperpower. Chirac made it clear that the invitation to the German chancellor was designed not only to trumpet the reconciliation between these historic enemies. It was also aimed at giving further impetus to the creation of a European superstate, populated by what Schröder in his remarks called "Citizens of Europe." This new superstate, France believes, will have the population, economic muscle, and geopolitical reach to rival the United States. And when the new European constitution is signed in a few days, the E.U. will become a legal entity, with its own supranational police, court system, foreign policy, and national song. No more unipolar world, say the French, even though the Europeans will continue to direct the bulk of their resources to their welfare states rather than to their militaries.

    By way of reciprocation, Schröder thanked "France and its allies" and "Russia" for--in the words of CNN's Christiane Amanpour--"liberating" Germany from the Nazis. No mention of America. The implication that some foreign body had imposed Hitler on an unwilling German populace, and that France had "liberated" Germany probably came as no surprise to experienced CNN and Amanpour fans.

    The Chirac-Schröder love-in was a response to attitudes in their own countries--attitudes not independent of the repeated attacks on America by the French and German leaders, skilled practitioners of the art of whipping up anti-American feeling. A poll in Le Figaro shows that 82 percent of the French believe the Germans are their best allies; fewer than half of those polled by Le Parisien believe that France has a moral debt to the United States. And we don't need polling data to know the extent of the anti-American feeling that Schröder rode to victory in the last election. Stefan Baron, editor in chief of Wirtschaftswoche (a business weekly) writes, "Schröder would like Germany--with the help of Europe--to become a moral power in opposition to America."

    But Schröder has a problem. The Eastern European countries that have newly joined the E.U., and are about to take seats in the European parliament and positions in the eurocracy, are staunchly pro-American. As important, they provide promising markets for German products and attractive areas for German investment--facts that have not gone unnoticed by the German industrial community, which is unenthused by Schröder's anti-Americanism, not to mention his reneging on his promise to reform Germany's sclerotic economy.

    Schröder also is angling for a permanent seat on the Security Council, a plum he is unlikely to get in almost any circumstance, and certain to be denied if he continues his direct attacks on the United States. So look for a major grovel from here on out, out of sight of German voters if possible. Already, U.S. officials are telling the American press that last week's meeting between Bush and Schröder was their best since the Iraq war. To which the cautious might reply that the Gerhard Schröder who meets privately with the American president in Sea Island, Georgia, is not the same Gerhard Schröder who harangues voters in Berlin, Germany.

    As for Chirac, who refused to leave his perch on the top of the steps of the lysée Palace to welcome Bush, as is customary, he spent D-Day invoking the values of the U.N. A peaceful world order, he told the crowd in Normandy, is "symbolized and guaranteed today by the Charter of the United Nations"--the clear and intended message being that military action that is not authorized by the U.N. is somewhere between illegal and immoral. Bush was having none of it: He countered with references to "all the liberators who fought here"--the WWII coalition of the willing--and added, "America would do it again for our friends," contrasting U.S. reliability with France's more, er, pragmatic approach to world affairs.

    Chirac's performance benefited mightily from his tolerance of wide chasms between his words and his deeds. "France will never forget what it owes America," the French president told some 6,000 D-Day veterans and assorted guests in his talk on Sunday in the Norman coastal town of Arromanches. A few days later he opposed America's requests for deeper involvement of NATO in the pacification of Iraq, saying such a move would not be "opportune"; fought to water down Bush's program to foster the growth of democratic institutions in the Middle East, stating that he opposed such "missionary" work; and responded with a vigorous "non" to Bush's plea that Iraq's creditors join America in forgiving "the vast majority" of the debts incurred by Iraq during Saddam Hussein's regime. (Within the G-8 nations, Japan is owed $4.1 billion, Russia $3.5 billion, France $3 billion, Germany $2.4 billion, and the United States $2.2 billion.) And just to make certain that none of the anti-American voters at home get any idea that he has moved too close to the Americans, Chirac decided to pass up President Reagan's funeral to keep an unspecified "previous commitment" in Europe.

    Apparently, remembering one's debt to America, France's "steadfast friend and ally," and honoring that debt are two different things. Iraq's monetary debt to France must, Chirac insists, be paid, but France's moral debt to America remains in the need-not-repay file.

    What has come to be the heads-of-state equivalent of Nathan Detroit's oldest established permanent floating crap game now moves on. It opened in Normandy, moved on to Sea Island, stopped briefly in Washington to honor the memory of the highest roller of them all, Ronald Reagan, and is headed for an E.U.-U.S. summit in Newmarket-on-Fergus in County Clare, Ireland, before taking a final bow at a NATO summit in Istanbul on June 27-28.

    So far, George W. Bush and Tony Blair are the big winners, and Chirac the biggest loser. Bush, with Blair backing his play, bet that he could rake in support for the U.S.-U.K. policy in Iraq, and won unanimous Security Council backing for the new Iraqi government, headed by Ghazi al-Yawar, who was educated in America. Chirac, with Schröder blowing on his dice, lost, and found himself increasingly isolated as Bush's team emphasized the president's warm personal relationships with Blair, Russian president Vladimir Putin, Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, and Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Indeed, when asked at a press conference preceding the D-Day celebrations whether Chirac is likely to get an invitation to the Bush ranch at Crawford, Texas, the president responded that if Chirac wanted to go there to "stare at cows," he was more than welcome to do so.

    Bush bet that he could get the G-8 to support the first step in an initiative to foster democracy in the despotic countries of the Middle East, Chirac bet he would roll snake eyes, only to watch a seven come up. Bush bet that he could get NATO involved in Iraq, Chirac bet that he couldn't, but lost the pot when he had to concede that if the Iraqis ask NATO for help, help would be provided.

    On D-Day, in Normandy, the French president was playing with his own dice in his own house, and raked in a few chips--favorable television images but very little to put in the bank. A few days later, on Sea Island, the American president had the hot hand, and walked away with just about every pot, sharing his winnings with his ally, Tony Blair, by agreeing to an effort to revive the Middle East peace process. Not a bad week for a president and a prime minister who only a few weeks ago were being written off as real losers.

    Irwin M. Stelzer is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard, director of economic policy studies at the Hudson Institute, and a columnist for the Sunday Times (London).

    © Copyright 2004, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.

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