French Follies: Will France Ever Learn from its own History?
by Robert Ditmar
When France soon becomes a majority Muslim nation and an Islamic Republic, I am certain the ruling Mullahs, or whomever is running that most civilized of nations will somehow blame the Americans as the “root cause” as necessitating implementation of Islamic sharia law. With Notre Dame turned into a mosque and consumption of their wine, pork sausages, and interaction between the sexes punishable by death, the City of Lights will be a lot less exotic and definitely a lot less romantic. France will have to change its slogan of “lovers, not fighters” to “jihadis, not lovers.” But until this happy day arrives, the French will continue down their well-traveled path of collaborating with their future masters while opposing anything at all that that resembles common sense or that the United States does to protect its, and the West’s interests. One only has to look back to the 20th century to see how the French compromise their national safety, and the safety of their neighbors, in the name of French “greatness.”
The Versailles Treaty that ended World War I had allowed Germany to keep a standing army of only 100,000 troops, with no air force and no submarines in her navy. Regardless, in 1935 Hitler simply ignored this required condition and re-instituted military conscription and an armaments buildup program. Under the guise of “research for peaceful purposes”, Hitler had decided that Germany would rebuild a vast war machine. Despite this blatant violation of the treaty, which provided France a legal and moral right to keep Germany disarmed under “international” law with the backing of the League of Nations, France did nothing. France could have challenged Hitler militarily with her overwhelming superiority in military strength, which would surely have forced the Nazis to back down with their tails between their legs. Instead, France did nothing.
One year later, Hitler sent his new and growing army to reoccupy the demilitarized Rhineland in western Germany. This vital area, bordering France, contained much of the industrial backbone from which the Nazis would build their extensive war machine. The area was deemed a demilitarized zone by the conditions of the Versailles Treaty. Although the French had the legal right to put a stop to this and had the superiority in military strength to overwhelm and force the Nazis out, the French again did nothing. Fear of a new war, which was ingrained in the memories of the battlefield carnage on the Western Front 18 years earlier, along with a vain belief in Hitler’s claim of “peaceful” intentions, had pacified France. It appeared that Chancellor Hitler wanted nothing more than to restore honor to the great German nation and desired to live in peace.
The French decided to believe that Germany was no threat at all to France. In the name of “peace”, France forfeited her options. Besides, the French took comfort in their Maginot Line, France’s fortified defenses on her frontier with Germany. Surely this would discourage any German thought of attacking France. Never mind the Maginot Line left France’s border with Belgium and Holland wide open, where the Germans had actually invaded into France at the outbreak of World War I. Hitler’s ambitions were “peaceful” and he would never think of breaching the neutrality of two small nations. To the French, the absence of war was the only definition of peace that mattered. Four years after allowing this, France found herself surrendering to the overwhelming onslaught of the German blitzkrieg. Ironically, the humiliating official formal surrender of France to Hitler was held in the same train railway car in which the Germans surrendered to the French in World War I.
The German surrender in 1918 had led to the Versailles peace treaty that ended World War I. The treaty created the League of Nations to enforce cooperative “international law”, and required that Germany keep a very small military that would never be capable of aggressive war again. But the end result was a humiliated and angry Germany that embarked on a path of revenge, eventually leading to her rearmament and setting the stage for World War II. Now France was bargaining not as an equal, but as the vanquished with her German invaders. Rather than occupy all of France, Hitler offered to spare the southern half of the country if the French would establish a collaborationist puppet government whose capital was to be set in Vichy, a medium city located in the center of France. In accepting this condition, the “French Government” in Vichy, represented by it’s “President”, Marshall Phillippe Petain, the French national hero of World War I, would “run” the affairs of a sovereign southern French state, free of German occupation. Petain, who had won his fame and the adoration of his countrymen by holding off the Germans at the terrible Battle of Verdun during World War I, was now doing the bidding of the Nazis as a puppet leader in France.
In typical stubborn French arrogance of a belief in the myth of French “greatness” and the belief that the universe revolves around France, collaboration with the Nazis to keep half of France “free” was justified as necessary for the advancement of civilization. In reality, however, the only thing the Vichy government actually kept free was enough German divisions to threaten an invasion of France’s old ally, Britain, and give the Germans enough manpower to invade the Soviet Union the following year. It could be argued that had France taken preventative action just a few years earlier, when she had the upper hand on the Germans in both “international law” and her military strength, she would never have been invaded, and World War II would not have happened.
However, French appeasement, indecisiveness and collaborative instincts created an environment that allowed a shrewd aggressor to gain the upper hand. By the time Germany had overrun France, it was already too late for the French to do anything about it. It took four more years before the Americans and British would sacrifice thousands of their own to liberate the “great” French nation. Of course, Charles De Gaul, and various revisionist French historians, has created an image that the French actually liberated themselves. It may be fiction, but who’s keeping track?
Sound familiar? It should. But you don’t need to be a student of history to know this. Just watch the news today, in which we again see France playing chief appeaser to a dictator feigning “peaceful” ambitions under the guise of “international” law. France wants to see the aggressor vanquished, but in France’s warped view of the world, the aggressor is the United States, her two-time liberator from the past century. To French tunnel vision, the poor aggrieved Iraqi totalitarian regime is morally superior, needing protection from an evil, expansionist American imperialist empire. After all, “President” Saddam Hussein did get 100% of the vote in the last “democratically” held Iraqi general election.” It is amazing what threats of execution can do to turnout the electorate and win so solidly.
Like generations of Frenchmen in the past one hundred years, it appears that this current French government is willing to overlook 12 years of continuous violations of Gulf War cease-fire terms, allowing “President” Saddam to hide his weapons of mass destruction in order to keep the “peace” in his own region and maintain the happy status quo of his people. Hopefully, French oversight of their latest proposed inspection plan, to counter American policy, will see to it that Saddam’s weapons never make it to Al-Qaeda’s operatives. We can all sleep well knowing that France has all the answers to the problem of Iraq and Islamist terror in general. Or do they?
Perhaps soon France will get yet another lesson in the definition of the term “peaceful intentions” from her friends in Iraq and maybe Al-Qaeda too. After all, Al-Qaeda has a different definition of “peace” than do the French. When France receives this education, perhaps she will actually learn something about “peace” for a change. But, as a history teacher might find teaching a lesson to an inattentive and disruptive student as impossible, the French will again miss the point and find that it is probably be too late for the French to do anything about it.
Robert Ditmar is the founder and Editor of The Conservative Camp. He has a conservative perspective on the events of the world that we live in and has an interest in helping to advance this perspective.
A freelance editorial columnist who writes about historical and current political and foreign policy issues, Mr. Ditmar's articles have appeared in various conservative and occasionally liberal political and foreign policy websites and e-zines.