In American politics, presidential candidates like Howard Dean stress the
need of getting other countries to like us "again". Do you think that French
candidates sweat whether the United States likes France? In fact, the
United States has a 200+ year obsession with wanting other countries to like us
or to accept us.
The upper crusts of the American life have traditionally felt scorn and
embarrassment at the "crass" culture of the United States. In the United States,
the middle class has always ruled the day. And to those elites, who consider
their tastes and intellects much more refined, such a situation is abhorrent.
As a result, American leaders, particularly on the left, have generally gone
to great lengths to appease "their betters" in Europe and in particular western
Europe. Most Americans have no idea how much we have suffered as a result
of politicians, like Howard Dean, wanting to be accepted and liked by countries
Let's take Vietnam as an example since those who want us to do what France
would have us do use to compare the situation with Iraq with. The
implication is, if we just listened to the wise, sagely advice of our "allies"
in France we wouldn't be in this "Vietnam-like" mess.
But Vietnam, in a nutshell, was a result of trying to placate the French. The
more you know the history, the more infuriating it gets. In 1944, the OSS
worked with Vietnamese nationals such as Ho Chi Min against the Japanese. We
trained them to try to help liberate Indochina from the Japanese in World War
But where things get interesting is France's behavior. It's not commonly
known that France was an Axis power for most of World War II. "Vichy France" is
treated as some sort of puppet but it was an active participant in World War II
as an Axis power. Most history books gloss over France's behavior in South
East Asia. But in fact, France actively aided the Japanese, a fellow Axis power,
in Indochina. Most people aren't aware of this, they think after France got
taken out in 1940 that they were essentially like a chess piece off the board.
In actuality they switched sides and from 1940 to 1944 they fought for the
Germans and Japanese. Only after those bloody Anglo-Saxxons (UK/USA) conquered,
er liberated France for Charles De Gaulle (and boy he sure showed his
appreciation didn't he?) and his small contingent of "Free French" did France
nominally return to being an "ally". And that was in the last 6 months or so of
the war in Europe.
This is important because it sets up everything that happened next. So World
War II ends and in the chaos that followed in Indochina, Ho Chi Min, an ally of
the United States, sets up the Republic of Vietnam...
And then the French return.
Unlike Britain who started freeing its colonies and the United States who
made the Philippines an independent country in 1946, the French wanted to keep
their empire and fought tooth and nail before losing it.
The first thing the French did when they got back in force to Vietnam was arm
the un-repatriated Japanese troops to "police" the population. Think about that.
After fighting for their freedom from brutal Japanese occupiers while the Vichy
French stood back and let it happen, the French return and rather than make
clear that thought the Axis was an evil thing, they arm the Japanese again.
They only stopped doing this because the Americans and British threw a fit about
it. Most Americans on the ground believed that the French had no business in
Indochina after their behavior during the war. They had seen the bravery and
nationalism of the Vietnamese. To put it in perspective, Italy lost more
troops fighting on behalf of the allies than the French did and Italy wasn't
given back their various overseas possessions. But having France like us was
apparently more important than doing the right thing in Indochina at the time.
Eventually France alienated Ho Chi Min who fled to the hills and began a
guerilla war. The United States, wanting to support its "ally" France
intervened in increasing ways which culminated in what we call the Vietnam war.
The United States, by no means, is blameless in the matter. But if we're
going to start comparing the current situation with Iraq with Vietnam then let's
not cherry pick. Let's remember that the whole ugly mess was largely caused by
doing what France wanted. Hoping that they would like us more if we did.
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