July 04, 2006

Uncle Gulliver

By Callimachus

"They apprehended my breaking loose, that my Diet would be very expensive, and might cause a Famine. Sometimes they determined to starve me, or at least to shoot me in the Face and Hands with poisoned Arrows, which would soon dispatch me: But again they considered, that the Stench of so large a Carcass might produce a Plague in the Metropolis, and probably spread through the whole Kingdom." Jonathan Swift, "A Voyage to Lilliput," in Gulliver's Travels
Uncle Sam, the American Gulliver, peers down at edgy Europe in "Überpower: The Imperial Temptation of America," a new book by Josef Joffe, editor of the scrupulously centrist German newspaper "Die Zeit." The book gets a review by William Grimes here (and last time I checked the review had not been banished behind the subscription wall). Joffe gets an essential truth out in the open that is too often forgotten.
It does not matter what the United States does, Mr. Joffe argues. The mere fact that it can act with impunity causes alarm. To Europeans, the new United States looks like Gulliver did to the Lilliputians: a giant whose intentions are uncertain and whom they would prefer to see bound by a thousand little ropes. "Their motto is: let him be strong as long as he is in harness, be it self-chosen or imposed," he writes.
Understanding that could help a lot of us here in America grasp the otherwise (to us) baffling poll results that show whomping majorities in Europe find America a greater threat to peace than Iran or North Korea. It also explains the perverse rooting for American failure in Iraq among many Europeans who ought to know better. Joffe seems to agree:
European opposition to the current Iraq war, in this analysis, becomes clearer. France and Germany, joined by Russia and China, joined forces to frustrate American designs, not simply on the merits of the case, but also as a matter of principle or instinct. Success in Iraq would only make the United States more powerful and therefore more unpredictable and threatening: "America's triumph would grant yet more power to the one and only superpower — and this on a stage where it had already reduced France and Russia, the E.U. and the U.N., to bit players," Mr. Joffe writes.
There's a danger, of course, in treating Gulliver psychology as though it explains everything. One may oppose the American experiment in Iraq on perfectly principled grounds, or even out of a genuine love for the United States. More likely, based on my discussions with European friends, Gulliver syndrome and principled arguments are so woven into each other they're a seamless fabric. My German friends especially tell me to just get used to the fact that America is going to be hated and resented, rationally or not, simply because it is powerful. But the taint of irrationality makes the resentment too easy to dismiss. Joffe expresses it well:
Anti-Americanism, Mr. Joffe argues, can sometimes be as complex, paranoid and all-encompassing as anti-Semitism. "Like the Jews who were simultaneously denounced as capitalist bloodsuckers and communist subversives, America gets it coming and going," he writes. It is puritanical and self-indulgent, philistine and elitist, ultrareligious and materialist. When it does not intervene, say, in Rwanda, it is wrong. When it does intervene, it is accused of naked imperialism.
Or, as the "Telegraph" put it in a recent editorial:
Americans find themselves damned either way. If they remain within their own borders, they are isolationist hicks who are shirking their responsibilities. If they intervene, they are rapacious imperialists. Indeed, many of their detractors manage to hold these two ideas in their heads simultaneously. Yet a moment's thought should reveal that they are both unfair.
The Telegraph editorial was written in response to a recent poll in Britain which reveal the utter contempt most of them have for most of us:
In answer to other questions, a majority of the Britons questions described Americans as uncaring, divided by class, awash in violent crime, vulgar, preoccupied with money, ignorant of the outside world, racially divided, uncultured and in the most overwhelming result (90 percent of respondents) dominated by big business.
Which might sting, but only if you don't know your history. In the 18th century Thomas Jefferson had to work hard to rebut Comte de Buffon's scietific assertion that American mammals -- including, according to some of Buffon's French naturalist followers, Americans themselves -- were degenerate runts. Ninteenth century British publications poured out invective on everything they deigned to notice from the United States. The usual practice of British authors was to take every slander of one American by another in a hot political campaign as an absolute truth, and to present the most degraded characters from the frontier or the slum as the typical inhabitant of the United States.

"Both the travelers and the literary journalists of [England]," wrote Timothy Dwight the elder, "have, for reasons which it would be idle to inquire after and useless to allege, thought it proper to caricature the Americans. Their pens have been dipped in gall, and their representations have been, almost merely, a mixture of malevolence and falsehood."

And this was long before America threatened anyone else's sense of national security. The hatred was strong enough to overpower logic, even then. In 1863 the Very Rev. Henry Alford, DD, dean of Canterbury, wrote a "Plea for the Queen's English" which decried the "deterioration" of English in American mouths. He warned Englishmen to hold aloof from the American way with the language and compared the state of English in America to "the character and history of the nation":
its blunted sense of moral obligations and duties to man; its open disregard of conventional right when aggrandizement is to be obtained; and I may now say, its reckless and fruitless maintenance of the most cruel and unprincipled war in the history of the world.
It was the familiar list of crimes and vices and hypocrisies. Every learned Englishman could rehearse it and many of the finest writers, such as Coleridge and Sydney Smith, bent their considerable talents to spelling it out at length. Except that, coming in the middle of the American Civil War, Alford's screed replaced a now-doubtful entry in the catalogue of American vice with a freshly minted one. As H.L. Mencken noted, "Smith had denounced slavery, whereas Alford, by a tremendous feat of moral virtuosity, was now denouncing the war to put it down." Eventually America, emerging into a world power, found itself in a world shaped -- or unshaped -- by 300 years of European dominance: Artificial nations strewn across the map of Africa and the Middle East, dysfunctional ex-colonies, all that seething resentment of "the West" in Arab and Asian peoples. Joffe picks up the plot:
The United States is on top for the foreseeable future, in Mr. Joffe's view. That is its inescapable fate. "America has interests everywhere; it cannot withdraw into indifference or isolation, and so all the world's troubles land on its plate," he writes. The problem, as Henry A. Kissinger put it recently, is how to translate power into consensus. Without it, the United States can act, but it cannot succeed.
Kissinger's dilemma seems impossible to solve. How can you convince people they agree with you because they want to, when they -- and you -- know perfectly well you can act without them, or coerce them, or even force them. But we could do better at it than we have, and we should try. What should the Lilliputians try in return? How about trying to swallow some of the stupid and senseless expressions of contempt. As the "Telegraph" Editorial puts it:
To dislike a country as diverse as America is misanthropic: America, more than any other state, contains the full range of humanity between its coasts.
Posted by Callimachus at July 4, 2006 07:00 PM

