Something Good About The French

I’ve been challenged by e-mail to say anything good about the French. Never being one to shrink from a challenge, I have to echo the sentiments of this post from the Chicago Boyz. I managed to pick up a copy of Jean-Francois Revel’s treatise on anti-Americanism a while back, and it was an absolutely delightful and spirited defense of America in the style of another great Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville. Fortunately, for those who don’t have the time to wade through dense French syntax will be able to read the English translation in short order.

In other great French books that should be required reading, Bernard Henri-Levy has a chilling book called Who Killed Daniel Pearl? that explores the last moments of the Wall Street Journal who was killed by al-Qaeda operatives in Karachi, Pakistan. Levy’s combines a probing look into Pakistan’s terrorist connections with a novelist’s eye for detail. Who Killed Daniel Pearl? is quite possibly the best book I’ve read this year, and the things Levy discovers in Pakistan are chilling at least. Levy makes a cogent argument that the United States needs to do more to combat Pakistan’s assistance to terrorism. As Levy states:

"I am strongly anti-anti-American, but I opposed the war in Iraq, because of what I’d seen in Pakistan," Levy said. "Iraq was a false target, a mistaken target. Saddam, yes, is a terrible butcher, and we can only be glad that he is gone. But he is a twentieth-century butcher – an old-fashioned secular tyrant, who made an easy but irrelevant target. His boasting about having weapons of mass destruction and then being unable to really build them or keep them is typical – he’s just a gangster, who lived by fear and for money. Saddam has almost nothing to do with the real threat. We were attacking an Iraq that was already largely disarmed. Meanwhile, in some Pakistani bazaar someone, as we speak, is trading a Russian miniaturized nuclear weapon."

While I think there was more than enough justification for removing Hussein outside the issue of WMDs, Levy is right that we cannot afford the luxury of complacence in the war in terror. Indeed the markets of Karachi and rough border towns like Quetta are havens for al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan. Pakistan’s ISI is indeed a major sponsor of terror, even if Musharraf’s government is trying to ingratiate itself with the West. Removing Hussein is analogous to fighting Rommel in North Africa – a necessary, if difficult battle on the road to the objective of removing a cancerous and bloodthirsty ideology from the threatening the world.

The Chicago Boyz also point to French philosopher Andre Glucksmann who argues that the United States should have made a stronger moral case in Iraq – directly comparing Hussein to a thug like Slobodon Milosevic. It’s an argument also made by Laurence Kaplan and William Kristol here in the United States, and an argument I think the Bush Administration should have made as a more important reason than weapons of mass destruction.

So, there’s at least three people in France who haven’t fallen to the continental affliction of rampant idiotarianism. Along with other brave writers and intellectuals like Alain Finkelkraut and Sabine Herold, there are those in France who understand the magnitude of the fight against terror and do not believe that the current reactionary anti-Americanism of the French establishment is the right idea. The spirit of Montesquieu and Tocqueville still live on in France if one is willing to look for it.

8 thoughts on “Something Good About The French

  1. Jay,

    BHL (Bernard-Henri Lévy) is a famous philosopher pretty much focussed on international affairs although he may deal with different topics too. BHL is also of Jewish background & hasn’t emigrated to Israel so far nor claimed that France was an antisemitic country… The book about Pearle by BHL is very well documented & is vividly breathtaking most of the time . I recommend it to you. BHL considers Pakistan a much more ominous threat than Oussama Ben Laden or even Saddam Hussein.

    Jean-François Revel’s latest book about the French perception of the US is caricatural & not very interesting, in my opinion. Revel is a kind of old-fashioned, self-appointed, all-purpose media-nomenklatura pundit. Nothing brilliant anyway.

    André Glucksmann -a philosopher too- is far more interesting & may be depicted as someone utterly consistent with a kind of non-fioritura approach to European & World affairs.

    Alain Finkelkraut is also a very brilliant -albeit highly controversial- character. His views are always sharp-sighted but remain debatable.

    Sabine Hérold is neither a writer nor an intellectual.

    The intellectual microcosmos located at the Seine river’s west bank is indeed very active. That’s nothing new.

    As for Montesquieu & Tocqueville, it would be a huge misinterpretation to amalgamate their works with the present-day blabla bubble inflated by second-hand rightist “thinkers” or activists.

  2. The only Revel I’ve read was the book he did with his son, Matthieu Ricard- “The Philosopher and the Monk”. I was very impressed by it. I know I need to get around to reading his “Without Marx or Jesus”, but I still haven’t…

  3. Something else good about the French….they were wise enough not to entangle themselves into a misguided war in Iraq, and as a result, will be able to save hundreds of French lives and billions of French dollars.

  4. Jay,
    thanks for trying to find something good about France. It’s quite sad that you can only come up with 3 persons of interest out of 60 millions, but I’ll give you some more time.
    The quote you posted is brilliant. I think it is very close tomy personnal views for which I’ve been attacked many time on this blog. The junte of Pakistan is a member of the coalition of the willing. Maybe that’s another reason why France doesn’t want to be part of it.

  5. Well, given the choice between Gen. Musharraf, who is undemocratic but not a tyrant and is working to ensure that Pakistan doesn’t fall into the hands of Islamic extremists, I’d chose the former. (In fact, al-Jazeera is running a tape from Ayman al-Zawahiri demanding that Musharraf be removed right now.)

  6. Jay,

    Your black & white, evil & good, us & them approach to WW4 is staggeringly undecisive.

    Could it be your ideological framework underlying any comment by you is flawed?

    You remind me of Georges Marchais, a pathetic Secretary General of the PCF (French Communist Party) who ended up his superb carrer with Brejnev & Co…

  7. Well, if stating that the stoning of adulterers, the execution of homosexuals, keeping women under the burqa, and the general oppression that is the shari’a are all manifestly bad things is so unacceptable to you, then quite frankly, it’s your ideological framework is flawed. If you cannot accept that the denial of human rights under shari’a is wrong by any standard of civilization I suggest your try living under it some time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.