Allons Enfants

05/25/2011 12:15 pm ET

Iraq has now taken on the status of a never-ending story. The world has seen many of these - the hundred years war, the wars of the roses, the Irish question, South Africa, China-Taiwan, Israel-Palestine. The two analogies that generally get used about Iraq are World War 2 and Vietnam, but both of these were short wars in a sense (although of course in another sense Vietnam was really a long anti-colonial war in which the identity of the colonists changed - French, Japanese, French, American - but the war went on at intervals). The never-ending story kind of wars are those in which there is no short term solution, and because there isn't, the fighting begins to span generations. Children seek revenge for what was done to their parents, their children in turn do the same. On both sides. As a result there appears to be no end point - someone will always have a grudge, a score to settle, some territory to take back, a reason for hatred, a reason to kill. And because they do, so, in turn, will someone else. Tit for tat can be settled, somehow, by some kind of adjudication, but tit for tat for tit for tat ... has no end point because it has no starting point that can be remembered by the current protagonists.

Sometimes the end point only comes when all the leaders of one side and their descendants are dead, sometimes when the disputed territory (France for example) is finally conquered or liberated. Sometimes everyone just gets weary, sometimes dispute resolution works. Sometimes nothing works. None of those options (except the "nothing works" one) seem yet to be available to Iraq, and a new generation, born after the first Gulf War, is reaching maturity.

Now that Freedom Fries have been renamed as French Fries in honor of France it is time for everyone to have another look at the French. They were of course, right about Iraq, and although being right is of course unforgivable, it is more forgivable than saying I told you so like Vladimir Putin did in effect recently. Both cases illustrate once again the advantage of being an old country (and the only advantage of being an old person) - you have seen and heard it all before (the Hundred Years War, Vietnam). You know how stories always end, you know that the world is doomed to go on repeating history until history really does come to an end, as the human world comes to an end. So the French, and the Russians, might be worth consulting (Britain, on the other hand, although also an old country, seems to have learned nothing that prevented it signing up for Iraq) about what to do in Iraq now, having been ignored when they warned of danger originally. Unless it is thought desirable that Iraq should become a new Hundred Year War?

Speaking of the French, if you like your French fries with biftek; and your wine, and windmills, red; and your towers designed by Eiffel; and your politics progressive; check out Francophilia. You will regrette nothing. Unless of course you forget to also visit The Watermelon Blog.