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 by William H. Benson

March, 6, 2002

     In his best-seller John Adams, David McCullough told of Adams’s experiences in the French court during and after the American Revolutionary War.  Adams the perpetual realist held no illusions of what directed France’s actions.  “It is interest alone which does it,” he told Congress, “and it is interest alone which can be trusted.”

     Vergennes, the French Foreign Minister, disliked Adams’s stubborn manner, and Adams in turn had a vivid image of what Vergennes intended.  “He means to keep his hand under our chin to prevent us from drowning, but not to lift our heads out of water.”  Vergennes’s main purpose in helping the Americans was to weaken and humble Britain, and expand trade in America.

     Indeed, Vergennes told the French Finance Minister, “Always keep in mind that in separating the United States from Great Britain, it was above all else their commerce that we wanted.”

     Adams wrote to Congress of his impressions.  “Yet I have many reasons to think that not one of them, not even Spain or France, wishes to see America rise very fast to power.  Let us above all things avoid as much as possible entangling ourselves with their wars and politics.  America has been the sport of European wars and politics long enough.”

     In May of 1940 Hitler’s army stomped across the map of France in a matter of weeks forcing the Allied troops to withdraw from French soil on a make-shift flotilla bound for England’s Dover cliffs.  Four years later on August 25, 1944 Allied troops, primarily British and American, liberated Paris amid great rejoicing.

     By the Marshall Plan war-torn France ended up receiving $9.5 billion in outright aid from the United States and another $1.8 billion in loans.  With such generous help France soon stood on her own legs, proud and capable of striking off on her own.

     In the 1960’s the French President Charles deGaulle said, “It is intolerable for a great state that her fate be left to the decisions and actions of another state, however friendly she may be.”

     DeGaulle struck hard at American leadership.  He refused to admit England into the Common Market.  He recognized Red China and then received a hero’s welcome on a visit to Russia.  He removed French forces from NATO and booted out of France NATO’s headquarters.  He and his fellow Frenchmen were so angered by America’s refusal to part with nuclear technology that they built their own nuclear capability.

     Paul Johnson, the British historian, writing in last week’s Forbes aruged that in light of recent events “France is not be trusted at any time, on any issue.  The British have learned this over 1,000 years of acrimonious history.”  In extreme terms he described the French as displaying  “shortsighted selfishness, long-term irresponsibility, impudent humbug, and sheer malice.”  And he declared that “French support always has to be bought.”

     Specifically, Johnson suggested that France should no longer remain a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and that it is doubtful that France can be trusted as a nuclear power.  “The French have certainly sold nuclear technology to rogue states in the past, Iraq among them.” And now France is trying to derail America’s vigorous campaign to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction among the criminal-like dictators of the world, such as Saddam Hussein.

     George Will in his Newsweek column revealed that the Israeli pilot killed in the shuttle disaster some weeks ago had participated in Israel’s 1981 raid that destroyed Baghdad’s nuclear reactor.  “Were it not for that raid, Iraq would have been a nuclear power in 1990, and Kuwait would be the 19th province of Iraq.”


     Paul Johnson suggested that America must intensify her watch of French nuclear activities, for Americans are learning “that loyalty, gratitude, comradeship, and respect for treaty obligations are qualities never exhibited by French governments.”