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France hasn’t always got the memo about being a team player

One of the arguments I occasionally hear is that the European Union has been an important force for peace in Europe following the Second World War and that further, the weakening of the EU as a result of UK departure will embolden enemies of Western Europe, such as Putin. However, here’s a thing: it was arguably the decisive defeat of Nazi Germany, and the determination of the NATO powers, led by the US, to contain the Soviet Union and combat forms of anti-West subversion, that was more important in keeping the peace. The EU was in my view part of the overall architecture of what the Western powers put together, but whether it was decisive is unproven at best.

And the the various missteps of the EU after the Berlin Wall came down have seriously reduced rather than increased the EU’s status as a stabilising, pro-peace, force. The greatest misstep of all was launching a single, fiat currency without full, democratically accountable political union. (I would not have objected to a common, hard-money system for those who wanted it, but that was never the aim of the European Union’s most ardent federalists.)

I can understand why leaders such as Margaret Thatcher (until the late 80s) regarded membership of the EU as one of those dues that had to be paid to keep the West together and why she fretted that it was becoming more of a problem towards the end of her time in office.

It should not be forgotten that during the 60s, under the Presidency of Charles De Gaulle, France withdrew itself from the command structure and active operations of NATO. Leave aside the reasoning behind it: you have a large, relatively strong Western European country leaving one of the main transnational groupings of the post-war era, a couple of decades before the Berlin Wall came down and before the end of Communism. But I hardly ever hear France getting heat for this. Maybe I read the wrong journals and websites.

It is worth remembering this episode if one ever hears a French commentator or politician bashing the UK for somehow “weakening the West” for getting out of an organisation that it did not like. Because France did leave an important group, but the sky did not in the end fall in.

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25 comments to France hasn’t always got the memo about being a team player

  • Lee Moore

    it was arguably the decisive defeat of Nazi Germany, and the determination of the NATO powers, led by the US, to contain the Soviet Union and combat forms of anti-West subversion, that was more important in keeping the peace. The EU was in my view part of the overall architecture of what the Western powers put together, but whether it was decisive is unproven at best.

    I’d be inclined to rephrase thus :

    “it was unarguably the decisive defeat of Nazi Germany, and the determination of the NATO powers, led by the US, to contain the Soviet Union and combat forms of anti-West subversion, that was decisive in keeping the peace. The EU was in my view part of the overall architecture of what the Western powers put together, but it had absoXXXXXXXlutely nothing to do with keeping the peace in Europe.”

    PS I do recall, vaguely, occasional Torygraph style muttering about the French not pulling their weight in NATO. But obviously nothing from those who didn’t approve of NATO at all, many of whom are well represented in the you-can’t-leave-the-EU-or the-bombs-will-fall crowd.

  • Rob

    I hardly ever hear France getting heat for this

    That’s because for UK Leftists, France can literally do no wrong. They have a massive inferiority complex.

    I remember talking to a friend who was outraged at plans for the NHS to impose charges on foreign users. I pointed out that he has to have travel insurance every time he goes skiing in France, and would be charged for treatments if he didn’t. That was different, apparently, and perfectly reasonable.

  • Mr Ed

    The French left NATO’s command structure but with their own nuclear deterrent in place and with the comfort of knowing that between them and the bulk of Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces were the Bundeswehr, the BAOR and above all the European arm of the US Army, with all the trimmings and the Royal Navy in the North Sea/Atlantic along with allies.

    Of course, the sneaky Soviets might have come through Austria and Italy and perhaps even Switzerland, but that would have been a provocation.

    And I posted here a while back about the Soviet plan for attacking Denmark (that once-mighty power) with 500 nukes on Denmark alone (so a Ukraninan told a US Army officer c. 1994). That would be an awful lot of crispy bacon.

  • Watchman

    Peace is a by-product of democracy (democracies being less inclined to throw their voters’ lives away for the sort of gains war brings than autocrats or collectivised societies). Despite the best efforts of a few, all of the Western European countries remained democratic after World War II (and most of the East European countries adopted functioning democracy – bit slow in the Balkans and bits of the ex-USSR). This probably explains the recent peace in much of Eurioe. Wierdly it may also explain a lot of the indignation about the Iraq War we are seeing yet again – democracies are ruthless enemies (at least in terms of leaving opposing state structures in place – they tend not to be up for killing loads of people) but tend to want to feel there is a justification for getting involved.

