A long running pastime in the United States, at least among civilians, is to be against France, a long time ally of the country. This is in part due to the 1965 decision by Charles de Gaulle to pull France out of the command structure in NATO in 1966 -- which partly had the effect of shutting down NATO bases in the country (although Chirac also said the country would respect the remaining treaty obligations, including the Article 5 "attack on one, attack on all" clause which was eventually invoked after the 9/11 attacks on the US).
Many cite this continued reticence towards NATO for the last President, Jacques Chirac, not sending troops to fight in Iraq which made things between his country and America even worse.
I don't know if Americans are going to say "Vive le France" all of a sudden, but they'd definitely better put away their freedom fries if they haven't already -- because Nicolas Sarkozy, in a surprise decision, has said his country will rejoin the command structure. His argument is that there are NATO missions in which his country participates but his government isn't involved in the decision structure and needs to be going forward. He also said that coordinated action with its allies did not undermine its independence, nor the country's nuclear deterrent which remains firmly in France's hands.
It's certainly the right decision and should help improve relations across the great pond, but it does put France in a bit of a bind -- when it comes to multilateralism is its first priority to the European Union, or to the United States? Also, Europe is trying to develop its own defence policy independent of NATO, how does that affect the Atlantic alliance especially in this, the 60th anniversary year?
Remember Bill O'Reilly's "boycott" of French products, saying it would bring the country to its knees, and citing figures from the "Paris Business Review" to prove it was working? Actually, trade between the US and France increased after the Iraq War started, and the magazine he cited never even existed -- it was an April Fool's Joke (and one which one a Peabody Award. How many Peabodys has O'Reilly won, eh? Stuart Smalley, the comedian who should be Senator from Minnesota except for a wasteful court challenge from Norm Coleman should be able to answer that one for you!)
Mind you, Ted Baxter didn't seem too upset with Germany -- a country which has always had its military structure integrated with that of NATO's and was also opposed to the war. The so-called boycott has long ended, and the consumer advocate (which is all he really is, plus the pomposity) has one less excuse for his "Factor."
Let's not forget, France is heavily involved in NATO missions in Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Bosnia-Herzegovina and taking heavy losses. But they are involved, unlike some other NATO members who are just throwing money at the situation rather than providing ground troops and air support. Unlike Canada, the UK and even Poland which have stepped up to the plate.
It'll take a lot more than today's decision to put Sarkozy back in my personal plus column. His overreaction to the Paris riots back in 2005 still draws a nerve.
But it's a good step. We are stronger united than divided, especially when the new threat is terrorism which no one country can contain on its own.
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