Welcome back to our symposium: The Death of France?
In this second and final part (Click Here to see Part I), Frontpage Magazine continues to host a discussion with Jean-François Revel, one of the most famous French writers and a member of the French academy. He is the author of many books, including How Democracies Perish and of the recently published L’Obesssion Anti-Américaine (The Anti-American Obsession) which has been on the best sellers list in France for more than three months; Charles Kupchan. a professor at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author of The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-first Century; Guy Milliere, a Professor at the University of Paris who serves as an economist for the Bank of France. He is a columnist in the French press and is the author of L'Amérique-Monde (World-America), and Un Gout De Cendres: France, Fin de Parcours? (A Taste of Ashes. France: The End of the Road?); Alain Madelin, a former Chief of the French Department of Finances, former President of Democratie Liberale (a neo-conservative political party that is now part of the UMP, a moderate right coalition), President of Les Cercles Liberaux (a French neo-conservative think tank), and a prominent politician in France. Toni Kamins, the author of The Complete Jewish Guide to France and The Complete Jewish Guide to Britain and Ireland (St. Martin's Press), the first two books in a series of Jewish historical travel guides she created. She has graduate degrees in political science from the City University of New York, has lived in Paris for many years and studied at the L’Institut d'Etudes Politiques; and Yves Roucaute, a philosopher, writer, and professor of political sciences at the University of Paris.
Interlocutor: Welcome back ladies and gentlemen. Let's continue our discussion.
The more I study the history of France in the 20th century, the more I come to the conclusion that the psyche of the French people might justifiably warrant an entire psychiatric conference.
Throughout the entire 20th century, the French seemed to spend most of their time desperately craving being crushed by some kind of foreign totalitarian power. Their dreams, obviously, were shattered by the Americans, who rescued them from the Nazis and subsequently protected them from the Soviets. But now the French have cleverly figured it all out: to be taken over by Islam from within.
Is it really a surprise, as Guy Milliere pointed out in his article , that today
“in many French cities with a growing radical Islamist population, no teenage girl can go out in the evening, at least not without a full burqa. If she does, it will mean that ‘she is for everybody’: in short, a whore. In the same cities, every teenage girl - regardless of religion - has to wear the Muslim veil if she does not want to be harassed or killed.”
These circumstances are not just coincidences. The French have consciously created this reality.
And is all of this not connected to the fact, as Mr. Milliere has also alluded to in one of his earlier answers, that in Vichy France during World War II, the French did much more than just cooperate with the Nazis? French security forces took it upon themselves to round up and hand over 61,000 Jews to the Nazis -- without even a request from the Nazis to do so. Those Jews ended up in Auschwitz, Dachau and Treblinka.
In the 1970s, France could not even disguise its anti-Semitic appetite. With few Nazis around, the French reached out to Arabs for a rendezvous with anti-Semitism. France distinguished itself by promising the PLO that it would not arrest its terrorists who used French territory as a base for attacks on Israel. All France required was that the PLO did not inflict its violence on French soil.
What is the problem here? I think it is pretty much impossible to deny that there is a profound pathology in the French national psyche. Do my guests agree?
Milliere: I think you’re right, France is a very sick country. Many French still dream about the time when France was the main power in the Western world. It has been over for three centuries now, and so they are full of envy when they think about the countries that became more powerful than France after the death of Louis XIVth. Great Britain first, then the United States. For the French, the United States has no past, no legitimacy, no culture and if they are the first power in the world it’s really unfair.
France has been a very anti-Semitic country for a long time. One of the main best sellers at the time of the Dreyfus case was a book called “The Jewish France”. The writer, Edouard Drumont, was also the editor of a very successful anti-Semitic daily “The Free Speech”. It’s after he saw happened to Alfred Dreyfus that Hertzl understood it would be impossible for the Jews to be fully accepted in Europe and that they had to have their own state again.
France is still anti-Semitic today: the new French anti-Semitism has three sources, the hate of the extreme-right for Jews, the hate of Muslims for Jews, the hate of leftists for Israel. Suddenly, the extreme-right has nothing against Muslims, they have something in common: the hatred of Jews. Lefitists become supporters of radical Muslims: they have something in common too: their hatred for Israel.
For years, France has searched to create alliances against the United States. Now it’s a conscious alliance with Islamists and Arab dictators. The French dream to see the United States defeated. Just by envy. Just because France is very socialist and hates wealth and creativity. The French government has no problems with hypocrisy, it’s an old French tradition.