"To Europeans, the new United States looks like Gulliver did to the Lilliputians: a giant whose intentions are uncertain and whom they would prefer to see bound by a thousand little ropes."

The picture of Gulliver and the Lilliputians works a lot better as a picture of the U.N., where those "little ropes" are a part of the working constitution of that organization.

Outside of political leaders, I think some Europeans are motivated by grievances, historically real or imagined, that target USA Gulliver, versus theoretical necessities about needed political checks & balances. These folks probably would not think of themselves as lilliputians either.

I think that group wants to see a thousand defeats as an emotionally satisfying event, a comeuppance. These polls seem to reflect a knee-jerk abstract hatred.

Posted by: Johnny Eck at July 4, 2006 08:22 PM

This is dead on. Oh well.

Americans, throw on your kevlar because the long knives are coming out. Don't trust canadians (they hate you more than any other country) and expect a sticker in the kidney from a so-called friend. It won't matter because we are blessed with two kidney's and glocks, but it's good to prepare for the short term.

Posted by: mike at July 4, 2006 11:57 PM

You probably know it, but James W. Ceaser's piece "A genealogy of anti-Americanism" is worth reading in this context. Sample: "Not only does anti-Americanism make rational discussion impossible, it threatens the idea of a community of interests between Europe and America. Indeed, it threatens the idea of the West itself. According to the most developed views of anti-Americanism, there is no community of interests between the two sides of the Atlantic because America is a different and alien place."

Posted by: Michael Greenspan at July 5, 2006 12:19 AM

The Euston Manifesto is fairly powerful argument against the irrational anti-Americanism.

It's very important to publicize it, and some reasons for it, and make fun of it.

Everything that happens, or doesn't happen, is the Americans' fault.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at July 5, 2006 02:44 AM

It's really hard, as an Americophile Brit, to see that sort of attitude from my countrymen. It is evidence of a widespread lack of critical thinking, amongst other things. The same people who responded to that survey and gave negative answers about America are often the same kinds of people who think that barbaric practices from other countries can be excused on the grounds that they are "cultural". [A long-standing friendship recently came to an end because I couldn't see how my friend was always willing to excuse every bad thing that someone from a third world country did, in essence because "they can't be expected to know any better". No, he didn't actually say that, but that what all his arguments boiled down to. I think that's a prime example of the bigotry of low expectations, and when I told him so, somehow it turned out in his mind that I was the racist!]

I just can't see everyone's problem with America. Sure, you're not perfect, but you're a functioning democracy, and your Constitution is a wonderful document. Oh, that every country had such a document setting out their citizens' rights. (And what rights they are!) I think that those who bitch about America would do better to turn their attentions to countries where the people have no rights, no justice - there are a lot of them.

As for the paragraph you quoted from the Telegraph - I am frankly embarrassed that the respondents to that poll couldn't see that they were describing themselves! I am very fond of my country and my countrymen, but the "divided by class" bit especially pissed me off! Which country is it whose head of state got where she was by being born noble? Oh yeah, that's right. And which is the country where, at least technically, anyone can become President as long as they were born there? Right again.

The "awash in violent crime" bit tickled me as well: as a young woman living in a big town, I'm scared to be out on my own after about 10pm. I've been the victim of assault more than once, and I don't know anyone - anyone - in my age group who hasn't either been victim of or witness to a violent crime.

As for "vulgar" ... Google "Jodie Marsh". I have nothing more to say!

I think a lot of it - but not all - is down to the demonisation of America by our press. The only newspaper in which the BBC advertises its job vacancies is the Guardian, which is rabidly anti-American and has been for a long time. That's crept insidiously into our public broadcasting and it is a rare comedy show or panel discussion that doesn't feature at least one snidey jab at America or Americans.

Of course, like I said, America isn't perfect. Nor are Americans. Living close to London, I have seen more than my fair share of the obnoxious, ignorant, obese American tourist-type. The difference between me and most Britons (from the results of that poll, at least) is that I know that type of person is about as representative of America as the football hooligan is of Britain, or the terrorist of the Middle East.

It's a shame that these attitudes are so prevalent. We'd do better to unite and celebrate our similarities ... and our shared hatred of the French! ;-)

Posted by: Lizzie at July 5, 2006 05:12 AM

Yes, there is anti-Americanism. Similarily, Americans often display anti-European feelings, and many hold an especially bitter attitude toward the French that approaches caricature.