    Anyway, if the USSR had invaded Germany (or elsewhere), somehow I doubt that French forces would not have been committed – and the French are seemingly pretty good at working with others in warfare for a supposedly stand-alone outfit (I think I am right in saying that UK and French aircraft carriers could always fly each others’ planes?).

  • Paul Marks

    The EEC – EU has never been anything to do with defending Europe or keeping the peace in Europe. And it is certainly no threat to Mr Putin.

    It was NATO – essentially the British and American armed forces, that has kept the peace.

    It is deeply angering that “Remain” types should use the vile LIE that “the E.U. has kept the peace in Europe”.

    As for Mr Putin.

    His propaganda mouthpiece – “RT” was indeed hostile to the E.U., but it is also starting to be hostile to British Independence.

    Max Keiser of RT (I watch – so you do not have to) went without a single blush of shame, from saying that Britain being in the E.U. was for the benefit of the rich, to saying (on Tuesday – yesterday) that British independence was for the benefit of the rich – the “hedge funds” (who also blames for such things as the debts of American States – actually the result of wild spending state governments) and his other usual suspects.

    These people (Putin’s propagandists) are indeed shameless.

    As I have said they will say that anything, and the exact reverse of that same thing, is for the benefit of “the rich” and “big business”.

    If fails the Karl Popper test.

    If any policy, and the exact opposite of that policy, is “proof” that “the rich” and “big business” control the government, then this is no “proof” at all – the whole thing is a nonsense.

    This is not to say that Mark Carney and his policy of (whatever the situation is) create-more-credit should not be sacked.

    Of course Mark Carney should be sacked – and the whole Credit Bubble Mark Carney George Osborne policy thrown in the bin.

    Yes there will be a crash – but it is nothing to do with British independence, it was “baked into the cake” (by the monetary expansion) long ago.

    And France will not be immune from it.

    As for defence and security – one does not have to go back to the 1960s.

    If I said in France word-for-word what Voltaire said about Islam I would be ARRESTED.

    It is going that way in Britain also.

    Mr Putin is a very bad man – a very bad man indeed, but he is not a threat to Britain and France.

    Islam is such a threat – but we are reaching a point where we are not even allowed to explain why this is so.

    Even the Iraq debate that is going on right now in the House of Commons – no one is saying the obvious.

    Iraq did not turn out the liberal democracy that Mr Blair hoped for – because of Islam.

    Everything else can be said – but that obvious truth can not be said (or so it seems).

    How long before it is actually illegal to tell the truth about Islam?

    And where will our defence and security be then?

  • Jacob

    “EU has never been anything to do with defending Europe”
    Not from the USSR.

    The EU has been about preventing another war between Germany and France (or Germany and the sane part of mankind). That was the main fear in the first two decades after WW2.
    In retrospect we know the fear was unjustified, but it was very real then.
    It was the fire-bombing of German cities in 1945 by the Western allies and the raping of Berlin by the Russians that extricated from the German mind the appetite for another war.

    Of course, the rationale, the dream, of a united Europe goes way beyond mere war-prevention, and is a desirable goal even if somewhat utopic, and despite the failures in it’s implementation.

  • Watchman

    Jacob,

    I’d say the reassertion of democracy and the division of the country to emphasise defeat did that…

  • Lee Moore

    …or possibly the very large number of foreign tanks parked on German turf until 50 years after the end of the war ?

    Coulda had something to do with it. Jus’ sayin’.

  • “The EU has been about preventing another war between Germany and France”

    It can’t be said often enough that the European Project is a 1920s idea to prevent the rise of demagogues by restricting the power of national electorates. That restriction has always been its primary purpose. It wouldn’t have been designed the way it was, with the Commission, Council of Ministers, talking-shop “Parliament”, and all their Directives and Regulations, if it weren’t.

    The peace-through-economic-co-dependency line was just a sales pitch for Stage 1, the Coal and Steel Community (Monnet’s “Provisional Government of Europe”), which certainly carried a lot of weight in the years immediately after WWII – hence its use – and has proved useful from time to time ever since, but don’t be fooled.

  • France has had the atomic bomb since 1960 and the hydrogen bomb since 1968. Germany has neither, and has not shown (to my knowledge) any inclination to acquire either.

    France is believed to be the world’s third largest holder of nuclear weapons, with over 300 warheads (ie above both China and the UK on warheads, if not on megatons of destructive power).

    Just what is it that makes anyone think that the EU makes any contribution whatsoever to the avoidance of major European military conflict, ie between Germany and France, or between France and anyone else?

