"My dislike of the French is independent of any facts about the world."
That quote, D2 Digest's summary of one of den Beste's ridiculously verbose posts, pretty much sums up the opinion of Max the Freshman.
When I first saw these pictures, and the clever captions he provides, I got suddenly and inexplicably angry. I very nearly wrote an obscenely long post which could not be called a "fisking" so much as an "utter full-blog fucking." I even read his archives (a task which was made easier by the fact that he's only been blogging since November) in order to carefully deconstruct and hold up to popular ridicule everything he has ever said.
Much to my surprise, my better nature took hold while I was reading some of his back entries. As it turns out, he is not evil. Nor is he stupid. My friend Max is actually quite the news junkie, a not-uncommon trait for a blogger. And as he's pulling down higher than a 3.5 at Georgetown, he's actually rather intelligent, a trait that is somewhat uncommon among a lot of bloggers.
His problem, then, is a lack of sense, empathy, and basic knowledge of history.
So, to remedy the problem, instead of the terrible horrible things I was originally going to say, I will offer an extremely condensed history lesson -- about things he should have had the sense to find out himself -- in the hope that he will develop a little empathy for his fellow human beings, the French.
-The French surrendered so quickly after the German Western Offensive not because they were abject cowards, but because they had been so thoroughly outfoxed. They had been, with the Maginot Line and not much of an air force to speak of, "fighting the last war," a concept that I would think Max, who is (presumably, as a member of the ROTC) taking various courses in military history, would be familiar with. The Weirmacht completely bypassed all their defenses, and made an all-out dash to the coast, and to Paris. Blitzkreig --massive tank advances with heavy air support -- carried the day. Completely lacking in air support, and with the majority of their heavy forces stationed back on the German border, virtually useless, the French Army was slaughtered. The fact that the French military hierarchy did not grasp the importance of using tanks in mass-attacks, much to the frustration of Charles DeGaulle, only made matters worse. In fact, an idea of what might have happened if the French army had been organized in accordance with the ideas DeGaulle set forth in his 1934 book "The Army of the Future" can be gleaned from DeGaulle's successful rout of the German forces at Caumont. Unfortunately, that one victory was not enough. The majority of France was occupied, and, with DeGaulle out of the country to consult with the British, the Vichy regime came to power under Petain, and negotiated the armistice. Keep in mind: the government that led France when DeGaulle left the country was not the government that negotiated with Germany. Also keep in mind that the primary leaders of that government were sentenced to death after the war -- by the French -- for treason (the 89 year-old Petain's sentence was commuted to life in prison).
So, while it's fair to say that the French military hierarchy was outsmarted, the "surrender-monkey” theme is completely inappropriate. But then, I guess it takes a lot more thought to yell "Followers of an obsolete military doctrine!" than "Pussies!"
- The French Resistance, while perhaps not as effective as some in France make it out to be, was nonetheless composed of some extremely brave men. I would ask anyone living in the middle of the (ridiculously geographically secure) North American landmass if they would be brave enough to fight to delay, with few weapons and no supplies, the 2nd SS Panzer Division were it rolling through, I don't know, say Culver, Indiana? And what if you knew that a nearby town, possibly the one your family lives in, would have its inhabitants rounded up and executed in retribution? Well kids, this is exactly what the French Maquis did when the Allies were storming the Normandy beaches. As anyone who has at least watched Saving Private Ryan knows, the first days after the invasion were absolutely critical, and one of the most elite armored divisions in the Nazi army showing up at the wrong place could have tossed the Allies back into the sea. This was not token resistance.
Furthermore, there were innumerable members of the Resistance, some known, others forever nameless, who lost their lives throughout the war to the Gestapo and the Vichy secret police, often being tortured for the names of their associates. And yet, they continued on; some writing underground newspapers, some carrying out assassinations and sabotage, but all working against the occupying German forces. These were not cowards, and any man who labels them as such demeans not them, but himself.
- American military casualties (dead, not wounded) throughout the war are estimated at roughly 500,000. The French lost 340,000 men in uniform. Right there, it is obvious that the French did not simply turn tail and run. But the more startling statistic is the number of civilian casualties. US civilian casualties were, roughly, 0, because the civilian population was on the other side of the Atlantic. French civilians did not have it so easy; they shared a border with Germany. 470,000 French civilians died in the war. Is there anyone out there low enough to accuse them all of cowardice?
- And in more recent history, it was French troops who, in 1997, rescued 1,500 foreign nationals from the street fighting in the Republic of Congo. And just last September, French soldiers rescued 200 American students and school staff who had been trapped between warring factions in the Ivory Coast when it dissolved into bloody chaos.
The point is that dismissing the French as cowards is itself a cowardly method of argument. Beyond that, passing out white flags at the French Embassy is childish in that it ignores actual history in favor of an easy-to-remember theme: The French are wimps.
Overall, Max is not a bad guy; he’s a bit self-righteous, but, really, my calling someone else self-righteous means it’s definitely pot-kettle-black time. And for my Leftie friends, he’s not necessarily a sheep, either. Hell, he agrees that Fox News is essentially worthless. Point out five other arch-conservatives that will admit that.
In the end, the thing that enraged me so much initially -- besides the morally-bankrupt painting of an entire people as cowards when so many of them clearly are not (this applies to his mouthing off about liberal "hippies" too) -- was the fact that, when all is said and done, the French are our allies, and having images of Americans mocking French cowardice outside the Embassy appear in French newspapers can only make matters worse when they so desperately need to be made better. I f you disagree with the French, fine. If you don't like what they're doing, fine. Go tell them. But for God's sake, don't just spit in their faces and assume that they will then see the light. I understand that Max, being an adamant Right winger with all kinds of rage at us nation-destroying liberals, doesn’t get it, but Glenn Reynolds, who enabled this bit of Frog-baiting by linking to these pictures, should know better.
Here endeth the lesson.
Edit: One sentence broken into three sentences due to overly-complex structure. And the links work now.