I wonder if they too obsessively dwell on how much America hates them...

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at July 5, 2006 07:31 AM

Nice article, I enjoyed it quite a bit. It kept causing me to remember one of the early refrains of Washington, Jefferson and other early American politicans. "Free trade with all nations, and entangling alliances with none." To assume that we have permanent 'allies' is to assume that other nations have exactly the same goals as us... and that the people of those nations share the goals of the people of this nation.

Some evidence indicates that some of our allies in the Iraqi government, may have been colluding with our favorite terrorist Mr. Zarqawi. There's evidence that the UN is corrupt (at least from the position of American interests), there's evidence that our 'allies' France, Germany, Russia, etc etc are more interested in their own interests than ours... which is as it should be. It's their job to work for their nation.

I really think that 20th century America forgot that our "alliances" of the Cold War were alliances of the moment. It was in everyone's best interest to pick a side then... now, the threats are more vague and power alone seems unlikely to solve it (as was the case with the Cold War). I really think that the US needs to consider it position in the world, consider what's in the best interests of the American people and end agreements that are not in our best interest.

Posted by: Ratatosk at July 5, 2006 08:31 AM

"I wonder if they too obsessively dwell on how much America hates them..."--DPU

Oh I think this is patently unreasonable,DPU. And anti-American to boot.

Most Americans probably don't give a rat's ass how the 'little people' feel about them. Why should they? It's largely a combination of jealousy,envy,bitterness,leavened with a modicum of legitimate grievance, and topped off with "a widespread lack of critical thinking".

The reason they get 'upset' is simply because the 'criticism' is largely so utterly mindless, reflexive, and 'small'. And we should know that, should we not? Being 'untrustworthy' Canadians as we are. For demonstration. I point you to ANY G&M comment thread which even tangentially addresses US related issues. The clueless hostility is palpable.

The 'type' of criticism directed at the US does indeed make one wonder about the reasons for such disproportionate actions. Such wonder hardly makes one 'obsessive'. It's just 'healthy'. It's always wise to know who your 'friends' are, so that you aren't unpleasantly surprised at crtical moments.

Posted by: dougf at July 5, 2006 08:37 AM

To Europeans, the new United States looks like Gulliver did to the Lilliputians: a giant whose intentions are uncertain and whom they would prefer to see bound by a thousand little ropes. "Their motto is: let him be strong as long as he is in harness, be it self-chosen or imposed,"...

The Europeans should be careful. Historically Americans are strongly motivated by the desire to be liked. Frankly, I sometimes wonder if it is not a weakness. Well, not to worry. There does not appear to be any chance of the Europeans subtly exploiting this weakness. But the times are changing attitudes. Every time a German minister comparing the president to Hitler, every time a French author publishes a best seller that the CIA bombed the Pentagon, and every time a British newspaper tries to influence an American election, the average American cares a little less about what Europeans think.

Yes, Americans no longer care much for what the French think. We have twice given them a gift of their nation purchased with the blood of our children. Do their leaders show any sign that they appreciate what we did? I do not know what the average Frenchman thinks. On that visit to Berlin a couple of years ago, a German man thanked me for protecting his people from the Soviets. Is that attitude common among the European people? Or do the their leaders' behavior reflect their attitudes? I do not know, but I do know that the German leaders seem to show nothing but contempt for the Nation that protected Germany from its own allies.

American attitudes are changing. More and more I am encountering a new attitude. If we are to be denied even basic respect from the Europeans, then we shall settle for the Roman doctrine:

Oderint dum metuant. "Let them hate, so long as they fear."

Posted by: JBP at July 5, 2006 09:33 AM

We have twice given them a gift of their nation purchased with the blood of our children.

This, I think is a great example of people being confused about 'allies'. Yes, we twice saved the French, because it was in line with our goals. The French, during the Revolution, helped us... because it fit with their goals. During the French Indian War, we fought against each other, because our goals were at odds.

That's always been the way of nations, they look out for themselves, in the moment... the idea that anyone 'owes' anyone for past alliances seems, to me, naive when compared to the history of nations.

Posted by: Ratatosk at July 5, 2006 09:59 AM

Ratatosk: "That's always been the way of nations, they look out for themselves, in the moment"

Not true; historically nations can show loyalty when its at the worst possible moment (Britain toward Poland in Sept 1939); they can also be rats when they should have been loyal (The French & Brits toward the Czechs in the summer of 1938). History is full of examples like that - - in fact that's all history is, episodes showing that the Niccolo Machivelli ideal does not exist.

Posted by: Johnny Eck at July 5, 2006 11:42 AM


While I more or less agree with you on the nature of geopolitics, it does not change the emotional impact of such behavior on the average person. Indeed, I think we can agree that the average American is terribly naive when it comes to geopolitics. But that is the point. The average American not only is not interested in imperialism but naively puts great store on being liked by other nations. This, however, is changing.

Thus, even if it is naive, it still is a big part of the reason Americans no longer respect the French.

Posted by: JBP at July 5, 2006 11:48 AM

See http://www.examiner.com/a-168287~Blair_Pressed_to_Halt_Bankers__Extradition.html
for a slightly strange example.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Libertay Dad at July 5, 2006 12:55 PM

I think that anti-Americanism is largely a result of elite opinions on both sides of the pond being repeatedly drilled into people's heads by the likes of the BBC and The Guardian, not to mention most French dailies. It's grossly unfair to the U.S., but what can we do? Like many Americans I was always taught not to base my judgment of right or wrong on what my "friends" believed to be fashionable at the moment. And that is the only way we can be expected to behave as a nation.