    Best regards

  • AKM

    “I think I am right in saying that UK and French aircraft carriers could always fly each others’ planes?”

    Not since 1979.

  • staghounds

    The U. S. has underwritten Europe’s defence for three generations. This means that Europe has been able to play its welfare and fiat currency games without considering its military needs. Defence costs real money and real effort.

    It may be dawning on the European countries that the United States won’t go to war to protect them or anyone else, treaties or no.

    It certainly has dawned on some Europeans that Europe can’t protect itself from a sudden entry of close to a million young men.

    The Russians, Turks, and Africans have certainly picked up on it. The Green March and Ukraine remain the prototype battles of the future.

  • PhilB

    I can’t somehow envisage Stalin quaking in his boots and being inhibited from unleashing the might of the Red Army at the thought of the EEC making trading easier and subsidising French farmers.

    But what do I know, eh?

  • Fred the Fourth

    Mr Ed: 500? Just for Denmark? Seems…like overkill. (But, ya know they say there’s no kill like overkill…)
    I recall reading back in the 70s of an estimate to completely destroy the continental military and industrial capacity of either the US or the USSR which suggested that 400 bombs, ranging from (IIRC) 50 KT to 2 MT, would be sufficient.

  • Eric

    Ah France. They did rejoin NATO after the threat passed.

    Economic integration doesn’t prevent wars. Prior to WW II France and Germany had robust trade. So did the US and Japan. It didn’t matter. It’s likely the possibility of Soviet tanks pouring through the Fulda Gap had a much bigger influence than the EU.

  • Fred the Fourth

    Probably in Kahn’s “On Thermonuclear War” or Kissinger’s “Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy” (Interesting title.) Or maybe in “The Prompt and Delayed Effects of Nuclear Weapons”.
    (Are you questioning my taste in non-fiction reading? Humph. Good DAY, Sir.)

  • John Galt III

    In the 1960’s I was on the Czech border in Oberpfalz/Niederbayern in the US Army facing 4,000 Warsaw Pact tanks. The French were in Paris with their mistresses and wine.

    Today, France is the Muslim Caliphate of Frankreich so they still don’t give a shit.

    After 1789 the French totally lost it as a Western country. How could you watch George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and James Madison and come up with Robespierre and Marat. Today the French succumb to Islam with perfume and Cultural Marxist “laicite”.

    That’s from an American/Christian perspective. From a Euro-Italiano/Israeli perspective it’s even worse:

    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/19150#.V32oSDdTHcs

  • Laird

    Well, if we’re going to discuss French military prowess someone had to post this.

    And this.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker!) Gray

    Maybe the memo was written in English, and the French feel compelled to pretend that they can’t understand it?

  • shlomo maistre

    An Arutz Sheva link on Samizdata! I’m happily shocked. It’s in certain ways my favorite news source on the planet.

  • Alisa

    What on earth is so shocking about it?

  • Laird, July 7, 2016 at 1:50 am: I hate to admit it, Laird, but the French actually won the hundred years war (and arguably some others on your list of wars they lost). If we won the Napoleonic wars, despite the French having some glorious victories during them (and, for the matter of that, if you guys won the American War of Independence despite some crushing British victories along the way) then the French won the hundred years war. The refugee camp at Calais is their problem, not ours, because they won that war.

  • Fen Tiger

    A war lasting a hundred years is rather an absurd idea anyway. It was really four distinct struggles, England and France each prevailing twice.

  • Watchman

    Niall,

    We lost Calais in the reign of Mary (actually we never even had it in most of the Hundred Years War – we started with Aquitaine which has nicer weather but worse beer).

    Fen Tiger,

    I think the hundred years war is used for whole series of campaigns (managing to encompass not only four distinct phases but at least two civil wars per side, one major peasants revolt per side, and actual conflict raging whilst the Black Death was on, plus the Burgundians switching sides at least once a decade it seems) deliberately – they are united by the efforts of the English monarchy to establish a claim to the French throne and finish with the English threat to French national self-determination being categorically defeated.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Peace in Europe was maintained by two forces. One was NATO, dominated by the US, and including stable, democratic, peace-minded countries (Britain, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium). NATO insured there would be no wars in Western Europe.

    The other was the USSR, which maintained an iron grip on Eastern Europe and insured there would be no wars there.

    NATO also insured that the USSR would not start a war on the East-West border.