The View From 1776

§ American Traditions

§ People and Ideas

§ Decline of Western Civilization: a Snapshot

§ Books to Read

§ BUY MY BOOK

Liberal_Jihad_Cover.jpg Forward USA

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Jacques Chirac’s Put-Down of Great Britain

Was Tony Blair stiffed by the United States?  Was he mistaken to support us in the war on terror and in the invasion of Iraq?

———————-
In a November 16, 2004 London Times Online article headlined Chirac: Britain cannot be an ‘honest broker’ between Europe and US, Charles Bremner writes:

“PRESIDENT CHIRAC claimed last night that the Prime Minister was misguided to imagine that he could play the honest broker between Europe and the Bush Administration.

“Speaking three days before his first official visit to London for eight years, M Chirac voiced his affection for Tony Blair and the ?tough love? between France and Britain.

“But he reasserted his vision of an ?historically inevitable, multipolar? world in which Europe would counterbalance the United States.

“...He recalled the Franco-British summit at Le Touquet on the eve of the Iraq War last year. ?I said then to Tony Blair: ?We have different positions on Iraq. Your position should at least have some use. That is to try to obtain in exchange a relaunch of the peace process in the Middle East . . . You absolutely have to obtain something in exchange for your support. Well, Britain gave its support but I did not see much in return. I am not sure that it is in the nature of our American friends at the moment to return favours systematically.”

Once again, let’s take a hard-eyed look at the objectives of foreign policy and the nature of alliances.  For additional background, see Misunderstanding Alliances

Foreign policy has only one objective: to protect and further our national interests.  Effective foreign policy requires clear identification of those national interests.

Foreign policy emphatically is not intended to keep foreign nations, whether former friend of foe, happy with our nation’s actions in the international realm, unless we wish to do so as a quid pro quo within a specific alliance for a specific purpose.  Nor is it a matter of obtaining consensus in the UN, unless doing so happens to support a specific American foreign policy objective. Senator Kerry’s liberal-socialist shibboleth, the “global test,” as an independent and continuous test of American foreign policy is a prescription for fecklessness at best and disaster at worst.

By the same token, it is foolish to castigate France for opposing American foreign policy.  The French have every right, indeed a duty, to oppose American foreign policy whenever they perceive it to be contrary to France’s national interests. 

And gratitude for American blood twice shed to liberate France is not necessarily a valid element of France’s foreign policy. The French understand that we fought to liberate them in both world wars, not to aid France, but to counter German objectives that were threats to American national interests.

We may, of course question France’s perception of her national interests.  In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin reneged on his promise, made to Secretary of State Colin Powell, to support UN get-tough resolutions directed at Saddam Hussein’s regime.  We now know that France did so because it feared exposure to world scrutiny of its arms shipments to Iraq that contravened UN sanctions and exposure of the massive bribes paid by Saddam to French companies and French officials in the blood-money criminality of the UN’s oil-exports-for-humanitarian-aid program.  Maintaining secrecy about this perfidy was conceived to be a matter of great French national interest.

The United States owes France zilch, nada, niente, nothing.  Only if, as, and when one of our foreign policy objectives happens to coincide with French national interests should there be any diplomatic cooperation beyond the formalities of courtesy.  We should remember that France has many times been our enemy, and only once a helpful ally, in the War of Independence, when it was more a matter of carrying on France’s war with England than of helping the fledgeling United States.

It’s in that context that we can see the complete falsity of Jacques Chirac’s put-down of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.  Geography and common religious, cultural, language, economic, and political interests have militated, since the end of our War of Independence, to keep England and America natural allies.  No such ties or common interests exist between France and the United States.

Both England and the United States historically have been commercial trading nations for whom open markets and free access to the world’s sea lanes have been matters of vital national interest.  Until the Victorian era, England’s overseas empire consisted of trading posts established by private companies, with sea access protected by the British navy.  Until the Spanish-American War in 1898, we had no territories outside the continental United States.

France, however, always had been focused upon controlling as much land area as possible in Continental Europe, with the objective of controlling trade and exacting tax revenues.  Generally this meant head-on conflict with England.  That’s what Joan of Arc’s battles in the early 1400s during the Hundred Years War were all about. 

England’s national interests, therefore were threatened whenever France became too powerful.  This was particularly true during the French and Indian Wars period just before our Declaration of Independence.  France and England were battling literally around the world, from Europe, to India, to Canada, and the Caribbean. 

John Jay, our principal negotiator in the treaty ending our War of Independence, wisely recognized the identity of interests between England and our new nation.  France wanted to regain Canada and hoped to use the United States as a lever against England, ultimately planning to scoop us up into the French empire as a colonial protectorate.  American trade with England, however, was a vital matter to both England and the United States.

Playing upon that natural affinity between our two nations, as well as our common opposition to France’s aims, Jay was able to negotiate an exceptionally favorable treaty settlement with England. 

Thus, from the earliest days of the United States, we and England have been natural allies.  After the French Revolution in 1789, when Napoleon began his imperialistic rampage across Europe, both we and England viewed his activities as a threat to our national interests.  Had Napoleon been able to control all of Continental Europe’s main ports, he could have severely crippled British trade.  With England as our major trading partner, that result would also have crippled our economy.

All of our early leaders, from Federalists like Washington and John Adams, to anti-Federalists Jefferson and Madison, were careful to maintain close relations with England, because it was the British navy’s control of the world’s oceans that protected our trade, at a time when we had almost no navy of our own.

The Monroe Doctrine of 1823 declared the policy of the United States as opposed to any European nation’s extension of its power into Western hemisphere territory.  That policy could not have been effective without the explicit backing of England.  President Monroe, in fact, issued his proclamation only after British foreign minister George Canning gave it England’s backing.  While the American public was never aware of this secret agreement, it was clear to other European nations that the British navy would halt any effort to ignore the Monroe doctrine.  England wanted European naval outposts in the Western Hemisphere no more than did the United States.

Fast forward to the 20th century and its two world wars.  German submarines, in both wars, began sinking British ships that were carrying food and other essential supplies to England, most of it across the Atlantic from the United States.  England saw that preventing German control of France in World War I and expelling Germany in World War II were essential to preventing a German invasion of England across the Channel from French naval bases.

The United States, with far more trade with England than Germany, had a clear national interest in aiding England to prevent its conquest by Germany.  In World War II, especially, this was true, because Germany, had it maintained control of the Continent and successfully invaded England, could have dominated Atlantic shipping and put itself into a position to blackmail the United States with direct military threats.

In short, as this fast survey demonstrates, England and the United States have deep and ancient common national interests that make them natural allies.  France never enters this picture except as a potential land base threat to England and Atlantic shipping.  It’s therefore not surprising that Jacques Chirac goes his own way, while the United States and England support each other.