Posted by: SWLiP at July 5, 2006 01:39 PM

I tend to agree with Ratatosk about the self-interest of nations. But there are moments when self-interest and high ethical principles converge. I recently read (in the Times, coincidentally) a quote from W.E.H. Lecky describing Britain's crusade against slavery as “among the three or four perfectly virtuous acts recorded in the history of nations." But even there there was a measure of self-interest.

What Lizzie said:
As for the paragraph you quoted from the Telegraph - I am frankly embarrassed that the respondents to that poll couldn't see that they were describing themselves!
Was right about where I came out by the time I finished writing this. That quote from the editorial -- "America, more than any other state, contains the full range of humanity between its coasts" -- might explain all of this.

We in the U.S. are a little bit of everyone, but different from all the rest. You can stand anywhere in the world and look at America and see a little -- or a lot -- of your own culture and people in it. But it's far-removed and thus ripe for projection. What you hate in us is what you secretly (or not) dislike in your own place.

Which perhaps helps explain why we were irrationally hated before we were strong enough to hurt anyone.

Posted by: Callimachus at July 5, 2006 05:52 PM

No, Callimachus, there's more to it than that.

Remember that it was a European who composed the verse at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Insofar as we are European, we are (by and large, and with enormous numbers of exceptions) the rejected lower class, the failed middle class, and the nobles the rest couldn't stand, either forced out by circumstances or having left in disgust.

By all possible European standards we should be miserable failures, poltroons of no breeding and aristocrats with no brains. The fact that we are successful at all is an affront to European values; the fact that we are enormously successful may very well be the worst insult one people ever hurled at another.

On top of that is the general failure of World Socialism. Marx's theories are basically liberal, urging individuals to join as groups for greater power. The thinkers who ultimately gave birth to Leninism (and Trotskyism) grafted on the concept of cadre, the Vanguard of the Proletariat, an elite class who would guide the ignorant workers to Utopia. With the concept of a nobility thus firmly re-established on essentially the same grounds the Church used to support it, Europeans, who had been lukewarm before, went for it like a pack of rats.

It doesn't work. What is proposed as a society of kindness, egalitarianism, and mutual support gradually devolves to something John George of Saxony would be comfortable with, bringing poverty and oligarchy wherever it goes -- but, of course, they're healthy poor people. Meanwhile the United States, an economy based on frank greed and opportunism, manages to have abject poverty whose main recognition feature is near-morbid obesity. Those who have chosen the wrong horse are naturally resentful of the fellow whose sixteen-to-one shots regularly come in.

Prior to the Thirty Years War, the formative experiences of any European aristocrat included two things: violent suppression of the Jews, and going hat in hand to those selfsame Jews for a loan to support his lifestyle. The Jews had developed a socioeconomic system which, while not defending any particular individual or even group of individuals, was impervious to the level of oppression possible with swords or black-powder firearms. Kick them or kill them, and back they came, richer. The frustration of that is, IMO, the root of anti-Semitism.

The American socioeconomic system has a different but similar feature. When our trading partners, or even our enemies, become richer -- so do we. Whether or not we can keep it up, we have redefined economics as a non-zero-sum game in which anyone who plays can win, and every win is a win for the other players. Give us free trade, and we get richer -- and so do the people we trade with. Restrict trade with an iron hand, and we shrug and get richer; but this time the ones we trade with lose. Frustrating, isn't it? Especially since, according to all the Best Theories, the tactics ought to make us poorer and you richer.

It adds up. Anti-Americanism saddens me, but I reckon it's inevitable. Someone remarked not long ago that the prospect of a hyper-pacifist Germany was a relief, however irritating. The same is true of Europe in general. Go ahead with it, guys, and tell your lies: America is imperialist, America is class-ridden, America exploits brown people, America is hyper-violent. You simply diminish yourselves, and the good folk at Justin will sell me tall enough boots to be immune to the ankle-nips of Pomeranians.


Posted by: Ric Locke at July 5, 2006 08:06 PM

Of course, the real reason for the resentment is not stated openly.

Prior to the 20th century, the governments that were calling the shots on this planet were European.

Things are different now.

Kissinger's dilemma seems impossible to solve. How can you convince people they agree with you because they want to, when they -- and you -- know perfectly well you can act without them, or coerce them, or even force them.

That's easy- if you're willing to be ruthless and machiavellian. I seriously doubt Kissinger did not known the answer... it is more likely that the various Presidents refused to implement it.

Put them in a position where not liking you has consequences.

Why did that Christian in Lebanon forgive the Druze, but not the Israelis?

Because not forgiving the Druze would have consequences, but the Israelis were safe to hate.

So he forgave the Druze and hated the Israelis.

Posted by: rosignol at July 6, 2006 01:09 AM

Ric, I'm sure you're wrong about what the USA is: "an economy based on frank greed and opportunism,".

All the fighting for and against kings of Europe was based on greed and opportunism, even the anti-rich French Revolution and its Terror.

The USA success is based on peaceful (=voluntary), honest, agreements between folk who don't necessarily like each other. But deal, trade, enrich each other peacefully. Peaceful agreement, or not, is the Virture that makes capitalism successful.

Perhaps like the systematic road barriers pushing all towards those win-win opportunities. Greed is the motor in individual cars; some going faster than others and even being rude.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Libertay Dad at July 6, 2006 02:17 AM

We have twice given them[the French] a gift of their nation purchased with the blood of our children.

