Before I read this rather harsh column by Anne Applebaum I thought to myself, "one thing you'll never hear from anyone in the American foreign policy elite is 'France was right.'" Applebaum doesn't disappoint.
Sure, she says, "[Chirac was] the man who made the right decision about Iraq, albeit for the wrong reasons." But we all get her subtext: "Chirac was wrong about our justifications, which of course were right (and righteous), had it not been for the dynamic duo of incompetents Bush and Rumsfeld botching everything up."
Alas, her column gets worse, if you can believe it. First, let's cover the very superficial. She writes:
On Britain: "The only thing they have ever done for European agriculture is mad cow disease. ... You can't trust people who cook as badly as that."
Look, Chirac is right: the only place with worse food, if we're going to be cheeky about it, is Ethiopia. What the heck have they ever done for the culinary arts? Especially in relation to France, non?
On a more weighty matter, she pontificates:
On Russia: "For his contribution to friendship between France and Russia," Chirac decorated Vladimir Putin last year with the highest order of the Légion d'honneur, a medal reserved for the closest foreign friends of France (Churchill, Eisenhower), despite the deterioration of the Russian president's human rights record.
Really now? And what of George W. Bush's Pootie-poot moment when he looked into his heart and saw a good man? Please. Can the author of Gulag honestly say Putin is a wannabe Stalin?
Of course she gets superficial once more going on about a birthday dinner party:
A few weeks later, Chirac decided to hold his 74th birthday party in Riga, Latvia, after a NATO summit. He invited President Putin, disinvited President George W. Bush, and snubbed the Latvian president in the process.
Who cares? It's not like Volodya is coming to my birthday party, either!
Of course she drags out Chirac's old quote about Hussein:
On Saddam Hussein: "You are my personal friend. Let me assure you of my esteem, consideration, and bond.
Alas, it's not anywhere near as damning as a photo of a former and again to be American Secretary of State, no?
Indeed, Applebaum chides Chirac for not adequately supporting democracy in the Third World. She writes:
Ponder closely, for example, what Chirac has had to say about Africa, where his country has enormous influence, in many places far outweighing ours. During a visit to the Ivory Coast, Chirac once called "multi-partyism" a "kind of luxury," which his host, president-for-life Félix Houphouet-Boigny, could clearly not afford. During a visit to Tunisia, he proclaimed that, since "the most important human rights are the rights to be fed, to have health, to be educated, and to be housed," Tunisia's human rights record is "very advanced"--never mind the police who beat up dissidents. "Africa is not ready for democracy," he told a group of African leaders in the early 1990s.
Never mind our horrible record during the Cold War, let's talk present day, ok? What of Mubarak in Egypt? Zenawi in Ethiopia? Musharraf in Pakistan? Really, is France's behavior in the little sandbox of Africa any different than ours is in the rather larger sandbox of the world? I'll give Anne a hint: the answer starts with an 'N'!
The rest of the article is filled with more superficial criticisms, the kind designed to titillate our DC Elite; that which will kind arouse snickers and guffaws at Washington dinner parties. But in the end Applebaum is really displaying the same kind of pig-headed priggish superiority complex she disdains in Chirac and the French. Teach best what you most need to learn, no Anne?