France is not very attached to democracy. All the five republics France has known collapsed in an atmosphere of chaos. The French love leaders that give them the appearance of strength, even if it brings them to disaster, and in front of a strong enemy, they surrender very easily. They surrendered to the Nazis in six days; they have already surrendered to radical Muslims thirty years ago.
The people I meet in France are not ready to fight: they say “soon our women will have to wear scarves, that’s life”... I am finishing a book in English about this French sickness. I think it has to be fully explained.
Kamins: Here again I don't know that I have an adequate rejoinder to the comments made either by Mr. Milliere or by our host. All that has been said is true. However, I believe the problems described are not quite as extreme as they are painted to be, though I think they may very well become that extreme in (not too distant) future. In the less extreme scenario perhaps there lies a glimmer of hope.
And that is not only a hope for France, but a hope for all of Europe and even for the United States. France can be viewed as a bellwether for this so-called Muslim problem. Many other countries in Europe are facing similar challenges though I believe that the problem is most grave, and can be seen in a more extreme form in France. The United States is not immune. We have seen from the events of September 11, 2001 that there are radical Islamists living in our midst. And there are organizations in our country and close to our government that seek greater ties with the Islamic world.
Kupchan: It is worth keeping in mind that France was the one country to seek throughout the 1930s to put together a coalition against Hitler. The British stuck their heads in the sand. The Russians cut a deal with the devil. The Americans were nowhere to be found.
To be sure, France fell quite quickly once the war began. Its high command was incompetent and the Maginot Line was ill-conceived. But at least France appreciated the danger posed by Germany and desperately searched for allies.
It is also worth keeping in mind that France was Israel's main supplier of arms during Israel's early years. And that, Vichy notwithstanding, Jews in France today are integrated and influential members of French society. The notion of some type of congenital French anti-Semitism is pure poppy-cock.
France certainly has a growing Muslim population that, given its demographic shortfall, is likely to grow in the years ahead. A key question to keep an eye on is how and in what ways France seeks to build a more multi-ethnic society and integrates Muslims into the social mainstream.
Kamins: I don't agree that congenital French anti-Semitism is "pure poppy-cock". It exists today just as it exists everywhere to one degree or another and I believe the perception that France is stopped being anti-Semitic and then started again comes from the mistaken notion that anti-Semitism somehow disappeared after the Shoah (Holocaust). It didn't, it was merely driven underground to a large extent. Now it has become fashionable to be openly anti-Semitic again so France and other countries are just reverting to normal. The mistake was in assuming that anti-Semitism disappeared in the first place.
I think part of the perception that France lost its anti-Semitism and then just recently regained it has come from the many Americans and American Jews who have had a love affair with France since the end of the Second World War --- a love affair based more on false notions about the life of American expatriates there and the literature they produced then real knowledge of France and things French. In point of fact most Americans, even those who visit France often, know nothing about the country, its society and history, mores etc. And they certainly don't speak French.
But it is true that traditional French Christian anti-Semitism is not likely to erupt into physical violence as it once did. That role now falls to the Muslim anti-Semites.
Milliere: I disagree completely with Charles Kupchan. It would be hard to find many traces of concern about Nazi Germany in the French press or in French politics in the thirties. In 1936, the French elected a socialist government, and the main concern of the majority of French people was a paid holiday. At the same time, Germans were building the arms they would soon use.
Sorry, congenital French anti-Semitism is far from “pure poppy-cock.” The main anti-Semitic books published during the nineteenth century have been French books (I do not feel especially proud of it, but it’s a fact). Two of the main French newspapers during the 1930 were clearly anti-Semitic: “L’Action Française” and “Je Suis Partout.” France did not believe at all in the survival of
Israel in 1948 and the majority of guns the Israeli army used to survive came not from France but from Eastern Europe.
France has been a supplier of guns to Israel for seventeen years. After the 1967 war, De Gaulle started what’s now called the “Arab policy of France”. This was a conscious decision to abandon Israel because the Israeli people were assumed to be arrogant dominators who were too sure of themselves.
France is already a multi-ethnic society. The risk for her is to become a “multicultural society” where some, like in Orwell book, would be more equal than others...
Kupchan: Mr. Milliere, go back and read the history of the 1930s. The French were the one country that tried to put together a blocking coalition and that argued in favor of war against Germany before the Nazis increased their strength.