This is an example of the American self-righteousness that drives French people crazy. How many American French bashers are aware that France lost over 1.3 million dead and 4 million casualties in WWI? That alone is more than all the American war dead in all the wars America has ever fought put together. The "gift" of a free France in WWI was purchased by the millions of French, British and Russian war dead. The 58 thousand American casualties were a true sacrifice but hardly the deciding factor. In both WWI and WWII the Americans only joined the war well after France had faced the full onslaught of the Germany Army at its strongest, (and in WWII practically alone as the British could offer very little useful help). The French don't see the Americans as saviours, they see them as opportunists who decided to help France only after the Germans were clearly going to lose and who benefited tremendously from the sacrrifices the French were forced to make. Americans also like to forget the leading role America played in dismantling the French colonial empire after WWII. Please note that I'm not saying America was wrong to take the actions it did in WWI or WWII, just that expecting French gratitude is simply bizarre and displays an igorance of history.

Posted by: vanya at July 6, 2006 07:44 AM

How many American French bashers are aware that France lost over 1.3 million dead and 4 million casualties in WWI?

Their collapse in WWII made a much deeper impression. Those who know a bit about such things understand they did not lack for courage, but competent leadership... but in American eyes, having incompetent generals is only slightly better than being a coward.

The 58 thousand American casualties were a true sacrifice but hardly the deciding factor.

You are correct, the 58,000 US casualties were not the deciding factor.

The vast reserves of manpower the US still had to draw on were the deciding factor.

The French don't see the Americans as saviours, they see them as opportunists who decided to help France only after the Germans were clearly going to lose and who benefited tremendously from the sacrrifices the French were forced to make.

Exactly how did the US benefit from ending a war in Europe? We gained no concessions of territory, no colonial possessions, no trade concessions... all the US really gained from it's involvement is European acknowlegement that the US was significant outside of the Americas.

Americans also like to forget the leading role America played in dismantling the French colonial empire after WWII.

...and this is nonsense.

The leading role in dismantling the French colonial empire went to communist insurgents, not the US.

Posted by: rosignol at July 6, 2006 11:21 AM

Time for a little levity:
Question: How many Frenchmen does it take to defend Paris?
Answer: No one knows, it's never been done!

Posted by: pyrotechnic67 at July 6, 2006 12:19 PM

The Americans benefited directly from both WWI and WWII because the British and French colonial empires were mortally weakened. Before WWI the Ottoman empire was a French and British playground, by the 1950s the Americans and the Soviets were the great powers in the Middle East and the French and British were also-rans. Prior to WWI the French and the British exerted significant influence in South American affairs, aftwerwards US hegemony was uncontested. Plenty of Americans may feel that none of these developments was particularly beneficial for America, but the point is that French people perceive that America benefited and Americans seem incapable of understanding why.

"Americans also like to forget the leading role America played in dismantling the French colonial empire after WWII."

...and this is nonsense.

The leading role in dismantling the French colonial empire went to communist insurgents, not the US.

Hardly. The Suez canal was not handed over to communist insurgents, neither was Algeria. Nor was Southern Vietnam initially, where the US quickly moved in to replace the French. The US took an active role in the 1940s and 50s to ensure that the French and British could not easily rebuild their colonial empires, this is hardly controversial.

Posted by: vanya at July 6, 2006 12:58 PM


The 58 thousand American casualties were a true sacrifice but hardly the deciding factor.

Thank you for enlightening me. In my ignorance, I always thought that in war the nation who is suffering the most casualties is losing.

Posted by: JBP at July 6, 2006 03:02 PM


Seriously, consider the following: In operation Iceberg (the island campaign), Japan suffered 110,071 KIA and America suffered 12,520 KIA.

Do you realize that France was occupied when we invaded in WWII? Do you know what that means? The French army had been destroyed. Finis. Caput. Gone. They were hardly winning the war.

As for WWI, apparently you are unaware that the French were not only retreating when we attacked, but they had suffered full scale revolts by the French armies. In other words, the French army, although it had fought nobly in the begining, was done fighting for all practical purposes.

Posted by: JBP at July 6, 2006 04:02 PM

R L Stevenson*s Liliputions warred and shed their blood over the important matter of breaking the breakfast egg on the small end or the large end.

Israel and Lebanon shed each other*s blood because agents like Arafat were working for ME countries to keep democracy and fair play from ruining their iron fisted grip on wealth, power and their subdued citizens.

Today Hezbollah overshadows Hamas in carrying out the wishes of Iran and several sultan ruled regeims.

They have the wealth to be persistant and they hope the American people will tire and withdraw as Belaruse did.

The free world can not allow this fundamentalist disease to grow and fester. All our greatest advances towards freedom and civility amoung people could be lost in a fall back to mass slavery. TG

Posted by: TonyGuitar at July 6, 2006 11:37 PM

I am an Englishman who lived for seven years in the US. Over those seven years I heard a wealth of insults against Britain, some trivial and simplistic, others thoughtful and knowledgeable. They usually hurt me, but did not in any way change Britain and what it was and is now. Same goes for the US. Much more important than insults from abroad is what the US actually is. And from my experience, the US is a mostly positive force in the world, with its heart in the right place. By their fruits ye shall know them...

