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Thursday, November 08, 2012

Our Oldest Enemy?

In 2004, piqued by France's unwillingness to support every crazy war the Bush administration planned to hold, a pair of neocon authors declared that France is "our oldest enemy."

But what did people in the early republic think of the French? Well:

"In advance of the fiftieth anniversary of the American Revolution, Congress and President Monroe had invited Lafayette to return to the United States to see how it had grown, and how beloved he still was. It was no exaggeration. During his thirteen-month tour... the last surviving commander of Continental Army troops grabbed headlines week after week. Accompanied by his son, George Washington Lafayette, he was heralded everywhere as 'the nation's guest'... adulatory crowds formed wherever he was spotted. Young ladies competed to set flower wreaths upon his head; balls were held and toasts drunk." -- Madison and Jefferson, p. 594

Conclusion: Neocons are nitwits.

15 comments:

  1. Well, it's nice that you went through all of the trouble. But I think that we all knew that neocons are nitwits, it's almost common knowledge at this point. Their entire ideology is dependent upon enemies (from whatever clothe defined) and they're entirely irrational in discussion.

    I'll just put it this way: they definitely stick out.

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  2. You mean neocons were nitwits in 2004. Authors don't stand behind books they wrote in the first half of the 2000s, I have learned.

    (Yes I went there.)

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  3. I'm Canadian. We are your oldest enemy! Ontario was built on United Empire Loyalists fleeing your oppressions! You invaded us in 1812! Fifty-four forty or Fight! You won't give the Stanley Cup back! You filched David R Henderson!

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    1. Fifty-four forty or Fight!

      Forty-nine and settle ...

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  4. Incidentally y'all need to admit the authors are probably right. The quasi-war of the late 1790s was with France, it was the country's first armed engagement with a foreign power, and there was a sizable pro-war faction at the time seeking to escalate.
    Taking a longer view the colonies were English, and France was the main rival and enemy, on a larger scale and for a longer time. There was no Dutch and Indian War.

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  5. Well, you've skipped over the Washington and Adams administrations, Napoleon's trade shenanigans, etc.

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    1. Huff, I am not trying to make the claim "France: Our BFF." If I was, your complaint would be relevant. I am just refuting the claim "France: Our Oldest Enemy." Certainly there was another country that actually fought to wars with the US in this period that has a much better claim to be our enemy during this period, don't you think?

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    2. Oh, I definitely agree that France isn't our "oldest enemy." The fact that France is no longer (in any meaningful sense) our enemy is enough to put that claim to rest, since outside of special contexts "oldest" almost always implies duration into the present.

      I'm just not crazy about citing this incident from Monroe's presidency as indicative of Franco-American relations in early U.S. history. There was plenty of quarreling as well as cooperation.

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    3. But Huff, don't you see, to refute the neocon claim, all one has to do is show *some* evidence that at times France has been viewed in a very friendly fashion. I *agree with you*, there have been ups and downs in the relationship: but that alone is enough to refute this image of continuous enmity!

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    4. "But Huff, don't you see, to refute the neocon claim, all one has to do is show *some* evidence that at times France has been viewed in a very friendly fashion."

      No, that logic is wrong. Their claim is that France has been America's enemy (or adversary), not vice versa. Much of literature turns on the fact that enemies need not be reciprocal or open. Iago.
      Citing American attitudes won't do.

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    5. OK, Ken, I ought to have written "that at times France was *quite correctly* viewed as a good friend to the US."

      That was in my mind, but I did not make it explicit.

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  6. Gene, I wonder where "shared history" comes into play. I dont think it's implausible, even though I dont agree, to tell a story of a felt history with w/ GB. And GB vs. France makes sense. So even though it's fine to call neocons nitwits at will, I dont think it's legit to poop on a certain claim simply because it comes from the nitwit camp.

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    1. Hume, as Huff says: 'The fact that France is no longer (in any meaningful sense) our enemy is enough to put that claim to rest, since outside of special contexts "oldest" almost always implies duration into the present.'

      What we have with France (as with Britain!) is a mixed history: sometimes friendly, sometimes not. Think of the Statue of Liberty, World War I, World War II, the attraction of Paris for Americans: this is not continuous enmity.

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  7. Gene, While I do not agree with the claim, I dont think it's implausible for some to take an opposite (although badly misguided and mistaken) point of view. After all, I sometimes root for the Cowboys when they are playing the Eagles, and I sometimes root for the Eagles when they are playing the Redskins, and I sometimes root for the Eagles when they are playing the Cowboys . . . depending on the circumstances. But at the end of the day, the Cowboys, Eagles, and Redskins are no friends of mine.

    [I got engaged in Paris, my mother-in-law was born in France, where her extended family still resides. I love the place].

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