Has France been a stalwart defenders of Jews throughout its history? Of course not. Has France been a strong backer of Israel recently? No. But that is a far cry from arguing in favor of congenital and durable anti-Semitism. Again, Jews in France today are well integrated into the mainstream -- one cannot say that in all European countries.
Milliere: Mr. Kupchan, I am quite familiar with the history of the 1930s, thank you. One French Secretary of State, Louis Barthou, thought to create a coalition against Germany. It was in September 1934. Barthou was assassinated three month later. For the rest of the 1930s you find nothing interesting in French history, except instability, unrest, scandals, extreme right activists and socialism. In 1936, Hitler reoccupied the demilitarized zone. France did nothing. Just like Great Britain.
Mr. Kupchan, you should come to France and meet French Jews: the large majority of them all strongly sense the significant rise of anti-Semitism in France, and the large majority of them are scared of what’s happening. Many of them think they will have to leave France soon.
Christopher Caldwell published an excellent article about it this phenomenon in The Weekly Standard one year ago. The article is called: “Liberty, Equality, Judeophobia”. What Caldwell described still exists today. Judeophobia in France is widespread and rising. Sure, you risk nothing if, in order to show you are well integrated, you hide the fact that you are a Jew and if you say you hate Israel. As David Horowitz said, “Jews can be anti-Semites”. Some French Jews are anti-Semites and are very well integrated.
Madelin: France has known many traumas during the last two centuries. She lost her place as the first power of the Western World. She lost her influence and her prestige. She lost her empire. She lost four wars during the twentieth century (even if sometimes the defeat has been hidden). Under the leadership of De Gaulle, French have had the feeling France was becoming an important country again. All this vanished because of more than twenty years of socialist policies and more than twenty years of blindness and envy. I do not think the solution is multiculturalism. It would be the end of France. I think we would have to clearly choose economic freedom and zero tolerance in matters of security. I think we have to find again reasons to be proud to be French.
Right now, I see no reason to be proud. I disagree completely with the foreign policy of Chirac and Villepin and I have said this many times. It’s more necessary than ever to explain to French people why anti-Americanism is stupid. America is our ally and France will be saved only if it stays the ally of the United States. It’s time for France to change all its policies or it will become mortally sick.
Roucaute: In listening to everyone in this symposium, I must agree with Madelin and Millière. France is a very sick nation. Sometimes I think that it’s only if France pays the full price for its positions that some real change will come. It’s not really the fault of the French people; they receive very bad information and almost all the books they can find in bookstores are anti-American. It’s the fault of the politicians who have no courage and explain nothing. It’s the fault of journalists who prefer Islam to America because the majority of them have been leftists in the sixties when they were young. They have not changed, they are just older.
The sickness of France has been largely created by people who want only one thing: to destroy freedom and to destroy Western civilization. The only book describing France as it is now has been written by Guy Milliere and it was hard for him to find a publisher in France. I want to write a book about all this. I cannot find a publisher myself in France. That fact alone is very meaningful.
Jean-François Revel: As I said in the last book I published, France is the prey of an anti-American obsession. For the French, Americans are the enemy they have to hate in every circumstance. They have to hate Americans because Americans are successful, because Americans are powerful, because the French prefer resentment to achievement. They are so obsessed by their hatred of the United States they do not see anymore the real dangers confronting France. It’s a very dangerous situation. I do not know how we could go out of this situation. I honestly don’t know if it is even still possible.
Kamins: I think some of these statements are gross oversimplifications and the willingness of some of the people here to subscribe to them scares the hell out of me. And they are very French responses. The problems we have been discussing are neither new nor are they simple and we will not arrive at solutions by make broad general statements that are devoid of substance.
Milliere: I think it’s outrageous to say a great thinker like Jean-François Revel can use gross oversimplifications. It would be better to read his last book L’Obsession Anti-Américaine (The Anti-American Obsession) to understand his thinking. It’s the same with Yves Roucaute. Maybe our responses look very French because we live in France and we can see what’s happening day after day. Many of the problems we have discussed in this symposium are new: it’s the first time in history that Muslims represent ten per cent of the French population, and it’s in a time when a large part of this population has relations in one way or another with radical Islamists. It’s the first time in history that a French government chose so clearly the Arab-Muslim camp and the third world camp.
Anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism are not new in France, what’s new is that they have more and more the colors of Third World anti-Americanism and Arab-Muslim anti-Semitism. Maybe you have to be in France to see that the statements of Revel and Roucaute are not devoid of substance. We, French neo-conservatives, have many reasons to be anxious and we think it’s too easy to say from a far and above position that what we see everyday does not exist and is just a fantasy of old pro-American and pro-Republican reactionaries.
Interlocutor: Ladies and gentlemen, what policy should the U.S. adopt toward France? If the French have not dealt a helping hand to the Americans, and if they have clearly aided America's enemies (Saddam being one of them), then shouldn't Washington make France pay a price?
Milliere: Sure, I think France would have to pay a price. France is now too unreliable to have any kind of decision power in NATO. Does France have to keep a permanent seat at the Security Council of the United Nations? And wouldn’t it be necessary to create a new basis for a new United Nations? France would have to be excluded from any kind of contract in the Middle East. France should have no word to say in the Isreali-Palestinian negotiations.
The French government has to learn that some attitudes have a price, and no one in the US today believes in France’s speeches about “principles”. French people would have to see clearly that their leaders are not “principled people” fighting for the respect of international law, but just crooks, cowards and liars. As a supposed French friend of freedom and the United States, France has to pay a price for sacrificing freedom and the greatest protector of it. In general, friends help their friends: America would help its French friend if it made it pay a price.
Kamins: I think it would be a monumental mistake to exclude France as Mr. Milliere suggests. History has shown us that the best way to drive a country to extremism is to isolate it and the best way to co-opt it is to demonstrate that our way is also in the best interests of France.
Kupchan: France, Germany, and Russia, along with most of the world's population, was opposed to going to war against Iraq. France, Germany, and Russia are democracies (at least the first two). That they should be punished for opposing the war suggests that anyone who disagrees with the United States should be punished. This is wrong-headed and arrogant. If the US punishes every country that disagrees with US policy, then the US will very rapidly find the world a lonely place. It already is. Take a look at the last Pew public opinion poll and take notice of rising anti-American sentiment across the globe.
We are losing France, Germany, and Russia as allies. We are gaining Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria. The merits of the Central Europeans aside, this is not a trade up. America is in the midst of undoing the multilateral order it worked so hard to build after World War II. Americans, along with everyone else, will be the losers.
Milliere: I think Toni Kamins has to recognize that France is already isolated. The rest of Europe (except Belgium and Germany) is not on the French positions.
This isolation is hidden to the French public. If you make it more obvious and if you find a way to show to the French public that the monumental mistake was made by the present French government, you would help genuine friends of the US, like me, Jean-François Revel, Yves Roucaute and Alain Madelin to explain that American interests and French interests are the same in this troubled and dangerous age.
It is also important to point out that Third world dictatorships are always opposed to a war made to topple a dictator. Leftists have been very good at organizing protests in the name of peace (who is not for peace?). Tony Blair showed a genuine sense of leadership even though he is a socialist. Everybody know Germany was against war because Schroeder needs to maintain an alliance with the German Greens who are leftists and anti-Americans. Everybody know Russia was against the war because Putin was afraid to lose money and contracts if Saddam was toppled.
Everybody in France knows Chirac and Villepin acted as they did, not because they disagreed with the US, but because France too had a lot to lose if Saddam was toppled. Anti-Americanism is rising in the world because large parts of the world are very sick and full of envy. France acted as the leader of the axis of envy, it’s the reason why I think she has to pay the price. France is not an ally of the US anymore.
The German moderate right could govern Germany again soon, and it wants to re-establish good relations with the US. Putin knows he need the US to save Russia. You will have soon 25 countries in Europe: only three of them were opposed to the war. France will be more and more isolated, and you’ll see the rest of Europe is not lost for the US. The multilateral order that has been built after World War II is already dead: the United Nations are now a club of thugs and dictators. It would be necessary to rebuild a decent multilateral order. The one we have now has lost all decency. The losers have to be unprincipled leaders like Chirac and unprincipled organisations like the UN. Or the world will become a very unsafe place.
Interlocutor: Well, Guy, I guess we will let you have the last word. We are out of time. It was a pleasure and a privilege to have you all here. Jean-François Revel, Charles Kupchan, Guy Milliere, Alain Madelin, Toni Kamins and Yves Roucaute, thank you. We will see you again soon.
CLICK HERE to see Part I.
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