Posted by: Andrew Lale at July 7, 2006 06:08 AM


Do you think the Germans beat the USSR in WWII? The Soviets lost 3 times as many men. But of course that isn't really the point, the point is that from the French perspective the British and the French carried the ball to the one yard line in WWI and the US just showed up at the end to get the touchdown. I realize the French were mutinying in 1917, but so were the Germans, the Austrians and the Russians. How can you pretend that 3 years of French fighting count for nothing? In WWII the French lost to a much superior fighting force. Where's the real shame in that, at least they tried. Do we attack the Poles as losers and cowards? France went to war against Germany to stop Hitler when America would not, and the German army the US fought in 1944 was nowhere near the level of the German army n 1940. The performance of the French army wasn't really any worse than the British army, only the Channel and the inability of Germany to mount a coherent strategy for controlling the air saved the UK from occupation. The American obsession with French bashing is silly. As a people the French are more like red-state Americans than any one else in Europe - they are fiercely patriotic, family centered and lovers of tradition. Why do conservatives seemingly prefer atheistic sex-obsessed Scandinavians or the socialistic Germans or the Brits, who seemed hell-bent on abandoning every traditional value? It makes no sense.

Posted by: vanya at July 7, 2006 08:48 AM


Your points are illuminating and interesting. However, perhaps you would understand the antipathy many Americans feel to towards the French if you understood that for most the only time we ever hear anything about France is when Lance is winning your tournament and many of your people are bitching about it.

Posted by: cb at July 7, 2006 09:53 AM


Do you think the Germans beat the USSR in WWII? The Soviets lost 3 times as many men.

Of course, this is the exception, but it does not actually have a great deal of explanitory power because for much of the war, the Soviets were actually loosing.

the point is that from the French perspective the British and the French carried the ball to the one yard line in WWI and the US just showed up at the end to get the touchdown.

No, not really. A better analogy would be that the French played hard against the Germans to tire them out but the Germans were, nonetheless, slowly advancing the ball towards the French end zone. The Americans showed up fresh, and therefore, were able to stop the tired Germans and eventually score. Not that this is entirely accurate, but it is a reasonable interpretation of the actual events.

It does not, however, change the fact that America sent its children to die to save France.

How can you pretend that 3 years of French fighting count for nothing?

Where exactly did I pretend that? One demerit for making a strawman argument

In WWII the French lost to a much superior fighting force. Where's the real shame in that, at least they tried.

Did I say they deserve shame? I said they had lost, and therefore, it is unreasonable to say that America did not win the war for them. Another demerit for making another strawman argument.

France went to war against Germany to stop Hitler when America would not

...because they were invaded by Germany when America was not. In fact, America eventually went to war against Hitler without being invaded or even attacked by Germany because they wanted to stop Hitler. France cannot make that argument.

The reason France did not earn much respect is because it signed an armistice with Germany a little more than a month after the fighting began. Maybe the word "Vichy" means something to you. Britain, on the other had, vowed it would never surrender. Oh, and Britain actually won battles, which goes to the question of whether the French army fought as well as the British army.

By the way, I never actually defended the mocking of France. I merely explained cause and effect and showed how the French leader's behavior will only make it worse.

Posted by: JBP at July 7, 2006 10:09 AM


"How many American French bashers are aware that France lost over 1.3 million dead and 4 million casualties in WWI? That alone is more than all the American war dead in all the wars America has ever fought put together. The "gift" of a free France in WWI was purchased by the millions of French, British and Russian war dead. "

The gift of a free France had much more to do with the number of German war dead than any other dead. German deaths are what defeated Germany. Everything else was just instrumental.

"In WWII the French lost to a much superior fighting force. Where's the real shame in that, at least they tried."

Shame? What possible difference does "shame" make? All those deaths did not result in defeat of the enemy, so they were in vain, and that is indeed shameful, as a matter of fact. The commanders should have been instructed to commit suicide. I suppose the namby-pamby Europeans don't do things that way. They think you should treat captured officers decently too; after all, the nobility of all those countires have always been intermarried.

There are two opposing philosophies of warfare. Sun Zi is the proponent of the won that is finally coming into favor in the West. At least iin the US military, he is quoted like a prophet. His position is that in war nothing matters but victory, and the most victorious victory is the one that costs the nation the least, in whatever the coin happens to be - social cohesion, lives, money - whatever. Then there is the position that Tennyson exemplifies. It cares more for glory and heroism than avbout crass things like winning, because heoics are the real victory. A comment about "shame" comes out of this type of thinking. Comnents in CiF asking where is the heroism in an air-based campaign come out of this kind of thinking. Acting as though there was anything admirable in the Charge of the Light Brigade come out of this kind of thinking. It is a type of thinking that likens warfare to sport and says that a battle was won on the playing fields of Eton, where Sun Zi wold much rather see a battle won by soomeone sneaking in a poisoning the enemy commander on the eve of battle. He expliclty says that the best victory is the one you win without fighting.

These two philosophies or approaches to warfare are absolutely and irresolubly opposed. The prefence for heroism and glory is a cultural prefence. It is not some absolute moral value. in fact, it seems immoral to me. It is the sort of value that manipulates men into going off and getting killed and allowing the cilivilans at home to feel virtuous in some indirect and parasitic way.And it results in more death in the end

Back to the question of Americna loathing of the French over the matter of war alliances. Actually it applies to all European allies in WWII. Have you ever noticed how most of the European comment on the question only ever addresses the war in Europe? The question is always who actually contributed the most to the defeat of the Nazis. Do you see how provincial and naive the Europeans are? The war in the Pacific was much bloodier on the battlefield - the pussy-ass Germans never even attempted suicide bombers the way the Japanese did, and they would surrender when fighting became hopeless - the atrocities against civilians at least as horrible and numerous, and I am including the Holocaust in this assessment, as I consider Chinese lives to be of equal worth to Jewish, Gypsy and Russian lives - and the stakes were every bit as high - but especially for the US, and this perhaps explains the near lack of European contribution and the total lack of European success in that theater. Does this help explain American contempt for European war efforts?

Posted by: Jim at July 7, 2006 11:18 AM

William Shirer was a well-respected journalist, back when radio was just getting its legs, one of the original Murrow boys. He wrote The Nightmare Years and Berlin Diary. Before he ended up covering the Nazis and Hitler, he lived and worked in Paris, a city and country he fell in love with. As he watched the Germans abrogate one provision of the Versailles treaty after another, as he watched the other Western powers do nothing time after time and finally when an impotent France fell in mere days to the Germans, he despaired. After the war he was determined to find out why the country he loved and admired suffered such a complete and humiliating defeat. He wrote a massive book about it, detailing the rot that permeated the French military, government and society in general prior to 1940. The book is named "The Collapse of the Third Republic". Read it, Vanya.

Posted by: Kevin at July 7, 2006 05:49 PM

'vanya' compares the French loss of "1.3 million dead and 4 million casualties" in World War I to "58 thousand American casualties" in the same war. I do not know if the first two figures are correct, but the third is off by a factor of 5.5 to 1. This official U.S. government site gives U.S. casualties in World War I as 53,402 combat fatalities, 63,114 non-combat fatalities (no doubt mostly disease), and 204,002 non-fatally wounded. That adds up to 320,518, not "58 thousand", and even the fatalities are more than twice the figure 'vanya' gives for total casualties.

It's easy to look like you're winning an argument when you make stuff up. More charitably, I wonder if 'vanya' is thinking of the U.S. deaths in Vietnam, which were right around 58,000 (combat and non-combat combined).

Posted by: Dr. Weevil at July 9, 2006 08:14 PM

Dr. Weevil,

I think it is perfectly clear I was talking about fatalities even if I was admittedly sloppy on word choice. You're 53K is actually more conservative than the 58K comabat fatalities I mentioned (which granted I got from Wikipedia). Thanks for immediately assuming the worst of me and trying to make a snarky attack rather than deal with the merits, or lack thereof, of my argument. Unfortunately that's pretty typical of the arguments on this blog.

Posted by: vanya at July 10, 2006 11:41 AM

Please stop making stuff up, 'vanya'.

1. Though many ignorant people think "casualties" refers only to soldiers killed in war, and omits those wounded, captured, or missing, you obviously don't, because you listed the number of French soldiers killed (1.3 million) separately from the number of French (other) casualties (4 million).

2. The number of French killed in World War II undoubtedly includes not only those killed by German bullets, bombs, bayonets, or poison gas, but tens of thousands more who died in the trenches of (e.g.) typhoid or dysentery. Leaving such deaths out of the U.S. total is dishonest.

3. You say you got your 58,000 figure from Wikipedia. That's odd: I just checked the Wikipedia article on World War I: Casualties and found numbers even higher than the U.S. data I gave above: 126,000 killed + 234,300 wounded = 360,300 total. That would make your figure of 58,000 off by a factor of 6.2:1, not 5.5:1 as I wrote above. Perhaps the Wikipedia article has been edited since you looked at it? It says it hasn't been edited since June 12th.

Finally, I didn't 'immediately assume the worst' about you -- my last sentence began "More charitably" -- but perhaps I should have.

Posted by: Dr. Weevil at July 10, 2006 04:51 PM


You're just being an asshole for the sake of being an asshole. It looks like I did grab the wrong number, it should be 126 thousand. How does that change my argument? If only ten times as many French died as Americans, not 20, does that make the French half as brave? In any case you're choosing to attack me on false premises, I'm not denigrating America's sacrifice, but to me when people act as if America won WWI (and WWII) single-handedly that is denigrating the French (and the British and the Russians). Americans tend to be provincial and self-centred, and thanks for once again demonstrating that point.

Let me close by quoting a greater expert than myself, the War Nerd:

"You know, the Italians really deserve their reputation for being cowards -- whereas, if you ask me, the French get a bad rap. The French fought like tigers in WW I, lost 1.5 million men, took the worst the Germans gave out and held on to win. The Brits like to sneer at the French, but if England had had a long land border with Germany in 1914 or 1939, how long do you think the war would've lasted? And the same thing holds for the nineteenth century: if Wellington had had to meet Napoleon one-on-one, without Russian or Prussian help, just British troops vs. French...are you kidding me? Wellington would've been the Duke of some prison cell in Paris. The French deserve more respect."

Posted by: vanya at July 12, 2006 06:53 AM

1) The British based their policies precisely on being an island nation. Presumably if they had had a large continental border, history would be quite different, and we would be discussing counterfactuals on the Hndred Years' War or the Battle of Hastings, not WWII.

As it was, they prudently decided on lighter weights of expeditionary-type forces and a large, bada$$ Royal Navy, plus messing around with these whaddyacallums aeroplanes.

If you want to dream of Wellington being passed around for cigarettes in a French gaol, look to actual history and imagine what would have happened if the RN, Britain;s real military core competency, had failed. Maybe France should have built a better Navy. Maybe they shouldn;t have murdered their royalist officers. Maybe...we should leave the Harry Turtledove Zone and return to history as recorded. One thing the French seem into is wishful thinking. Okay, I wish the Euros had decided to fight in '38 or even '36 rather than '39, ha ha, I mean '40. Maybe France bought some of its own trouble.

2) France, as a big continental power, can hardly plead surprise as an excuse for any lack of ground forces. Or did they think British battleships were going to drag themselves up on land like those mudfish? While France had been in the habit of losing wars to Germany, Britain, and other European powers for some hundreds of years, I suppose it is encouraging they fought at all, but after all, did they really have a choice?

3) That is the main difference. France was fighting for its life as a nation. The UN was fighting for the benefit of others, its vaguely identified Allies - or did we get some colonial possessions of which I am not aware out of WWI? The US could certainly have stayed out. Jacka$$es like Pat Buchanan plead quite seriously that we should have done so. Would France have liked that better? Would they be more grateful to us now?

4) The real shame was not in losing WWII, but in the eagerness and avidity with which they knelt before the conqueror. Ooh, ohh, the Resistance! No, mon frere, if you ywant to see what resistance looked like, see Yugoslavia, see Denmark, see China, look to a lot of other countries before you look to France. Overcharging Germans at cafes or giving them the clap is not a Resistance.

Posted by: nichevo at July 13, 2006 08:58 AM

Let me see if I understand 'vanya' correctly. If you're making a plausible historical case -- that the U.S. contribution to victory in World War I was minor compared to the French contribution -- it's OK to use utterly false numbers to buttress your case. When someone points out that your numbers are off by a factor of 5.5:1 or more, it's OK to make the demonstrably false claims (1) that you don't know the difference between deaths and casualties and (2) that you copied the wrong numbers off a specific source-page that does not in fact include them.* When those false claims are rebutted, you feel free to call your opponent an "asshole" and assert that he is a typically "provincial and self-centred" American. It appears to me that the asshole (and bigot) in this argument is 'vanya'. I have no difficulty assuming that he is not representative of his nationality, whatever it is.

*The only 58,000 on the Wikipedia Casualties of World War I page (linked above) is for New Zealand wounded (58,526). 'varya' asks us to believe that he inadvertently copied a number three columns over and eight rows up from the correct one. I do not believe it. If he got the number from some other Wikipedia page, he should say which one.

Posted by: Dr. Weevil at July 16, 2006 09:39 PM

rosignol you said:

"Exactly how did the US benefit from ending a war in Europe?"

Lend/Lease!!! Not to mention the vast reconstruction markets in Germany, France, the Low countries and Britain.
The US invested hundreds of millions but reaped 10 times their initial investment. To pay for goods from the U.S., during the war, Britain emptied its vaults of Gold. U.S. big business made a killing in WWII, sounds cynical, but it's true and when the British couldn't afford to pay, my initial comment came into effect....Lend/Lease!

"We gained no concessions of territory!" What would you call Military bases in British colonies such as Bermuda, Ascension Island, the Chagos archipelago in the Indian ocean, not to mention a number of military airfields dotted all over Britain. Are they not concessions, a proviso of the lend/lease policy.

It's true the U.S. gained no colonial possessions as such, in the traditional sense, but it did gain something more, it gained economic supremacy over all of its rivals.
Before WWII the U.S. had something like 15% of all world trade, after WWII an economically crippled Britain couldn't meet the demands of it's pre-war standing around the globe so America stepped in and US trade leapt to almost 50%. Today the U.S. dominates Europe culturally through music, food, and fashion as well as economically.

Europeans have started talking of having a combined European army, the response from the U.S. was to threaten sanctions, not very altruistic, especially as the U.S. could pull troops out and save billions of dollars and thousands of lives.
To be honest I think this conversation about whether you as Americans are liked or not around the globe is utterly pointless, England is surrounded by countries who have citizens that hate my country, do we care, no!!
Hate stems from fear and if they're scared, there isn't much to worry about!

Posted by: A McM at July 17, 2006 08:31 AM


It's pretty easy to understand. This is a comments section, it's not even a blog. I take about 2 minutes to write my comment. Sorry if I use sloppy terminology and don't fact check. The other respondents did me the favor of answering the gyst of my argument and managed to make coherent points without descending to the level of a school-marm. You apparently prefer to take the low road when arguing. If you refuse to contribute to the discussion but want to harp on stupid "gotchas" than continue to enjoy yourself. In any case many thanks for getting so worked up about my posts, you have contributed to making my idle thoughts seem far more important than they actually were.

Posted by: vanya at July 17, 2006 02:32 PM

It's even easier to understand than you say. When posting comments on a weblog read by hundreds, take more than 2 minutes to write your post, and you won't make embarrassing errors that undercut your argument. Why should the rest of us collectively spend an hour or two of our lives reading something that you can't be bothered spending 3 minutes to get right?

When someone corrects a blatant and material error in your argument, don't deny it but admit that you were wrong with some approximation of good grace. Do not toss around stupid insults like "asshole" and "schoolmarm" (as if I had corrected your spelling errors), or make bigoted remarks about my nationality. It makes you look like a common troll.

Whether French war losses in World War I were more than 10 times larger than the American totals (true), or more than 20 times larger (what you thought you were saying), or more than 60 times larger (what you actually wrote) is very pertinent to the question at issue. You may not have been consciously "denigrating America's sacrifice", but the effect of your error was to achieve exactly that: denigration.

If you have anything further to say, please spend more than 2 minutes writing it, and think before you post.

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